How To: Make a Cheap iPod Projector and Screen

Make a Cheap iPod Projector and Screen

This article will teach you how to make an iPod video projector for about $6 (depending on what materials you have) that works pretty well. First off, you need to gather your materials. I had everything except the magnifying glass, which I bought for $3.


  • Cardboard Box: I found one that was about 20" x 20" x 4.5". Usually you can use an oatmeal box, but my magnifying glass had to be further away from the mirror.
  • iPod: Or any other backlit device.
  • Mirror: Mine was about 5" x 4".
  • Cheap Foam Rectangle: You can get these at a craft store for 89 cents.
  • String: Used for the screen.
  • Duct Tape: Workshop essential.
  • Magnifying Glass: Square ones probably work better, but a circle one will do fine.


  • X-ACTO knife: General cutting of the cardboard.
  • Scissors: Rough cardboard cutting.
  • Ruler: Just measuring.

Step 1 Cut the Cardboard

This is the most time consuming step, because you need to cut all of the cardboard. The box should be at least a size that fits the backlit device, the mirror, and the magnifying glass.

Remember that the closer the projector is to a wall or screen, the further the lens has to be from the device. So the longer the box, the closer and more focused you can get, but it will make the image smaller. I made my box a lot smaller. I cut it down to 4 1/4" x 4 1/2" x 20".  Since an iPhone's screen is 2 by 3 inches, I made a 2" x 2" box with 1/2" extruding on either side, so I can rotate the iPhone. Also, cut out the front—this is where the image will be projected from.

(1) Yes, that is a Star Wars ruler. 4 1/2 inches tall... (2) ...4 1/4 inches wide. (3) The hole for the iPhone. (4) Big box.... (5) ...little box, (6) Cut open the front.

Step 2 Attach the Mirror

As I said earlier, my mirror was about 4" x 5". You have to create a 90 degree angle so the mirror will bounce the image of the iPod. To do this, I cut a scrap into squares and then in half. I then duct taped the mirror to this and then taped it under the iPod hole.

Step 3 Attach the Magnifying Glass

The magnifying glass is the main component of the projector. It focuses the light from the iPod into a concentrated beam. You can make the handle protrude from the sides or the top—I chose the right side. You should cut a hole a little smaller than the base of the handle so the glass won't fall down.

The box hasn't been sealed in this photo.

Step 4 Finish the Projector

First, tape the sides closed. Since my magnifying glass was too small for the hole, I put a piece of foam on the side so it would make a snug fit. You want all of the unused holes to be covered up. I made two cardboard L's to cover the open parts beside the magnifying glass. I used the flap on the front to prop the projector up when playing, but you can use whatever you want.

How to use the projector

  • To focus, move the magnifying glass closer or further away from the iPod.
  • To make the image larger, move the projector further away from the screen, and the opposite to make it smaller.
  • Make sure the magnifying glass isn't tilted or turned, as this will make the image distorted.
  • Remember that if the image of the iPod is crooked, don't tilt the projector, move the iPod.
  • Also, the image will move on the opposite direction that you turn the iPod because the image is flipped.

Step 5 Make a Screen

This step is optional. I didn't have a good place to project the image, so I made a screen. You can only make the image a certain size to fit on the screen, depending on the size of the foam rectangle. I used a cardboard L taped to a base plate. I taped the foam to the top of the L and made supports so the foam won't bend. I supported the screen with strings so it wouldn't fall down.

Pictures and Videos

The video is Dirty Harry by The Gorillaz (I love Gorillaz).

(1) Using flash in attempt to capture projection, it didn't work... (2) All folded up. (3) This is actually what it will look like. Good exposure!, (4) Bad exposure! I focused the projector to show you what it's like (football upstairs). (5) The longer video. Still bad exposure. Still football upstairs too.

That's it—you're done!

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Very cool, mad props for the Star Wars ruler.

badass. i like how scrappy / budget it is. clever

how'd you figure out how to do this... what inspired it? how often do you use it?

I got inspired by the ones that used a slide projector lens. I use it whenever I have it and am watching a music video or a movie with friends or in bed (I don't have a TV in my room).

I'm going to A) duct tape color it or B) spray paint it. Here's one that uses a lens here. I'm going to add the bumps to stop the iPod and the sticker after I color it.

silver spray paint could look cool.

I do have some...

This is great. I'm tempted to try something like this out when I have time. How big can you get the image on the screen before it starts blurring too much?

Ummm... depending on how blurry, about 2 by 1 1/3 feet. All I want though is bigger than an iPad... That would be cool, a projector for an iPad, it would

arrrg im going nuts here i bought some black cardboard at staples and made my own box the issue iam having now is its not easy to focus it, i came to the conclusion that the power of the magnifying glass could make a diffrence so far i have 3 one is a 2x square (this one gives somewhat picture but blurry) 3x round this one no picture at all, another square one i have that is also some what picture but not as good as the 2x this is a jewlers 2x i think. what kind of mag did u use?

Hmm... I'm sorry, I'm not sure why magnification mine is. It doesn't say on the glass. Have you tried adjusting the mirror? Or maybe the length between the projector and the screen?

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