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This is an interesting article. I was under the impression that grey screens were still preferable. Now I know.

It seems to me that a really good option for smaller screens would be MDF or Hardboard. If your screen is smaller than 4'x8', one sheet will cost about $20 and is prefectly smooth. That would me much easier than messing with plaster, which is noted as being extremely messy.

Also, MDF would be a good option for the frame material. You'll be hard-pressed to find any poplar or pine that's perfectly straight direct from the home store. However, MDF is perfectly flat, perfectly straight when cut correctly, and it won't warp. You can have HD use their panel cutter to cut a MDF sheet down to the strips of material you need. They're not accurate to the 1/16th of an inch, but it's close enough.