Why Does My Projector Screen Look Yellow?

by Annie Sisk - Updated November 02, 2018
Speaker with microphone in front of projection screen at technology conference

If your business frequently relies on projected presentations for training or sales, it's crucial to keep your audio-visual systems working in peak condition. A yellow-toned discoloration can reflect poorly on your brand and make your presentations a lot less effective. The first step in correcting discoloration on your screen is to pinpoint the precise problem, which is usually either the screen itself or a problem with the projector.

Determine Whether Your Problem Is the Screen or Projector Lamp

Yellow tones in your projected visuals are due to one of two sources: the projector lamp or the screen itself. To determine which is the cause of your yellowing issues, visually inspect your screen in natural light. If at all possible, physically move the screen outside on a clear, sunny day and visually compare its surface to a white sheet of paper. If you can see the difference between the two tones, the problem is likely your screen. If both appear close in tone, the problem may lie in your projector’s lamp.

Projector Issues That Cause Discoloration

If the screen is not actually discolored, then something in the projector or the cabling is the most likely culprit behind the yellowing. The most common causes are:

  1. Faulty cabling or connections: Check the cable that connects the projector to the source of the video signal. On a VGA cable, a bent pin on a connector could block a specific color from being projected. For yellow-toned discoloration, the cables or pins responsible for the color blue may be the problem.
  2. Lamp: Aging lamps can cause discoloration. Most lamps perform well only up to about 2,000 hours. Frequently turning the projector on and off can also reduce the lamp’s intensity, which may produce a discoloration effect.
  3. Accumulation of environmental pollutants: Dust, smoke and other pollutants can build up rapidly on the projector. The cooling fan can exacerbate this issue, causing residue on the projector’s internal optics.
  4. Faulty polarizers: Optical components of a projector include polarizers that control the colors as they pass through LCD panels. When the polarizers begin to fail, the projection signals this with discoloration in spots, leading eventually to a full-screen discoloration.

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Causes of Screen Yellowing

If the screen itself is discolored, the causes can usually be found in the room where the screen is used. Environmental factors are almost exclusively to blame for yellowed screens.

One of the biggest culprits is cigarette smoke. Cigarettes contain over 4,000 various component chemicals, and many of these will stain surfaces including projector screens. To remedy this potential source of discoloration, prohibit smoking in the room where your business stores and uses the projection screen.

Faulty ventilation may also be to blame. Ensure that the room housing your screen is well-ventilated to prevent an accumulation of fine particles that can discolor its surface.

A buildup of chalk dust can also cause yellowing of your screen. If the room in which the screen is primarily used contains a chalkboard, consider switching to a whiteboard. At a minimum, ensure the screen is properly protected when the chalkboard is in use.

Identifying the likeliest cause of your screen’s discoloration and then addressing that cause is the best way to ensure your screen remains in good condition going forward.

Cleaning an Old Projection Screen

If the screen is yellowing, and not the projector or its optics, your first step should be to clean the screen thoroughly.

Wear gloves before cleaning your screen. This will help prevent an accumulation of body oils and fingerprints, which can trap dust and other fine particles. Gloves will also help prevent small fibers being left behind.

Use a soft, lint-free, dry cloth to wipe away any fine particles. Microfiber and cotton both work well for this purpose. Avoid the use of harsh chemicals, as these can cause further damage to the screen.

Repairing a Yellowed Screen

Once you’ve cleaned off as much as you can, if the screen is still yellowed, you have only a few options. First, you can purchase a new screen. You can find workable alternatives at many price points with a little internet research and comparison shopping.

However, this is almost always a significant purchase, even with those precautions. This leaves the option of painting your screen. Small business owners with tight budgets often embrace the “DIY” philosophy, and in this case, the fix may be as inexpensive as a gallon of paint.

Latex paint or any paint designed specifically for use on vinyl siding is ideal for painting fabric projection screens. This will help to avoid cracking paint on the surface as the screen rolls and unrolls for use. A roller is generally the simplest method of application.

About the Author

Annie Sisk is a freelance writer who lives in upstate New York. She holds a B.A. in Speech from Catawba College and a J.D. from USC. She has written extensively for publications and websites in the business, management and legal fields.

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