streamers haven

How to set up an Ultra-low-cost Green Screen in OBS

Hey there! Welcome to our little guide on how to set up and use an ultra-low-cost green screen. This tutorial is specifically designed for OBS Green Screens; However, Xsplit & any other broadcasting software that supports a chromakey filter can utilize a similar method like this.

So, in case you don’t know what a green screen is; it is essentially a colored screen, typically green, that can be filtered out and replaced with anything you want. Or nothing at all, as is the common use in the streaming world.

OBS Green screen in use by KensonPlays
Credit & Source: KensonPlays ft A green screen with an invisible background.

We’ll cover a few different ultra-low-cost methods to get a nice green-screen effect, as well as explain the advantages and drawbacks of each method.

The first ultra-low-cost green screen for use in OBS – The humble Posterboard Green Screen

Starting off with our personal favorite, the Posterboard Green screen!

– Cheap– Bulky, & unwieldly. You can’t fold it up neatly
– Very effective for a low cost with proper lighting– Difficult to put away, or find a spot for it, as it can’t roll or fold away into a smaller area
– You need to engineer a way to keep it upright if it isn’t leaning against a wall.

It doesn’t have to be fancy to function as a green screen. You merely need it to be big enough to fit in your webcam frame and have a way to mount it, so it doesn’t fall over. Easy, right?

Picture is of green leaf reflecting other green leafs within some water droplets.

The main disadvantage is that you will need to figure out a way to keep the posterboard upright and secure so that it does not fall over. Its smooth surface is great for even lighting and will be the most effective option for the price you pay.

We recommend a DIY PVC frame, as they are very cheap, readily available & easily assembled/disassembled.

Shower Curtain Style Alternative to poster board green screens

“I’ve got a green shower curtain, will that work?”

Yes! In fact, many DIYers utilize this method as it has some pretty good advantages while being low cost!

– Cheap– Creases and ridges cause little shadows, reducing the effectiveness
– Fairly Effective with proper & even lighting– Not as effective as a true purpose-built green screen due to creases & wrinkles
– Easily disassembled and stowed away– Looks fairly ugly from the outside. Could paint the PVC black or something to help with this.

The main issue with this design over Elgato’s design is those dreaded Creases & Wrinkles. Microshadows form and dull out the key, requiring better lighting or more aggressive similarity settings.

Creases & Wrinkles, the bane to what would be an extremely effective low-cost green screen

Any crease, any wrinkle will cause all lighting you do to cast tiny shadows, reducing the effectiveness of the key. It is, for this reason, that our preference is the poster board method above, which is flat and creaseless, outside of the trifold area (If you opt for that style).

Even so, the areas that it is creased is substantially less than a thin green shower curtain that some use on a PVC rack. That said, that method is also very cheap and effective, it just has a different set of drawbacks.

If you do choose to go with this method, look into the possibility of steam cleaning it with an iron to combat those wrinkles every now and again.

A Hand Camera Green Screen option & How to Set up a Green Screen in OBS

Another option for green screens is to key out an area of your desk, intended mostly for those who do arts & crafts on stream. We’ll actually include a short tutorial on this, as we have one of the things we need on hand for it. The same process applies to all green screens.

For the purpose of the tutorial, we’ll be keying out a green mousepad to use as our green screen. This will result in a sort of “Hand Camera Chroma-key.”

OBS green screen mouse pad

A quick word of advice, if you want to have a keyed out mousepad like this,, and you don’t have one that is waterproof, make sure to treat it with a hydrophobic solution; Ours is stained from some soda we knocked over some time ago. Since this will be on camera, the color consistency does matter for the purpose of keying out. Our mousepad will serve as an excellent example as to why this is a necessary step.

Its kind of difficult to tell, what with the poor lighting and all, but here is the best result we managed with the soda stains;

Discolored image with stains, makes it hard to key out.

Sure, we could attempt to increase the aggressiveness of the filter, however…this is the result:

Jagged edges visible in an OBS Green Screen Filter.
Jaggies!!! YUCK! Imagine if that was your head instead. Even lighting is important!!

Far from Desirable if you ask us, with the jagged edges clearly visible. This highlights the importance of lighting for your green screen. That said, it has served its purpose as an example to highlight a few things about green screens:

Notes about the filter

  1. You don’t need an “actual” purpose-built green screen to work as a chromakey medium.
  2. Whatever you end up using as one, ensure it is evenly lit.
    • For the best results, the shade of green must be consistent.

Fun fact: We simply took a picture of our mouse on our mousepad. It works just as well for images as it does video.

This is our recommended pad to buy if you want to have a green screen mousepad, as it helps to fend off stains and is resistant to scratching.

The Ultimate Guide to a better stream

There are so many different things about streaming that you need to know in order to be successful. That’s why I wrote this awesome guide to help you along the way!

Some other things you’ll need to ensure a green screen works well

Now, aftermarket purpose-built green screens are a particular shade of green. This shade is what performs the best for a chromakey filter, and with our ultra-cheap methods, you likely won’t be getting this particular shade of green.

And so, your budget green screen will be less effective than something like the Elgato Green Screen. However, no matter which green screen you ultimately decide to go with, you’ll need a dedicated light for it.

A strip light is preferable in this case, as we want to evenly light the green screen as much as possible. That said, there are very few, if any, floor-mounted solutions that we could find to fit our exact needs. Floor mounting the green screen light is preferred because you can shine up at the screen, and any overhead lights will fill in the top side.

That said, so long as it has any light pointing at it, it will perform better than with no light. You do, however, want to avoid using the key light that is meant for you. The reason for this is because it is likely to cast a shadow onto the screen, defeating the whole purpose of lighting the screen, to begin with.

Got the light and the screen set up? Let’s get that screen filtered out!

The process of adding a Green screen filter in OBS

Step one is to simply have the green screen in the frame.

Now right-click the source, and click “Filter”.

filter select in OBS for Green Screen settings

Now within the filters window, you want to add a “chroma-key” filter.

OBS Green Screen filter settings.

The OBS Green Screen filter settings here are what will determine if your key is “good” or “bad”. The main setting to mess with is the “similarity” slider. The lower it is, the closer the green you have in there is to an ideal green screen. As you can see, our settings are set absurdly high in order for our key to work. This is not ideal.

Play with these settings and find the numbers that work best for you. Ideally, you should not touch “contrast, brightness, or gamma” but they can help in some situations. If you do need to adjust those values, small increments result in large differences.

This is, more or less, all that you need to know about green screens. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment, or join our discord and ask away!

Questions? Ask in #the-help-desk in the Streamer’s Haven Discord!

Leave a Comment