Background Light

This is possibly the most completely off-topic you can get on a pencil forum but I also know there’s lots of engineering-minded folk in this forum so it’s probably not so irrational to ask here…

I’ve done these drawings on a tablet (jpegs, pngs) that I’ve converted into slides that can be projected on a wall, but when I project them they die off, they become flat and dead, because the light isn’t coming from the background like it does on a screen. The same thing happens with a video projector: whatever you project on a wall it sort of dims away and dies when compared to the original file that was made on a backlit screen.

So to visualise stuff made on a computer you either need another screen (which in terms of contemporary artistic exposure puts you in a “video” category not on a analog “electronic drawings” category) or a material that reflects light and gives you the impression that the light is coming from the background like in a screen.

That would be the exact effect I’m looking for: ----><----

Are you aware of any material — some sort of screenish paper that you can glue to a mdf surface that, when you project a light source into it, gives you the impression that there is background illumination?

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My brother-in-laws MFA presentation used a bunch of projected images. I’ll ask him how he did it - looked like neon almost (i.e. very bright and crisp).
in the meanime, I found this - but im not sure it will help

when I hear back from him i will DM you (but he is in China and doesnt really like getting tied down to things like email or calling his family, etc, lol)


Ahah no worries — thanks a bunch!

I’m trying to find a contact of a Portuguese artist that lives in the US… Alexandre Estrela… I’ve seen his wonderful installations here in local galleries and he uses some kind of reflective surface that sort of mimics a backlit screen. All is stuff is projected:

I’m pretty sure that such a thing as a reflective “video” paper roll that costs €1 in your shop around the corner exists — because that’s exactly the point of making stuff like this (Estrela’s).


I wonder if something similar to a retroreflective material i.e. 3M Reflective Sheeting would provide the experience that you are looking for.

So that it appears to be flat white unless it is being projected upon, then it will reflect and hopefully look like it is being lit from the back.

Informative links: How 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material Works, Reflectivity Specifications – Most Common Types of Reflective Sheeting, Oralite 5650 Rapid Air Engineer Grade Reflective Tape Rolls


Wow. Thanks!!!

I think this may have been the material/sheets I saw in the Estrela show. It had this hive pattern and was glued to a mdf surface in a “destruction logic” (minimal efforts, maximum output). Will investigate, thanks a lot!

Bunch of other links to explore too, thanks.

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You guys definitely deserve a gift!

“2mm” — please DM me an address (dispatching next time I have to go to the PO)

Dear Patrick — no need to DM me unless delivery address isn’t the same

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If it had a ‘hive’ or hexagon pattern, then I would definitely say that it was more than likely a 3M product or one of their competitors.

I tried to stay away from the hex design when I was doing that little bit of research, not knowing it it would have any detrimental effects on your production or not.

Glad that I was able to help point you in a helpful direction!

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What you’re looking for is a material with the highest percentage of ALR (ambient light rejection).

Check out products like Screen Innovations Slate, and dnp Supernova.

Also, a short throw projector helps out a lot too.


I was just thinking about that. When my mother was selling her home, we had a bunch of things that ended up going to the estate sale. One of them was a rolling collapsible screen that would be used for slide projectors and film movies. The material wasn’t just a matte finish white material. There was a slight luminescent quality about it, without being reflective. I think that helps enhance what’s projected on it. And what you describe sounds like it could’ve been that material, or similar.


Another way of doubling the projected brightness is… doubling the projectors. Requires skillful calibration!


Has anyone here attended the Van Gogh immersive experience that has been touring the world the last few years?

Speaking of projecting images, this was the most impressive use of projected material I have ever witnessed. I’d love to catch a “behind the scenes” documentary on how they did this. I have been lucky enough to see original Van Gogh pieces at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in NYC. But seeing his work in this projected and animated format was a truly mesmerizing thing to see.

Van Gogh Exhibition: The Immersive Experience (


It was here for a while some years ago – but I missed it. Afaik it was a smaller pavillion than that one in the video.

I went to the version that came to Singapore. It’s a pleasant enough way to pass the afternoon… As the artwork is essentially visual in nature, the immersion is also mostly visual with some music. It can be more meaningful if you are already familiar with certain pieces. That big room is the main focus of the experience. Elements of paintings are animated and larger than life. There is also an accompanying app but… meh, Lastly, there was a 3D headset experience at the end… also meh.