How to Make a DIY Projector for Your Smartphone

Watch movies anywhere with this simple shoebox movie projector

A party watching projected images

Hero Images/Getty Images

If you're sick of squinting at YouTube videos, you can build your own DIY smartphone projector with a few simple craft materials. Here's what you need to put up any video on any surface, big as life.

What You Need to Make a Smartphone Projector

Get into one place the following:

  • A shoebox, or a photo box from a crafting store
  • A smartphone or small tablet
  • Measuring tape
  • A large magnifier that will fit in one end of the box. The bigger the lens, the better, especially if you have a large wall you want to project on. Also, try to avoid lenses with handles, if possible, to save some cutting.
  • Foamcore or stiff cardboard
  • A cutting tool such as an Xacto knife or box cutter
  • A flashlight
  • Masking tape or double-sided tape with a washable adhesive
  • A strong glue
  • A clean, white, smooth surface, like a tightly strung sheet or a blank wall that's been cleaned
The materials needed for a homemade projector

Before you start, write down the length, depth, and width of the box and use that information for the next steps.

Check to ensure your lens is not a “fresnel” lens, as this will be less effective. This lens will have a "texture" on one side and a smooth side on the other.

How to Make a Projector for Your Smartphone

  1. Use the glue to reinforce the flaps of the box. You'll be cutting a large hole at one end so use plenty of glue. Press and hold if necessary on each flap to ensure the glue cures properly. Leave the glue to dry.

    Photo boxes, like the ones sold in craft stores, are more durable and will allow you to skip this step in many cases.

  2. Place the magnifier against one end of the box and sketch a complete circle around it.

  3. Place the lens so there's an equal amount of space on all sides, using the measuring tape to confirm.

  4. Carefully cut the circle out with the utility blade, then place the lid on the box and use your cut-out to measure how much you need to remove from the lid by holding it over the hole and tracing around the edge.

    A crafter cutting a hold in a box

    Alternately, just cut the panel of the box off, leaving a little extra.

  5. Use glue to securely seat the lens in the hole you've cut by placing the box upright, the hole facing down, and carefully running glue around the edge.

    A hand gluing down a magnifying lens
  6. After the glue dries, trim away any excess.

  7. Shine the flashlight around the edge looking for "light leaks," places where the light shines through. Cover these with the tape.

  8. While the glue on the lens dries, build the brace for your smartphone or tablet. This will be a simple inverted T-shape made out of the foamcore or stiff cardboard.

    A brace made out of foamcore
  9. Measure the width and depth of the box and cut a piece of foam-core 1/8 of an inch smaller than the width of the box on each side.

  10. Cut another piece of foamcore that will fit inside the box vertically and glue it to create a right angle with the base, facing the lens. If you're concerned about stability, use multiple pieces of foamcore to offer a stiffer resistance.

  11. Use the tape to secure your smartphone roughly in the middle of the vertical panel to ensure it will stick, screen facing out.

    The finished projector
  12. Now that the glue is dry, you're ready to watch. Place your box with the lens facing your projecting surface and dim the lights.

  13. Turn off screen rotation on your phone and turn the brightness and volume all the way up.

  14. Start the media you want to watch, then pause it.

  15. Turn your phone so the image is upside down, and tape it to the brace. Place the brace and phone in the box and move it back and forth until the image on the wall is as sharp as possible.

  16. Hit play, put the lid on the box, and enjoy!