I love using chalkboards in my decorating. It is a fun and easy way to change the decor for different holidays and occasions. I have made chalkboards for most holidays and seasons, and have even made some for our Disney trips we have taken! 🙂 They look a lot more difficult to make than they actually are, I think a lot of people are intimidated to try them because they think they don’t have a lot of artistic talent. I am here to tell you that you don’t need any! If you can trace a line, you can make a chalkboard. Here is my tutorial on how to make a chalkboard.
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For this project you will need:
- 16×20” frame
- 4×8’ sheet of ¼” MDF
- 220 grit sandpaper
- 1 quart of Chalkboard paint
- Small roller/paint tray
- Data projector – I understand not everyone has access to a data projector so here is a tutorial on how to make one out of your smartphone and a magnifying glass
- Blue tape
- Pencil sharpener
- Turn buttons and a hanging kit – if your frame does not already have them
This tutorial will cover everything from start to finish. We decided to make our own chalkboards using a frame that we found at Goodwill. It did not look like this when we first started, it was a little lighter in color but I did not care for that. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the before of the frame since we made this prior to starting this blog. I wanted the frame to be a little darker so we gave it a light sanding and made it darker using some black acrylic paint. We mixed the paint with water and made a black wash. I would guess it was about ¼ paint to ¾ water. We painted the black wash over the whole frame and immediately wiped it off. It darkened the color and settled into the crevices giving an aged look to the piece which is exactly what I wanted.
Mr. Wonderful made up some chalkboard blanks to insert into frame. Our frame size is 16×20” so that is what he cut the blanks at. Really you can make these for any size frame you have, you can just cut them down to the corresponding size. He figured we could get about 12 blanks out of a 4×8’ sheet of MDF. He cut the MDF using a table saw. If you do not have a table saw, you can always have the hardware store cut your wood down for you, I believe most of them will do that. A couple of the blanks were just a hair smaller than 16×20” but it is not something you will notice once they are in the frame.
Once all the blanks were cut, Mr. Wonderful sanded them down using 220 grit sandpaper. Wipe them off to make sure there is no dust left on them before painting.
We used Rust-oleum chalkboard paint to paint our blanks.
Instead of dirtying the paint tray, Mr. Wonderful decided to just pour a little bit of the paint onto a blank and roll it out using the small roller. Although as you can see from the picture, we use this size roller and tray a lot. It is handy to use for small projects such as this.
It will look very bumpy when you first roll it on. That will smooth out as it dries. Repeat with all the other blanks. We did not paint the sides or the backs as that would not show once it is in the frame. Let it dry and paint another coat. We let them dry overnight before using them. Follow the instructions on the can as far as dry time between coats goes.
The first thing you want to do to a new chalkboard is season it. If you do not do this step, then the first thing you write on the chalkboard will be “imprinted” into it and you will always see it there. The way to season a chalkboard is to cover it completely in chalk so the chalk fills in all the pores. Using the side of your chalk, color in the whole chalkboard. Let it sit for a while then clean it off. I used a damp rag to clean it all off. Do not use a paper towel because I learned from experience it will leave a bunch of little white fibers all over the chalkboard.
Set up your data projector so it is shining on a blank wall. I choose to do mine close to the floor so I can sit on the floor to draw on my chalkboard, but you can put it higher and sit on a chair if that is more comfortable for you. However, you will have to set the chalkboard on something so that might be a little harder. I set my chalkboard on our baseboard and tape it to the wall so it does not move during the process. You want to make sure it stays put the whole time! You will have to play with your data projector settings (or move your DIY projector forward and backward) to get it to be the right size for your chalkboard.
We usually set the projector on a piece of wood since it would otherwise be sitting on carpet, this gives it a nice solid surface to sit on. Once you have the projector set where it needs to be, warn everyone in the house if they touch it, you will hunt them down. LOL…kidding of course! But seriously, try not to move it after you get started or you will not be a happy camper. 🙂
I like to make my chalkboards using good old fashioned chalk and not chalk pens, I love the finished look it gives. I know it is a bit more of a hassle, but the end product is better. Before you start, sharpen the chalk to as sharp of a point as you can get it, that will make it easier to draw in the fine lines. However, try not to go too far in the sharpening because you will break off the tip. There is nothing more annoying than that when you are in the middle of a chalkboard. I just use regular pencil sharpener like you would buy the kids to put into their pencil box for school…nothing special.
Start at the bottom left of the chalkboard and work your way across first, then up to the next line. This is the easiest way to keep your shadow out of the way and also to keep from smudging the work you have done. Try to pay attention to where you place your hand if you need to steady it, you don’t want to accidentally lay it on something you have already drawn. Now just trace the words from the data projector. If there are thick lines that need to be colored in, I usually outline the lines when it is on the wall and color them in later when I can just lay it on the counter. I also darken any lines that need it at this time as well. Keep a wet rag and a wet q-tip nearby to clean up any mistakes while you are making it. That is the nice thing about using chalk, if you make a mistake just erase it and start again.
This design was a fairly easy one, not too many words and not a lot of detail. This board probably took me about 30 minutes to make. Some that are more detailed can take up to 3-4 hours, but those are always the most awesome ones. And by the way, I originally thought I did not need to keep these around. I was going to just erase them after I made them and make a new one on the same chalkboard. Thankfully Mr. Wonderful talked some sense into me. 🙂 He also made me a nice storage box to store all my completed chalkboards. I will have to share that with you sometime too.
After it is completed, spray a light layer of hair spray over the whole thing. We just use a cheap brand, Aquanet (if you grew up in the 80’s you will know this product intimately! lol). This will help to prevent smudges, but it can still be wiped off so try not to do that when you are transferring it to the frame.
If your frame does not already have turn buttons and hanging fasteners you will need to add those prior to inserting the chalkboard, of course. Insert the chalkboard into the frame and and enjoy! It really is an easy thing to do, it just takes a little time. But in my mind it is worth it for the end product. 🙂