How to Do Projection Mapping – Step by Step Guide

Have you ever wondered how big brands create interactive ads that immerse their audience and engage them? If you are still curious, stick around as I guide you step by step on how to achieve the same results through projection mapping.

What is Projection Mapping?

Projection mapping is a process used to create interactive displays from simple 3D objects. However, instead of the usual flat screen used when projecting, one uses any surface of choice to map the light. You are not restricted to using a given type of surface.

While projection mapping, you are allowed to turn and convert any surface into a video screen regardless of its shape or color. Be it a bridge, a car, or a tall building; you can use anything as a background to project on, which makes it more thrilling.

If you want an event you are organizing to be memorable, you should engage your creativity for a unique experience. Since you are not limited in any way, you should be able to come up with stunning graphic images that would otherwise be impossible to create using traditional media.

 Examples of Projection Mapping

Over the years, more and more people have embraced the idea of projection mapping and relied on it to curate their content.  This technique is used to make ads, live concerts, gaming as well as computing.

If you are having a wedding or are looking forward to renewing your vows with your spouse, you can choose to project map your cake as illustrated in the video below.

Another spectacular example of projection mapping is the Jodhpur building’s illusion in India by Bart Kresa Studio, as shown in this video.

Equipment and Tools Required

  • Canvas

This is the surface or object you are going to project on. It does not have to be a flat-screen as you can use anything. You can use the walls of a big hall or even a shoe as your canvas.

  • Projector

This is used to project your idea and illusion on the surface you choose.

  • Projector mounts

These are for holding and securing your projector in place.

  • Projector bulbs

These are to sort you out with lighting issues.

  • Laptop

You will need a computer to access your 3D software and manipulate objects to create your illusions from the digital scene.

  • Audio system

Having an audio sound will be vital if you need sound for your projection. It will also give your presentation life and help in immersing the audience more.

  • Software

This will enable you to create the idea you have envisioned and control it in a three-dimensional scope. When choosing the software to settle on, you should crosscheck the software’s computer requirements with that of your own. You can download for a free trial and eventually settle on the one that suits you best. In this case, we will use MadMapper.

This is a commonly used software in mapping textures to surfaces. However, note that you can use any software of choice.

  • MiniMad

This is a hardware companion of MadMapper that will help you control the lighting and keep it in check. Like we said, you can use anything that works for you.

  • Marker

This may come in handy in making exact spots should you need to recreate the same setup severally.

How Projection Mapping is Done

Projection mapping can be a tricky technique to execute, especially if you do not know how to go about it accurately. The good news is that you can use different methods to achieve the desired effect. However, you still have to be careful and precise. Do not be fooled into thinking it’s something that you can do in a rush. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to execute projection mapping well.

1.    Select Your Canvas

Before you begin your projection mapping project, you need to choose the surface or object you will work with. Here, you have to be conscious of the size of the object you want to project. However, do not feel restrained as there is no set standard. You can choose to work with any surface of whatever size.  Whether it’s a shoe you want to project or the Big Bend in New York, just ensure that the canvas you settle on is able to bring out the picture you have in mind.

The material of your canvas is also crucial in making your project a success or an epic fail. I recommend that you settle on a light-colored canvas. Matt materials are also the best to work with as they will reduce the light reflection. Using a gleaming surface will decrease your images’ quality, and the reflection/shadow of the projector you are using may be visible.

I also advise that you do not use surfaces that can bend or be easily shifted as your canvas. This is because any slight movements will distort the images you are projecting and ruin your project.

2.    Plan The Lighting

Lighting plays a crucial role in ensuring that you get the best quality of the projected images. You should avoid having direct light hitting your canvas at all costs. Whether artificial or natural light, any form of light will form intense contrast levels and fade the projecting images. If possible, work in a dark or enclosed place. Use a surface that has no direct light hitting it. If you cannot control the lighting and still think that the location you have is the best, I suggest that you make your project mapping projection at night.

To check and ensure your lighting is ok for the projection, you will need to use MiniMad. This is the hardware companion of MadMapper. It will help you control the lighting and keep it in check. Choosing a powerful projector to work with will mean that it puts out enough light for the projection. This will be important in giving excellent quality images.

It is essential to keep in mind that the surface or object you choose to work with will impact your lighting. If you use a highly textured or nearly transparent surface to project, you will likely have light loss or occlusion issues.

Therefore, once you have picked the canvas to work with, I suggest using your software to calculate the level of brightness and pixel density for you. You will also need to avoid placing your projector where many obstructions may create shadows to interfere with the projection.

3.    Develop Content

Your content can be whatever your heart desires. It could be in the form of an image, video, graphic motion, or 3D. This is a fun step that allows you to engage your creative side. You can watch videos from other content creators to gather inspiration.

When developing your content, sketch your work to have a rough idea how it would look like before moving to your computer. Have a scale in mind that you will work with, and choose one that reasonably compares to the canvas you will use. Using a massive scale may dilute your work, and on the other hand, a microscopic scale may not be practical to use.

Basic tutorial on developing content using Madmapper

You should not be afraid to borrow ideas from other content creators, especially if you are a beginner. I mean, there is nothing new under the sun. However, it would be best if you were careful to only download from generous artists to avoid copyright strikes. Many sites allow you to download free-use content from the internet. If you use another artist’s work, you should give credit where it is due and acknowledge them. This will also help in supporting other artists.

If you are interested in making your video arts as an artist, feel free to do so. You can look into some of the programs that will enable you to create your own videos. Some of these are Adobe After Effects or Adobe Premiere. Play around with the app to create effects and use the color gradients to give your work an extra glow that immerses your audience more.

4.    Setup

Once you have the content you want to work on in mind, it is time to give your idea life. You will have to go to the location and align your work. Here, you will need your projector, laptop, and the software you want to use. In this case, we will use MadMapper.

Choose an optimal place to place your projector, as this will affect the resolution of your work.  If you create content for larger groups and in larger spaces, it is wise to use brighter and larger projectors. Remember to place it at a point where you won’t suffer any obstructions or any at all. It should also be in a place where they entirely cover the object you want to project. Use the projector mounts to hold your projectors in place. Once you have set up your projectors, you can go ahead and mark the exact point using tape. This will come in handy should you need to recreate the same setup severally.

If you require sound for your presentation, you need to connect your computer to an audio system. This is important as it will give your projection life.

When recreating your object into the 3D format, you will need to be extra careful and precise. This is because if you miss out on making the object size and shape the same, the presentation will seem off and ruin your projection. Use MadMapper to create a mask for the projector. Masking is essential if you are using more than one projector. It will help you blend the content to look well together as if it were from one source.

 Once the masks are in place, you will see exactly what the projector relays. You should then align and adjust your camera in MadMapper so that the laptop is showing the same thing as the projector.

For the 3D scene to match your digital scene on the laptop, you will need to align and adjust many times. This calls for you to be patient and take your time. Keep in mind that how well you align the digital scene to the masks will determine your outcome.

5.    Finalize The Presentation

For this final step, you should decide from what point and angle your audience will be viewing your work. It is essential to keep in mind that one can only view a projection map from one point of view. Optimize your content for your audience’s perspective to ensure that you give the ultimate best experience.

Ensure that you position your audience in a place where they get to enjoy an utterly unwarped image. This way, they will get the full experience and get to be fully immersed. Once everything is all set, all you need to do is project your work. And let your audience marvel at your job.


Projection mapping does not have to be a gruesome task. It has become popular worldwide, with several organizations and brands using the technique to create lasting impressions in people’s minds. If you are a conscious artist who would like to use this concept, you need to prepare appropriately to properly articulate the processes and end up with the projection you envisioned.

Since you are not limited to any specific tools, I recommend engaging your creative side and do your research before starting. You can also use parametric design to manipulate certain variables and modify the end results. This allows you to achieve a different end result while using the same products. Most importantly, have a budget that will allow you execute your project and do not forget to accumulate all the necessary materials before the start of your project.

Do not allow yourself to be limited to traditional media when creating memorable impressions and delightful expresses for your audience. I hope that this step-by-step guide that has been insightful and will help you navigate this journey of projection mapping. Please, stay tuned for more.

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