17 Tips for using Chalkboard Paint

Here is a fun little project.

If you are a not a crafter or spend a lot of time looking at home decor on Pinterest, you might not know that chalkboard paint is a thing. That’s right: paint that makes any surface a chalkboard. Isn’t that fantastic? Awesome people use it for all kinds of projects, like painting the front of their old refrigerators, to making chalkboard wall murals, to schoolhouse-style slates, to labeling jars or the stems of wine glasses to mark them for guests.

So many options available on Google!

So many options available on Google!

Painting with chalkboard paint is pretty easy. You don’t even need a tutorial. Still want one? Ok, here it is:

How to Make a Chalkboard

  1. Buy chalkboard Paint
  2. Paint the thing that should be a chalkboard
  3. Season it
  4. Use as a chalkboard!

Easy enough! Congrats, you did it!

Ok, if you’re like me at all, you might want some additional tips and explanations.

9 Tips for using Chalkboard Paint

  1. Buy Enough Paint: Chalkboard paint seems to be sold in two sizes: tiny craft-sized bottles that look right for painting small objects, and quarts of paint for painting walls. Since I was doing a large-ish door panel, I ended up finding two larger craft-sized bottles. One 8-oz bottle ended up being more than sufficient, and I’ll save the other one for future projects. Thank goodness I didn’t buy the wall-sized one.

    Even though this is a large door, I treat it more like a craft project than a big painting project. I have a craft-sized paint tube, a small plastic cup, and a foam craft brush. Aside from a surface, this is really all you need for this project.

    Even though this is a large door, I treat it more like a craft project than a big painting project. I have a craft-sized paint tube, a small plastic cup, and a foam craft brush. Aside from a surface, this is really all you need for this project.

  2. Paint on a Smooth Surface: This is not a leveling paint. Any bumps in the surface will end up in your chalkboard. For this reason, a lot of people like to paint on glass, like covering an old mirror or the glass from a picture frame. According to the directions on the label, the paint can even be baked on to the glass for a nice finish. I haven’t tried this. If you are painting on wood, you might consider sanding it first with a fine grit sandpaper to make it nice and smooth. A rough, textured wall plaster will retain all its texture if you choose that as your surface. While painting, the brush you use will also introduce texture into the surface. Many crafters prefer to use a smooth roller to apply the paint for this reason. Or, you can accept the brush texture and just go with it.
  3. Tape off your Painting Area: No matter how expert you are at painting surfaces, it can be easy to mess up. I taped off the entire door panel with painter’s tape to make sure that I didn’t go over. If you are painting a wall, you may have other preparation work to do, such as removing hardware.

    Tape off your painting area with painter's tape before you begin. Here, I tape off the center panel of the interior door with Frogtape.

    Tape off your painting area with painter’s tape before you begin. Here, I tape off the center panel of the interior door with Frogtape.

  4. Use Lots of Coats: The directions on the bottle told me that I would need two coats of paint, but by the time I finished, it ended up being closer to four. I think this is because I did use a foam craft brush to apply it, the coats were rather thin. It’s a very gloppy paint, but it’s easy to see the brush strokes if it isn’t thick enough.

    Here, a thin coat of chalkboard paint will not be enough to thickly cover the area. After I let it dry, I go back over it until I am satisfied with the surface.

    Here, a thin coat of chalkboard paint will not be enough to thickly cover the area. After I let it dry, I go back over it until I am satisfied with the surface.

  5. Leave Plenty of Time to Dry: I let the paint dry for almost a day between the first two coats and the second two coats, and then let it “cure” for three whole days before seasoning it and using it. The curing period is particularly important. Different paint manufacturers might recommend different lengths of time, but just be aware that this period is necessary so that you can plan your project accordingly.
  6. Season your Chalkboard: Apparently, this step is a super big deal. All the online chalkboard enthusiasts swear by it. To season your chalkboard, draw with the side of your chalk all over the entire board, covering it completely with chalk.
    Do this over the ENTIRE chalkboard, in two layers if necessary. Caution: this is a lot more work than I thought it would be.

    Do this over the ENTIRE chalkboard, in two layers if necessary. Caution: this is a lot more work than I thought it would be.

    Do this in both directions for better coverage. Once covered, erase it all with a dry cloth. The surface will be slightly grayer an a bit “chalky”, but that is what you want. Now your chalkboard is ready to draw on properly. The reason for this important step, apparently, is that chalkboard paint is very porous, and if you skip directly to the drawing without seasoning it, whatever you put on your chalkboard first could never be fully erased, leaving a “ghost” image behind under all future drawings. By seasoning it, you fill the entire chalkboard evenly, so that your drawings will erase consistently.

    Once you've covered the entire area with the side of the chalk, erase the entire thing with a dry, soft cloth.

    Once you’ve covered the entire area with the side of the chalk, erase the entire thing with a dry, soft cloth.

  7. Use White Chalk: Of course you can use multicolored chalk if you like, but I’ve read that these colorful varieties contain a lot more wax to carry the pigment, making them harder to erase over time. I’m not a chalk expert, but it’s worth passing on.
  8. Erase with a Dry Cloth: You might be wondering where to find one of those big, dusty chalkboard erasers. Good news, everyone! You don’t have to! I use a simple T-shirt rag from my stash. These are the best things ever. It cuts WAY down on dust and I can just pop it in the wash afterward. You can use a damp rag for a darker finish afterward, but I’ve been warned not to use a fully wet rag unless I want to re-season the board afterward.
  9. Consider Dust: Even without a big dusty eraser, if your chalkboard is meant for daily use or for children, there will be a lot of chalk dust around. Make sure you’re ok with that before, say, putting the chalkboard wall next to heirloom quilts or someplace where you might not want dust.
Your finished, seasoned chalkboard is ready to draw on!

Your finished, seasoned chalkboard is ready to draw on!

8 Tips for Making Chalk Art

If you want to make longer-lasting chalk art on your board, such as a sign or a menu header, here are some tips I’ve found for getting the effect you want. Experiment with these techniques on your own chalkboard and see which ones you like

  1. Use a Grid System: If you have a smaller art or typography piece you want to make bigger, overlay a grid of squares on both the small piece and your large chalkboard to help you get the proportions right. By seeing where the features fall within the grid, it can help you copy the proportions and lines of the original on to your chalkboard. Erase the grid from the chalkboard when you’re done.
  2. Use Stencils: You can use existing stencils or make your own if it helps you make consistent lettering.
  3. Get the Chalk Wet: A wet piece of chalk will make a smooth, heavy line that can be very striking. This can work great for outlines. Careful, wet chalk can be messy and take a while to dry out.
  4. Partially Erase: By using your hand to erase instead of an eraser, you can get a shade of gray that can help make areas of your sign pop.
  5. Erase with Water: By dipping the very corner of your erasing rag into some water and carefully erasing tiny areas of your work, the resulting darker area can stand out nicely against the dark grey of the board.
  6. Sharpen your Chalk: For finer lines, you may want a sharper piece of chalk. Find a pencil sharpener that fits the chalk pieces. This may use up a lot of chalk, but will give you a fine control in your art.
  7. Use Chalk Pens: These are wet erasable art pens that have a similar look to chalk. They can provide more control in the drawing process and are available at many craft stores.
    chalk_markers
  8. Do Research: There are a lot of really fabulous chalk artists out there. Look them up, notice their techniques, and see what you like!

    Professional chalk artists like Paul Valente do beautiful chalk art on a large scale for corporate clients. Photo from The Drawing Board Signs.

    Professional chalk artists like Paul Valente do beautiful chalk art on a large scale for corporate clients. Photo from The Drawing Board Signs.

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