Easy-Flex DIY Painted Screen Solution - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 88 Old 04-21-07, 01:06 AM Thread Starter
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Easy-Flex DIY Painted Screen Solution

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Spectrophotometer tests have shown that this method will yield an acceptable screen but for a simple method there are other OTS grays readily available at the same price.

This is a sample panel of the Easy-Flex placed in front of
a much more complex metallic DIY paint mix screen.

Click image to enlarge.
Image courtesy of member ktaillon.


The desire to develop a near neutral tint was born out of the work that wbassett had presented identifying off-the-shelf tints of brand name paints that measured near neutral. Behr paints are one of the most commonly available brands (Home Depots everywhere). Since the RGB data was not available for Behr UPW #1050 tints I set out to determine a tint that would produce a near neutral tint.

It occurred to me that rather than guess and get tints mixed (very expensive approach) I needed to find a way to do the mixing of tints myself. I then purchase a gallon of untinted UPW along with two quarts of UPW, one with Lamp Black tint added, and one with Yellow Oxide tint added. Then by mixing ratios of the three I could produce a wide variety of small batches of sample paint. I then made up samples and sent them for color testing.

So I claim no great discoveries or genius on my part. I just took what I had learned from wbassett, prof55, and others and developed a practical solution. I therefore consider the Easy-Flex DIY Screen Paint solution to be a collaborative development with credit going to wbassett, prof55, and too many other to mention here.


This is presented as good beginner’s painted screen solution because it involves very basic tools and supplies available at the local Home Depot or similar home improvement store.

The paints involved are all flat or matte water based products and it is therefore easily applied with a low nap roller as well as easy to clean up after.

You now know why the word “Easy” is in the name, but what about the word “Flex”. It is true that latex (rubber!) is flexible and indeed I personally used this solution to improve my own retractable screen, but the real flexible thing about this solution is that it can be implemented in a wide range of shades of gray including white.

Through the collaboration with another DIY enthusiast I have managed to determine custom tints that will produce balanced grays. By “balanced” I mean the measured RGB values demonstrate the following characteristics. The Red and Blue values are very close together. The Green value is lower or may approach the value of the Red and Blue but never exceeds it. If the Green exceeds the Red and Blue values then that constitutes a Green Push which is very undesirable.

In addition to the development of balanced gray custom tints I also stumbled upon a product and application that turn the usual fragile flat finished surface into a more durable and unexpectedly better performing screen surface. I decided to try applying a coat of Behr Matte Polyurethane #780 over a sample of Behr “Silver Screen” flat paint. I was only hoping that it would provide a protective washable coating that would not be detrimental to the performance of the underlying flat latex. To my surprise it not only did not interfere adversely with the flat gray, it produced a very noticeable boost in gain without reducing the black performance of the gray paint. That translates into a perceptible increase in contrast.

So in the end this beginner’s solution is made up of four basic layers. The first is a smooth flat substrate such as a properly prepared wall or a suitably sized piece of MDF. The next layer is comprised of a couple of coats of your favorite primer. Then a couple of coats of either a flat white latex or custom tinted balanced gray latex paint. The final layer is two coats of Behr Matte Polyurethane #780.

That’s it folks, the Easy-Flex DIY Painted Screen Solution in a nutshell.

Substrates & Primer

I am no expert in wall preparation but luckily wbasset has provided a very good thread to deal with that subject. I have been using 1/8” thick hardboard with a white coating on one side to make 2’x4’ sample panels. For smaller screens, under 90” diag., this material may work well with a supporting frame.

MDF is a mainstay of painted screen applications. It comes in larger sizes up to 5’x12’. It is also available in various thicknesses. It is a very smooth flat rigid material, ideal to use as a screen substrate. It is very stable but I recommend painting both sides to seal the material. It is easily damaged by water. It should also be noted that like all particle based sheet lumber materials, it is made using urea formaldehyde glue. This will off gas and may be harmful or at least irritating to those with allergies.

I recommend priming the substrate using a low nap (3/16”) roller. This provides a good opportunity to practice your screen painting technique and will also give a better indication of the smoothness and uniformity of the underlying substrate. Starting with a good white base is always the best place to start to produce the desired color of top coat.

There is another advantage to priming the substrate first. It actually will provide an opportunity for you to try projecting onto a matte white screen surface. This can be very helpful in determining the shade of gray or white that will do best to satisfy your needs and expectations.

Flat Latex Layer

All of my development work was performed using Behr Ultra Pure White (UPW) Flat Latex paint #1050. This is a highly pigmented base paint that has a high content of Titanium Oxide. The result is a very white and balanced paint. The basic solution to this challenge can be applied to any flat white latex paint. I discovered through empirical trials that with a good balance white base paint the correct ratio of Lamp Black (LB) to Yellow Oxide (YO) tint pigments will produce a balanced gray. In the case of a very white base utilizing Titanium Oxide, like the Behr UPW #1050, the ratio worked out to be (2:1) LB:YO.

If you are interested in trying this custom tint approach with another manufacturer’s white base then you will need to determine or estimate if the alternate base is as white as the Behr UPW #1050. For example, Kilz2 Primer is a very common paint used for DIY screens. I do not believe it is quite as white or heavily laden with Titanium Oxide as UPW, therefore I would suggest a ratio of (3:1) LB:YO.

In my case I painted my retractable screen with a mixture of UPW and Glidden’s Gripper Primer (CIL Smart3 Anywhere Primer in Canada). I used a quart custom tint formula of 0 6 0 LB + 0 2 0 YO to produce the shade of gray that I desired. I was anxious to get a working screen done and preceded with the painting before I had developed and tested the final custom tints. I can tell now, through visual comparison to my test samples of the properly balanced grays, that it is very close to balanced with a barely perceptible predominance of blue. Based on that, I make the proceeding recommendation of a (3:1) ratio of LB to YO to produce a near balanced gray tint for primers and white base paints that are determined to be or at least described to be less white than Behr UPW #1050.

Quart Custom Tint Formulas
Behr Ultra Pure White Flat Latex #1050:

Proceed with extreme caution![/MOUSE]
These tints have been shown to be outside acceptable near neutral gray tolerances. If you chose to proceed then do so knowing these tints are NOT neutral grays.

0 1 1 Lamp Black
0 0 1 Yellow Oxide

0 3 0 Lamp Black
0 1 0 Yellow Oxide

0 4 1 Lamp Black
0 1 1 Yellow Oxide

EasyFlex-06 *
0 6 0 Lamp Black
0 2 0 Yellow Oxide

0 7 1 Lamp Black
0 2 1 Yellow Oxide

0 9 0 Lamp Black
0 3 0 Yellow Oxide

0 10 1 Lamp Black
0 03 1 Yellow Oxide

0 12 0 Lamp Black
0 04 0 Yellow Oxide

* The EasyFlex-06 is the tint I used for my own screen. I have an Optoma HD72 setup in a white room. I also applied two top coats of Behr Matte Polyurethane #780.

Protective Clear Coat

Behr has included in the line of Faux Finish products, a water based polyurethane. BEHR PREMIUM PLUS WITH STYLE® Crystal Clear Water Based Polyurethane No. 780 It is intended to provide a clear matte protective coating to be applied over Faux Finishes. It was formulated to be rolled on walls and does so very easily and flattens out to a very smooth clear matte finish. It turns out that there is an optical interaction that takes place at the interface between the flat latex surface and the clear polyurethane. I could see this effect and have tried to describe and explain it with varying degrees of success. It has been confirmed by the my contact at the Behr Color Laboratory that there is indeed an interaction going on there but he has not yet explained it in terms that I can understand.

The only difficulty people have had with the Behr Matte Polyurethane #780 is finding it at Home Depot. In some cases just getting the staff to acknowledge the existence of this product has been problematic. It is part of the Behr Faux Finishes product line, therefore it is shelved with those products and not in the location where all the other polyurethane type products are displayed.

Demonstration of gain boost provided
by the matte polyurethane clear coat.

Click image to enlarge

Application Techniques

It is important that you use a 3/16” nap white synthetic roller sleeve to apply all the paints, including the primer. It is desirable to minimize the typical roller texture as much as possible. It is often recommended to use a fresh roller for the primer, latex paint, and then one new roller for each coat of clear coat. I do use one roller for the primer, bagging it between coats. I also use one roller to apply the latex paint, bagging it between coats. I only use one roller for the clear coat but I clean it very thoroughly between coats. I also fluff it up by brushing it with a dish brush.

Application Pressure

It is important to let the roller and paint do the work. It is not necessary to apply enough pressure to squeeze the paint out of the roller. Only apply enough pressure make the roller roll. If the roller handle is not free spinning and requires excessive pressure to get it to roll then clean it or replace it. Roll at a nice steady pace that does not fling paint drops at you. Too much pressure will lead to roller tracks in your screen surface. Pressing too hard is probably the most common mistake made when roller painting.

Maintaining A Wet Line

This is a very important concept for wall painting as well as screen painting. The paint is applied in vertical strips from top to bottom. Then the gap is blended into the previously applied strip. This method ensures that you are not inadvertently dry rolling paint that has been on the wall long enough to start drying. You always want to apply paint next to paint that is still wet.

Keep It Thin

When painting a screen surface it is important to get good coverage but not to apply too much paint. Too much paint will lead to a lumpy finish, roller tracks, and may also result in runs.

Let It Dry

Be sure to let each coat dry completely. For common latex wall paints that means about three hours. If you start rolling the next coat too soon the first coat can get lifted off in clumps and ruin the smooth screen surface we are striving for. If you are applying a polyurethane top coat, then I recommend letting the latex base coat dry for at least 12 hours.

Flat Paint Rolling Tips

Flat wall paint is very forgiving. Wall blemishes will not be visible in the projected image. It is still advisable to prepare the wall properly and employ painting techniques to produce the most uniform surface possible.
  1. Load the 3/16" nap synthetic roller with paint.
  2. Apply the paint in vertical strips. Start at the center of the vertical strip and roll up and down with longer and longer strokes until you are rolling from top to bottom of the screen.
  3. Apply each strip adjacent to the previous one. Leave only a 1/4" to 1/2" gap between the strips.
  4. Once the current strip of paint has been applied by spreading it from top to bottom, do not stop the roller on the screen surface. Roll completely off onto the masking tape. If you change roller direction on the screen during the following smoothing and blending strokes, it will leave a texture that is different from the rest of the screen. That discontinuity in the roller texture will be visible in the image.

    Now you will blend the current strip into the previous strip. This is done by continuing to roll up and down while moving sideways across the gap. It should take about 6 up and down strokes to work your way across the gap. Once the roller is completely across the gap then continue rolling up and down but work your way back across the gap. Again this should take about 6 strokes. At this point the current strip and the previous one should be indistinguishable. Stop rolling now and load up for the next strip.

The procedure is repeated until you get to the other side of the screen. Since the last strip will not be blended into a subsequent strip you can put a few more smoothing strokes on it if need be.

The application of the polyurethane clear coat is exactly the same as the flat latex.

Tutorial Video:

Alternative Matte Polyurethane Products
Pratt & Lambert: Interior Acrylic Latex Varnish Dull Finish Z39 / Z39C
A fast drying, clear acrylic dull finish with low odor and non-yellowing qualities when applied over latex stains. Provides excellent adhesion, leveling and uniformity.

American Traditions Faux Acrylic Flat Latex Clear Protector #64675 (Quart)

Last edited by Tiddler; 10-05-07 at 09:39 PM.
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post #2 of 88 Old 04-25-07, 07:34 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Easy-Flex DIY Painted Screen Solution

Here are some screen shots:
Click images to enlarge

These screen shots were taken during the development of the Easy-Flex solution. The image is actually projected onto 3 panels 2'x3' in size.

These are off axis (~45deg) to give an idea of the wide viewing angles.

Last edited by Tiddler; 07-09-07 at 01:33 PM.
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post #3 of 88 Old 04-25-07, 11:54 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Easy-Flex DIY Painted Screen Solution

Here are some screen shots taken of images from Terminator II projected onto my retractible screen painted with the Easy-Flex DIY Painted Screen Solution.
Click images to enlarge.

Note there are no V waves in my screen (last image). There is a solution to every problem you just have to ask.
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post #4 of 88 Old 04-25-07, 11:56 AM Thread Starter
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Recent experiments with other Behr Latex paint products have lead to the following descriptions and comments:

For those looking for a simple solution that does not equire the use of the matte polyurethane top coat, at least not immediately here are some comments about Behr products:

Behr UPW Flat Latex #1050

This is what I recommend for application that involve a less than smooth substrate. It is worth applying 2 or more coats to fill in cracks and smooth out the bumps. The typical wall blemishes like poorly filled screw holes will not be visible in the image. It may even be possible to use a cement block wall assuming the grout lines are not too deep.

The UPW #1050 also works well as a base coat that will be top coated with a matte polyurethane that may or may not contain some pearl or metallic flakes. The durability of the surface is then determined by the polyurethane. Keep in mind that top coat will cause the wall blemishes to become visible though. If top coating is the eventual goal then the substrate must be flat and smooth.

Behr UPW-ULTRA Exterior Flat Latex #4850

This product is similar to the UPW #1050 in that it is flat and therefore will provide some blemish hiding. It is not quite as flat so it's ability to hide blemishes will be slightly less than the UPW #1050.. It is supposed to be a far more durable paint and therefore it would be a good choice where the matte screen surface is the goal and probably will be use that way for an indefinite period of time. Top coating with a matte polyurethane is still an option. The custom tints provided for the UPW #1050 are applicable to this product.

Behr UPW Flat Enamel #1850

This represents a nice choice for a one-can solution. It is more durable than the UPW #1050 and does have a low lustre sheen. That translates into a brighter image. It will show wall blemishes because of this sheen and therefore should be applied to a smooth flat blemish free substrate. The custom tints provided for the UPW #1050 are applicable to this product.

Behr Exterior Primer #436

This is a typical stain blocking primer. It is thin and has some translucent characteristics. It also has a sheen to it and so far has demonstrate some tendency to hot spot. It is a primer so therefore could replace the primer and latex paint in the basic EasyFlex solution. This product contains far less Titanium Dioxide (white pigment) therefore it tints darker than UPW. If it does prove to be a good screen paint choice I will provide alternate tint formulas.

NOTE: The Behr Exterior Primer #436 is still being tested for it's suitability as a base for a matte poly top coat or Pearl Clear Coat application.

Last edited by Tiddler; 07-05-07 at 01:20 PM.
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post #5 of 88 Old 04-25-07, 08:48 PM
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Re: Easy-Flex DIY Painted Screen Solution

tiddler...Very good detailed information, which would be very helpful for anyone contemplating making a painted screen...

I may be joining the ranks of the DIY painted screen myself, since my 3M. wide CIH fabric screen has just failed, due to moisture..

The screenshots look very good, with a nice overall colour balance..But I didn't see in your write up which ratio you used for those shots..unless I missed it..
I have been using a plain white fabric with about a 1.2 gain, and I would like to keep it as close as possible to that, with maybe a touch of grey, I'm using a DLP projector, with very good contrast..What would you recommend?..

Also, Behr brand paint is not available in Australia..Is there an Oz.equivalent that you can suggest, if you know of any?
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post #6 of 88 Old 04-25-07, 10:41 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Easy-Flex DIY Painted Screen Solution

Prof. wrote: View Post
But I didn't see in your write up which ratio you used for those shots..unless I missed it..

Also, Behr brand paint is not available in Australia..Is there an Oz.equivalent that you can suggest, if you know of any?
I was using a ratio of (3:1) LB:YO in a 50:50 mix of Glidden Gripper Primer and Behr UPW. If you are using a white base that is not high in Titanium Oxide then I would use the (3:1) ratio of LB:YO. That leaves you with the following possible tints:

Quart Custom Tints

0 1 1 Lamp Black
0 0 1 Yellow Oxide

0 3 0 Lamp Black
0 1 0 Yellow Oxide

0 4 1 Lamp Black
0 1 1 Yellow Oxide

0 6 0 Lamp Black
0 2 0 Yellow Oxide

I would recommend you keep it light if you liked the white screen. Probably the 3LB + 1YO would suite you.

I think the Glidden paints are sold in Aus under the name DULUX. If the base is a pur white with a lot of Titanium Oxide then use a (2:1) LB:YO ratio.

Last edited by Tiddler; 04-26-07 at 06:27 AM.
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post #7 of 88 Old 04-26-07, 04:05 AM
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Re: Easy-Flex DIY Painted Screen Solution

Tiddler, Thanks for all the infomation. As I have stated before , That one does not have to spend a fortune to get a crash hot screen . Well done . Kind regards Alan
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post #8 of 88 Old 04-26-07, 08:22 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Easy-Flex DIY Painted Screen Solution

Mr. wbassett has collected a lot of information on various paint brands and how neutral they are. He may be able to point the folks in Australia towards a local brand that suitable as a screen paint.

If wbassett can even just identify an Australian brand that is close to a neutral tint, I may be able to suggest a tweak to make it closer, given the tint formula. Not very scientific but I have managed to get close by eye when developing the custom tints so at least it would be reasonable.

I know of a fellow screen paint experimenter who is in Australia that may be able to help with measuring samples if you would like to pursue this further. I can provide some details on how I went about making up many tint variations without spending a fortune at the paint store.

In my other stomping ground we are currently exploring the accuracy and validity of various measurements such as RGB values for D65 and spectral reflectance response curves. When these discussions have reached some conclusions I will be able to validate my custom tints. At that time I could be persuaded to send some samples to one or two interested members in Australia. These samples could then be use to do visual comparisons and to train your eye to recognize a neutral or balanced gray when you see it. Alternately wbassett may be able to send you a painted sample of Sherwin Williams “Gray Screen” or True Value “Winter Mountain”. These to proprietary tints could also serve as good visual references as to what a neutral gray looks like.

I'll poke Mr. wbassett and see if he will drop in and comment on this possibility.
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post #9 of 88 Old 04-26-07, 11:36 AM
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Re: Easy-Flex DIY Painted Screen Solution

Prof. there are many great paint options.

First down your way is a company named Resene. They are pretty unique in the fact they post the RGB and L*ab values so you can see right then and there what the color balance looks like.

What you want as far as a color is one of two things. You either want it to be as neutral as possible, that way the projector controls the image and the screen reflects the image and colors the projector is producing as accurately as possible. People are surprised at how accurate colors can be with a neutral gray. The other option is a 'V' curve. That is seen in the RGB values. I have a thread going on neutrals, and the EasyFlex colors are very very nice "V' curves and some are very neutral as well. So here is an example of a nice RGB 'V'-- EasyFlex-04 comes in at 218 212 220. If you were to plot that on an XY graph you would see the 'V' I am talking about. (You can see a plot of what this looks like from the 'V' curve link above).

What you want to see is the Red and Blue components equal or close to each other. The above value is fine. The Green component should be down 5-6 points depending on the shade. The darker the color, the shallower the V needs to be, in other words the line starts becoming flatter. The flatter the line, the more neutral the color is. Darker colors tend to shift colors harder and that is why they have a flatter V and head towards neutral.

Now that the little RGB primer is out of the way, you can go to the Resene website and those RGB numbers should mean something too you now if they didn't before. The EasyFlex gray I mentioned above that Tiddler created is in the Munsell N9 shade range. Most people are fine with this shade, for those that have a lot of ambient lighting problems an N8 shade will help out even more.

The image above is the Munsell gray scale with 0 being black and 10 being white. We are interested in colors basically from N8 up. An N8 gray is in the range of 202 202 202 and a good 'V' color value would be 202 198 202 or close to that. So look on Resene's site and for RGB values and colors that were mentioned.

If you can't locate Resene close to you, what brands of paint do you have available? I was able to find a couple neutral/nice balanced OTS (Off The Shelf) paints for someone in Sweden, so maybe there is something down your way... we just need to know what brands you have available.
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post #10 of 88 Old 04-26-07, 08:21 PM
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Re: Easy-Flex DIY Painted Screen Solution


Resene paints is available in Queensland, but not in my State as far as I'm aware..and I certainly don't wan't to transport paint across borders..just too costly..

I looked at the resene colour chart and put in 202 198 202 but it came back "no colour available"..

You and tiddlers knowledge on this subject is way beyond my own and for me I just need a simple "one-pot"(or 2) solution with something available off the shelf..

The brands that are available here are...

British Paints
Solver ( just around the corner and probably the best quality)

There are several other brands, but those are the most commonly available that can be bought from places similar to your Home Depot etc..

I think the 3:1 or 2:1 system that tiddler showed will probably suit my application..It's just a matter of converting your paint types to what I have here...
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