How-To: $5 Mobile Phone Projector

Photography & Video
How-To:  Mobile Phone Projector

photojojo iphone projector

The folks at Photojojo just posted a neat low-tech tutorial on how to make a mobile phone projector using a shoebox, a paperclip, and a magnifying glass. MacGyver would be proud. They were able to find the magnifying glass at a dollar store for, well, a dollar (so they called it the $1 projector), but let’s just call it $5 before people get up in arms because they can’t find that screaming deal.

Basically, you start by cutting a hole out of one side of the shoebox to match your magnifying glass and taping the glass on the box. Then you make an iPhone holder from a paperclip, flip the screen display on your phone (to account for how images passed through a lens get flipped), position your phone inside the box (playing with placement until you get the clearest image), put the box top back on, turn the room lights down low and the brightness on your phone up high, and revel in your resourcefulness. Doesn’t get more accessible than that!

photojojo phone projector2

photojojo phone projector3

photojojo phone projector4

72 thoughts on “How-To: $5 Mobile Phone Projector

  1. xxreelovexx says:

    I like the idea of this I might have to try this very soon, always wanted a projector phone LOL

  2. Albert Westra (@rehellio) says:

    I am so trying this!!

  3. gskalra says:

    i just tried it, the magnifying glass didn’t work. i think you may need to help specify what type of glass will work.

    1. pelrun says:

      Actually, any biconvex lens will work – but they haven’t mentioned that the resultant image will be VERY dim, and be dimmer the further you try to throw the image. So you will need a very dark room and a very short throw for this to work acceptably.

    2. Thuy says:

      Try reflect it on a plastic or something that reflect back

  4. How-To: $5 Mobile Phone Projector | Kamran Aashiq says:

    […] How-To: $5 Mobile Phone Projector […]

  5. rick says:

    dose not work for me

    1. Kara says:

      Perhaps you could try upping your dosage? ;)

      1. Kristina says:

        Good one! LOL!

  6. MetricCook says:

    The phone needs to be placed upside down, or interverted. Get a free lens from a trashed, back-projected tv, along with the huge Fresnel lens…

  7. How-To: $5 Mobile Phone Projector | Antonios Bouris says:

    […] See on […]

  8. DIY Photo Projector for $1 | LICHTER Streetview says:

    […] (via) […]

  9. How to Turn Your Phone Into a Projector for Less Than $5.00 | o.NET says:

    […] Submitted by: Unknown (via Make) […]

  10. Damion Buchanan says:

    Works, just very dim. Cartoons work best. I guess you get what you pay for. 8)

  11. alarichoratio says:

    what a idea :) remembering my child hood memories. I had created small one like this :)

  12. How to Turn Your Phone Into a Projector for Less Than $5.00 « LOLs says:

    […] Submitted by: Unknown (via Make) […]

  13. How to Turn Your Phone Into a Projector for Less Than $5.00 - Unofficial Network says:

    […] Submitted by: Unknown (via Make) […]

  14. How to Turn Your Phone Into a Projector for Less Than $5.00 says:

    […] Submitted by: Unknown (via Make) […]

  15. How to Turn Your Phone Into a Projector for Less Than $5.00 | says:

    […] Submitted by: Unknown (via Make) […]

  16. How-To: $5로 만드는 스마트폰 프로젝터 | Make: Korea says:
  17. Tony Barnhill says:

    I have an old school overhead projector, I wonder if that can be used somehow?

    1. Nuktchew says:

      I’ve seen people use an old LCD monitor display on one of those

  18. FTSandy says:

    Problem is, the touch screen doesn’t work anymore. I’ve been touching the wall, and nothing happens. Hahaha

  19. yapity says:

    I can’t seem to get it to focus! any tips?

    1. butterfly says:

      the clearness of the picture relates to how deep the box is and how far you have it from the wall for example i used a lg baby wipes box and a huge magnifying glass to make one of these for my tablet and if i wanted the screen bigger i had to move the box away from the wall, but also move my tablet a bit closer to the lens in the box to make it clearer.

      1. debbie says:

        I have tried everything but I still can not get it to project. I am not sure whats wrong??? I bought the hugh magnifiying glass, a large box, and moved the phone within the box and moved it close and far to the wall. I am lost please help. I just want to use it to draw a pic on the wall…

        1. Tahir says:

          Quite simple. First of all you nred to know the focal length of the lens. know it, simply go into the sunlight, and pass it through the lens. Keep the lens a few inches high from the ground and try to focus a bright spot on ground. Move your lens until you get a clear and focussed little bright dot. Now measure the height between ground n lens. It is the focal length. This is the exact distance needed between the phone and lens. Now you are almost done. Adjust your phone in the box with brightness at max, showing image or movie upside down. Move into a dark room, project the box towards a white wall. Maintain your distance by 6 feet and move the lens to get the clearer picture.

  20. 99centurions says:

    I got it to work by putting the phone about 4″ away from lens (3.5″ same one in photos, from Dollar Tree) and then backing up about 8″. Result was bright, but very small. At first I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t see anything then I projected it on my white (SHINY) dishwasher with the lights out. bingo! it wasn’t viewable at all with flat white paper, I find the reflecting surface needs to be shiny like real movie theatre screens.

    1. 99centurions says:

      FAIL. my box was 12.5″ deep, turns out I need it longer, so I cut out the back and at 14″ it was perfect and the box was about 7ft from the wall. Works well. Now need to find (or build) a longer box. (this one is all cut up)

  21. cr0sh says:

    Kinda funny and sad that a variant of the “100 inch TV plans” could end up on Make…

  22. How To-Make a $5 Smart PhoneProjector » efergy blog | efergy blog says:

    […] Source: Make! […]

  23. Shmerp says:

    It doesn’t work.. it only shows a white light on the wall. Should I find a new magnifying glass?

  24. Shmerp's Mom says:

    Well that sucks for you.

    1. Shmerp says:


  25. Links We Love | ...As You Like It... says:

    […] Makezine shows you a way better use for a shoebox than some third grade diorama: use it to make a mobile phone projector! […]

  26. Kristina says:

    Mine didnt work. Is my magnifying glass too big? It’s like 5x magnifying or something.

    1. terre says:

      Actually pretty cool. Compare it to shadow puppets- you have to play with both distance from wall and light!

  27. Carfin33 says:


  28. SasA says:

    its wil work dude mobile distance up side down

  29. gezievreni says:

    So creative!

  30. Of darkened cameras and ghosts – The Aust Gate says:

    […] it, creates a blurry projector (a future project that I want to play with at some point (Make magazine’s article on it)) but I could not see much. No lens. I did get light though and some odd looks from the cat who was […]

  31. Autumn says:

    Man oh Man (err Lady oh Lady for the activists out there)
    You all simply rock I love what you all do keep it up! I’m so happy that people are finally “diggin” people for their brains. Geeks Rock !!!

  32. jj says:

    This is something I so dreamed of as a kid, only we didn’t have the technology to match my dreams back then. This sounds neat but in light of the comments,trial and error or hit or miss. Worth a try though!

  33. Kelly says:

    Mine works, it’s just that only the center of it focuses! The edges are blurred. Can anyone help?

  34. sscharm says:

    Reblogged this on Simple Southern Charm.

  35. breatheeatlive says:

    haha I LOVE THIS! Thank you for this most ingenious invention!

  36. Shit I Found This Week #2 - Slap Dash Mom says:

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  37. Alice says:

    Mine just shows a white rectangle. I’m using a 3x magnifying glass on a white wall. Can anyone help?

  38. nlar says:

    how do i switch the screen display? still confused about that

  39. wallyk says:

    tried and it worked

  40. Beth Stika says:

    I would also cut a hole in the side to make sure I had access to the charging cord, and connect the phone to a bluetooth speaker for sound!

  41. ria says:

    very creative…

  42. Life-Hack: Der 5 Euro Beamer « TAKASAKI STUDIO says:

    […] jeden VJ und Visual Artist: Der Life-Hack 5 Euro Beamer . Ziemlich cool und schnell […]

  43. Speedway Auto Loan says:

    Brilliant Idea !!!

  44. Eric Simpson says:

    Has anybody tried this and did it or how well did it work

  45. Summer Skillman says:

    I just made this, and mine did not turn out so well. All I got was blurred colors. :(

    1. darkfoxx says:

      did you try moving it forwards and back? I haven’t built this so I wouldn’t know if that helps, seems like it would though.

  46. PrincessMousey says:

    Awesome, thanks for sharing! I am sharing your blog post.

  47. Payton Mccomb says:


  48. mich_POW says:

    I’ve never tried it but the YouTube channel ThreadBanger tests out pins and made a video on this tutorial, it’s worth checking out. The diy works but the image was backwards and the size of the projection was pretty small. They follow the tutorial closely step by step so if there are any tricks to improving the results they didn’t them but you can most likely find extra info in their comment section. I hope this is helpful!

  49. Mary Clark says:

    how big does the magnifying glass have to be if i cant get to a dollar store?

  50. rada says:

    I actually really dont like these. The lumens would be shit because its your phone screen. Why not spend 100-200 on a cheapy projector that actually works? Yeah I mean its more expensive, but really, do you see yourself using this at any point in time in a practical way?

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  58. Heather Gee Davis says:

    Wow I am going to let me kids try this for a science project thank you!

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

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