Painting the Perfect Screen for $100
January 26, 2011,
Creating the Frame
At this point in the project, you have created a perfectly white rectangle surrounded by a darker wall. All you need now is a black frame to finish it off. There is a cheap and easy way to do this. There is also a more stylish and elegant way to do it that costs a bit more but looks a lot better. Either one will work, so you can pick the one you feel is right for you.
The cheap and easy solution is to get some black velvet tape that is made for screen borders. There are several suppliers of this type of product. You can find them by googling "black home theater screen tape." We have not tested any of them, and cannot recommend one over another.
Basically, you can acquire a roll of screen border tape, apply it around the outside edge of your screen surface, and you are done. That's about as simple as it gets.
At this point, you've invested $20 for a quart of paint, $10 for primer, $30 for a roll of black velvet tape, and some pocket change for miscellaneous paint supplies like a paint roller, drop cloth, masking tape, sanding block, sand paper, and so on. What you end up with is a beautiful projection surface that will produce a magnificent picture.
A Better Looking Frame Solution
The aesthetic problem with the tape is that is doesn't have much three dimensional effect. It looks...um...like you stuck tape on your wall. That's not an issue when you are watching in the dark. But when the home theater is not in operation, having tape stuck to the wall might not have the class and finesse that you'd prefer.
The alternative is to make a wood frame, wrap it in black velveteen, and hang it like a picture frame over your painted screen area. Velveteen is a cotton fabric that superficially resembles velvet, which is made of silk. But velveteen absorbs light better than velvet, and it doesn't have the sheen. It is widely available in fabric stores.
The frame can be constructed of pine or poplar, woods that commonly come in 1"x4" configurations, in convenient lengths of 6, 8, 10, and 12 feet. The type of wood is not so important as the fact that the pieces you select are straight and sturdy. You don't want your frame bowing outward from the wall due to curves in the wood.
The 1"x4" format has the advantage of being exactly 3.25" in actual width. That is precisely the width of the frames on Stewart's home theater screens. So you will end up with a DIY solution that is a remarkably close replica of an outstanding professional screen. Another advantage to the 1x4 wood frame is that it will give you a three-dimensional look without being too heavy or cumbersome to mount. A finished frame made of poplar for a 120" diagonal 16:9 screen will weigh under 25 lbs.
How to Build the Frame
Acquire four pieces of 1x4, in lengths that exceed the horizontal and vertical dimensions of your screen. Cut the ends to 45 degree angles (note...these cuts must be exactly 45 degrees!). We suggest cutting the short side of each board to a length of 1" less than the screen surface on the wall. That will give you a bit of leeway in hanging the frame to cover the entire painted surface without having to be exact down to the millimeter. So for example, if the width of your screen is 105", get two 10 foot 1x4's and cut them to 104" along the edge that will be adjacent to the screen.
Once you have cut the ends of each section of the frame to 45 degrees, join them together with flat metal 8" L-brackets, as illustrated here...
Attaching the Hanging Hardware
The easiest way to hang the frame is to use two flat metal D-rings which are available at most large frame shops, along with two picture hanging hooks you will nail to the wall.
Now some careful measurements are required. For maximum support, you want to place the picture hangers where the studs are in the wall. Along the top edge of your screen, knock on the wall until you hear the shallow, high pitched knock that indicates the presence of a stud. Place a small mark at the center of the stud. Find the studs that are closest to the sides of your screen. Measure the distance from the side edges of the screen to the center of the stud. Then on the back of the frame, along the top horizontal section, measure that same distance from the inside edges of the frame. This is where you will attach the D-rings.
The D-rings should be screwed into place along the bottom edge of the frame, as shown here:
The reason you want the D-rings along the bottom edge is that you want the picture hangers to be hidden behind the frame once the frame is mounted. As you can see, the D-ring plus the picture hanger will take the full width of the frame:
Attaching the Fabric
Once the L-brackets and D-rings are screwed down, your wood frame is assembled with the hanging hardware in place. All you need to do now is wrap each side of the frame in velveteen.
Acquire one piece of this fabric that is about one foot longer than the width of your screen. The reason is this...if your screen surface itself is 105" wide, the frame on the outside edge will be an additional 6.5" in length (since the wood frame itself is 3.25" on each side. That ends up being a total of 111.5". You want the fabric to cover that entire length without having to cut multiple pieces. And you want a little extra on each end so you can trim it to precisely where you want it.
From the single piece of velveteen, cut two strips long enough to cover the horizontal segments, and two strips long enough to cover the vertical segments. All four strips of fabric should be 7.5" in width, and long enough that the fabric will extend several inches beyond the length of each segment of the frame you are going to wrap.
Now you need a clean surface...either a clean carpeted floor, or lay down a drop cloth or bedsheet. Lay the fabric face down on the floor, then place the frame segment on top of it so it is centered. Fold the fabric over to the back side of the frame and tack it into place with a staple gun. Carefully trim the ends so that the fabric overlaps and the corners are covered. Along the top segment, trim away the fabric from the D-rings to leave them exposed.
Once you have tacked and trimmed the velveteen on all four sides, your frame is ready to hang. Assuming you are using the picture hangers depicted above, you may want to crimp the lip down a bit, just to the point where you can slide the D-ring into it. If it extrudes too much it will hold the frame away from the wall slightly.
Nail the picture hangers to the stud locations you marked on the wall. Assuming you are using the hangers depicted above, the top edge of the hanger should be 3" above the edge of your painted screen, positioning them so they will support the frame in the position you need to cover the screen area.
Piece of cake. You are done.
What you have just created is a beautiful replica of one of the finest screens in the world. But instead of spending $2,000 or more for it, you spent about $100 (if you used the border tape), and under $200 if you went all out with the elegant wood frame. Either way, this painted screen will make your 1080p home theater projector look awesome.
A Word of Caution
All of this sounds good, but there are a few things you might want to think about before taking this project on. See the next page for problems and issues to consider before you start. We do not recommend painted DIY screens for everyone.
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