How Many Lumens Do I Need For My Projector?

Steve Scott

Last Updated on

The first time you buy a projector and screen might feel a bit overwhelming. Why are there so many choices? Does it really matter which I go with? The short answer is yes and no.

Certain specifications will make for a great viewing experience; however, there is no hard and fast rule. 

With the right screen and lighting environment, you can make your projector project an image well. When it comes to your home viewing experience or business presentation, you can choose what matters most to you.

You can think about the importance of brightness, color visibility, and picture quality.

Out of all the specifications and choices you can make, calculating the right lumens for the projector should be a top priority. By focusing on lumens, you can get a lot of other things right.


What Are Lumens?

Lumens refer to the amount of light projected by a light source or the unit measure of projected brightness. So, a projector that gives off 1,500 lumens will not be as bright as a projector that gives off 5,000 lumens.

Typically, projector customers will think that the brighter a projector can be, the better. This is not always the case.

By assuming that brightness is the key identifier needed to buy a projector, they oversimplify how one actually works.

Why Are Lumens Important to Projectors?

​Think about the room where your screen will be. How much natural or artificial light is already in that room? Take note of all the windows, light fixtures, and any connecting rooms.

 A good rule of thumb is that the more light you have in a room, the more lumens you’ll need.

So, if you set up your home movie theater in a room with blinds or curtains, you don’t want the greatest number of lumens possible. That would just hurt your eyes.

projector lumens

Brightness can also distort the quality of an image. Colors might look washed out, or certain images might become difficult to see.

The ideal number of lumens will depend on where and for what purposes the projectors will be used. Furthermore, the projector screen size will also be an important factor to consider.

Ideal Calculations

Because there is so much to consider, many customers don’t worry about their lighting or screen size. That’s fine.

However, knowing the right number of lumens would be very beneficial as to provide your audience - be that for an outdoor movie screening (see also best material for outdoor movie screens), work presentation, or private in-home viewing session - a pleasing experience of the movie, presentation, or game with the projector and the projector screen.

To really understand the relationship between lumens and your screen, take a look at the below chart that details indoor and outdoor light conditions and the matching number of lumens needed.

Light and Screen Conditions

Number of Lumens

9x5 ft Outdoor Screen

1,500-2,500 lumens

16x9 ft Outdoor Screen

3,000-4,500 lumens

25x14.5 ft Outdoor Screen

5,000-10,000 lumens

Indoor Low Light

1,000-2,000 lumens

Indoor Medium Light

2,000-4,000 lumens

Indoor Bright Light

4,500-6,000 lumens

projector lumens

In reality, it is not necessary to set the perfect lumens for your projector. If you remember one thing from this article, remember that brighter projections will not always be better.

Remember that brightness isn’t as good for color and picture. Too much brightness can hurt your eyes as well. The comfort of your audience is the most important to consider when buying a projector.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to projector settings. Though certain numbers have been said to be ideal (as disclosed above), you can definitely depart from the numbers as they are merely meant to serve as your guide.

Play around with the projector settings until you find what works best for you and your audience.

Buying the Right Projector

When you’re ready to buy your projector, there’s an easy way to figure out the number of lumens you’ll need. Consider the following questions before you head to the store and then let customer service point you to the right projector.

  1. Where will I put the projector?
  2. What’s the distance between the projector and the screen?
  3. How much natural light is in the room?
  4. Do I want to keep the lights on or turn them off when using the projector?
  5. How large or a screen do I want or already have?

With these 5 questions, you’ve already narrowed down the number of lumens you will need.

For instance, let’s say you’re putting together a home movie theater in your living room.

You’ll put your home theater projector on the back wall to face the screen, so it’s about 10 ft of distance. The screen is about 100 inches tall. There is natural light from the windows, but all indoor lights will be turned off when you watch movies.

Projector Screen for Home Theater

Since the screen is on the smaller side and there is some natural and artificial light, you would go with Indoor Medium Light on the above chart and find a projector that gives off 2,000 to 4,000 lumens.

This way, you can keep lights on if you want or turn them off for movie nights.

Because there are so many options to choose from, you have the flexibility to find the best projector for your needs.

Try one out and if it doesn’t work, take it back to try another setting. The home theater, presentation, and gaming experience are unique to the viewer.

In Conclusion

Only you can decide how brightly you want to see images and how much it matters to see true quality colors. For some, just being able to see the screen is enough.

For the aficionado, they may want to get down to the nitty-gritty details. There is no right or wrong answer.

If you want more information on the different types of projectors, screens, or more home viewing tips, hover over the tabs at the top of this page. I wish you the best of luck in building your home theater.

My name is Steve Scott. Father of 2 and owner of Outdoor Movie HQ. I’ve been involved in the A/V industry for most of my life and built this blog to help people better understand projector technology. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

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