How to Make a Green Screen With a Tarp

How to Make a Green Screen With a Tarp

Video projects are expensive.

You have audio equipment, mic booms, filters, lighting, and last but not least, a green screen.

Nowadays, you see green screens being used largely by gaming streamers on Twitch and Mixer, but you’ll also find green screens used in indie-style, low-budget films (not to say low-budget is synonymous with low quality).

A green screen tarp is an inexpensive variant to a commercial green screen that’s sold by companies who are specifically targeting different groups, whether it’s gamers or filmmakers, that can work the same way.

With a tarp, you can also get wider coverage for bigger projects instead of the standard 7’ x 5’ green screen that you’ll see online. Let’s walk you through how to make them properly, and cover the nuances along the way.

Can You Use a Tarp as a Green Screen?

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Yes, you absolutely can. Green screens don’t have to be made out of a specific material to work; the coloration just has to be right. That means you might have to paint a tarp to get that perfect variation.

You’re looking for chroma green, which has an RGB color value of 0, 177, 64 – if you need the CMYK value, it’s 81, 0, 92, 0. If you need a guide to painting your tarp, we have that available here.

This can be off by a decimal here and there without causing problems. You can find paint that is specifically designed for green screens, as a lot of studios will make green rooms where the walls are the perfect shade for green screens.

There are a few things you need to keep in mind if you’re going to attempt this, just so you can be sure to get it right. Take these factors into consideration to see if this is a fit for you.

Ample Lighting

Green screens need a ton of light, so when you get the color wrong and it’s super dark, you need to supply even more light than you normally would. This can be a problem since more light could lead to glares or flare-ups in the camera lens, especially for still image photography.

If you have the ability to provide the right level of lighting, you can get away with a few shades darker than the RGB value we gave earlier.

You should still strive for it, though. Lighting is extremely important in every aspect of using a green screen, even if you’re going to use it for a digital background while you’re streaming.

Storage

Are you going to keep this up all the time, or store it?

Green screens on tarps have the added bonus of being portable, but can also be permanent if you want them to be. This is just to show their versatility.

Available Space

Before you paint a tarp, do you have the room for it?

Make sure to get a tarp that fits your specific size. Measure out your studio space ahead of time.

This sounds simple, but if you look up any photos of a green screen setup (like for big budget movies), you’re going to see that they have the greenscreen span out much farther than the anticipated camera space.

We have dozens of tarp sizes available so you can get the right green screen size for your setup, no matter what.

Differences Between a Tarp Green Screen and a Standard Green Screen

Differences Between a Tarp Green Screen and a Standard Green Screen

When you really think about them, they’re not so dissimilar. The materials are different, but they can be applied in the same way. Let’s take a peek at the key differences.

Price

If you look for an actual green screen, they can get a little bit pricey. A 5’ x 7’ backdrop can be used as a green screen, and it typically runs you about $20.00.

But that’s not exactly a lot of space. If you’re a photographer, you might have a family of eight walk through the door, and then you need all that room.

You’d have to go for a bigger green screen for just about any project outside of a Zoom or Skype call background. Tarps run you a fraction of the cost when you go for bigger  green screen sizes.

Material

Tarps are typically made out of canvas, but the best ones for green screens is polyethylene. These tarps are built to withstand hurricanes, so what else do you think it’s capable of?

Traditional green screens are made out of spandex and nylon, and while those can be good choices, they don’t compare to poly.

Durability

Arguably, a tarp is going to be much more durable than a green screen, now that we know what the materials are. There’s nothing wrong with spandex and nylon.

They can both be ultra tough when the grade is right, but are standard green screens worth the cost when you know they’re not as durable?

All it takes is one bad fall or dropping a piece from your set, tripod knocking over, etc., to stretch out the spandex of a green screen and make it unusable. Poly tarps are much more durable and won’t tear just from a little spill.

Weight

This is something I just wanted to put here to clear the air: there’s not much of a difference between tarp weight and green screen weight.

Spandex can be lighter than poly, but given how thin most tarps actually are, the weight doesn’t really play a large part in this. If you’re trying to make a 20’ x 30’ green screen, then you would have to consider it.

Both options are portable, unlike green screen walls, where you paint your wall with the specific green screen paint.

If you’re looking for a permanent solution, you can use a tarp, so long as you have it suspended properly to keep the tarp nice and taut. We want to avoid spots where light can produce glares, and keep everything as neutral as possible for a successful end result.

Do You Really Need a Green Screen?

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It depends on how ambitious your video projects are. While you can use a green screen for things like incorporating CGI and special effects, that’s usually high-budget, higher tier stuff. Green screens have plenty of applications in simple projects, such as:

Photography Contrast

Studio lighting is a different beast altogether, but when it comes down to it, that light has to bounce off of something and create contrast from your subject to the background.

When you use a green screen, you have better control over your studio lighting and clearer focus on the photography subject.

Streaming Backgrounds

Nowadays, everyone has the pipedream of being a full-time streamer, and some of them make it. You’ll notice that among those who do make it a full-time occupation, they have striking similarities with top-tier channels.

These include their head and headset, maybe even a boom mic, and then they just look like an overlay with the background of a game.

This gives them some spotlight, while also keeping as much of the game in-frame as possible. Gone are the days of having a big ugly box in the bottom left corner, thanks to green screens.

Photography Backgrounds

We might not be making the next Avengers movie, but we can make awesome backgrounds to put behind our photography subjects.

This works well if you commonly photograph products for review websites, or if you offer photography services at a professional studio and your clients want backgrounds.

What About Other Colors?

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Green screens aren’t the only color that can be used for backgrounds to instill digital images and overlays in the background.

The original Star Wars trilogy actually used blue screens to instill those backgrounds and images, but there’s a reason that you don’t hear much about it anymore. Let’s look at a few of the differences:

Night vs. Day Shots

This is mostly for film, but if you’re shooting a video during the day, you’re going to want a green screen. Blue screens tend to be better for low light scenarios, because in the end, they require more light to fully brighten up. This helps with contrast at night more than anything else.

Lighting

Green screens require a lot of light to get rid of those pesky shadows, and so do blue screens. In fact, blue screens require about twice as much light to get the right shot over a green screen, which can get in the way of production value if you don’t have the equipment.

Color Corrections

In post-production, color corrections are a part of life. You’re going to have an easier time with a blue screen, weirdly enough, when it comes to color corrections.

That being said, the reason we mostly see green screens is because we have so much more computing power than the late 80s that color corrections don’t necessarily take as long, so if everyone is done on a green screen, you have consistent lighting throughout the entire movie.

What Type of Paint do You Need for a Tarp Green Screen?

What Type of Paint do You Need for a Tarp Green Screen?

The paint has to be low sheen, flat enamel, or simply just flat paint. This is something that you can either find online, or a tool store if you ask a paint clerk. They’ll have access to the right paints on-screen and be able to help you out.

We want to provide light, but not receive a glare or reflection of the light to mess with the lens. This is the same paint you would use on a wall or any type of background, you just have to work extra hard to get it to stick to a tarp.

Green Screen Without the High Ticket Cost

Commercial green screens that are ready-to-ship have some advantages in terms of setup time, but if you would rather save a big chunk of money than save 10-15 minutes, it’s worth checking out a tarp.

That being said, you’re probably only going to have to set this up once or twice in your studio setting, so that’s just a few extra minutes for a one-time setup. It’s worth saving the money, and now that you know how to set it up, it’s time to get it done.

We have a selection of green screen-ready green tarps that you can use, so be sure to check out our selection.