Chalkboard signs add a perfect touch of farmhouse style rustic décor. They’re quaint, simple, and versatile — a perfect touch to an entry way, gallery wall, or little nook! Chalkboard art’s everywhere these days, from Pinterest to coffee shops, and it’s easy to see why. Chalkboard artists pull in incredible lettering techniques and graphic design. But how do you bring a piece of chalkboard art into your home when you’re not a particularly savvy artist? Turns out, it’s easy to do! Want to learn more? This DIY tutorial will show you all the steps you need to chalk a chalkboard sign like a pro, even if you have no art experience to speak of!
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
In French, this step is called “mise en place,” which means put everything in its place before you begin. So what supplies do you need to get this chalkboard sign project started? A few things! Most importantly, you’ll need your chalkboard. For this tutorial, we’ll be focusing specifically on how to chalk a chalkboard, but if you’re interested in knowing exactly how to build the chalkboard itself, leave me a note in the comments below. Turns out, chalkboards are easy breezy to build as well!
I picked up this ready made chalkboard sign from Home Goods for $16 — not a bad find! I loved the blue green border. It reminded me of a little sign I might see in a café or bakery window. So in addition to your chalkboard, what else do you need?
Step 2: Prep Your Board
This step is key — in order to ensure that you’ll be able to use your chalkboard sign again and again, you’ll need to prep your board. How? Take a piece of chalk, hold it long-ways, and rub it horizontally and vertically over the entire board. The whole chalkboard should be snowy, powdery white! Once you’ve chalked the entire board, take a cloth rag and wipe the board back down.
Why does this work? Most chalkboards are porous, which means that they have tiny, tiny holes in the surface of the board. You want to fill those pores with a consistent layer of chalk powder before you begin. What happens if you don’t? Ah, the dreaded “ghosting!” Ghosting occurs when you’ve chalked a beautiful image, you go to erase it, and it just wont erase. It’s stuck there for good. The design sunk into all the little pores of the surface because the board wasn’t sufficiently prepped.
Step 3: Transfer Your Design
I’m using this rustically chic design from this free 10-pack fall print collection. It makes a great print, but I think it make an even cuter chalkboard sign design! Head here to check out other cute designs you may want to use as guides.
With my design in hand, my next step is to transfer the image onto my chalkboard. There are a few ways to transfer your design onto your chalkboard sign, and I’ll mention 3 here.
Chalkboard Sign Option 1:
Use transfer paper. This method, in my humble opinion, is the easiest and least messy. I use Woodcraft transfer paper, which I bought on Amazon, to transfer my fall print onto my chalkboard. The transfer paper has a layer of carbon on the back side so when I sandwich the transfer paper between the image and the board and trace, the transfer paper leaves a very faint pencil line on the chalkboard, outlining the design. Easy!
Chalkboard Sign Option 2:
Rub pencil all over the back of your design (seriously, all over!), then lay your design onto your chalkboard and trace the image using a mechanical pencil. This method’s replicating option 1 without having to buy separate transfer paper. In my experience, it takes a good long while, though, to rub pencil all over the back of your design. My hand went numb! So the investment in transfer paper’s worth it to me.
Chalkboard Sign Option 3:
Cover the back side of your design in a generous layer of chalk. Just like you prepped the chalkboard by rubbing chalk horizontally and vertically with chalk, you’ll need to do the exact same thing to the back of your design in order to use chalk as a transfer medium. Rub, rub, and rub until you leave a generous coat of chalk on the back of your image. Once you have, lay the image on your chalkboard wrong-side down and trace your design with a pencil. This method works well, the chalk goes on quickly, but man … it’s messy. Get prepared for chalk dust everywhere.
Step 4: Chalk in the Design Outline
Once your design’s been transferred to your chalkboard, now’s the time to chalk it in. Personally, I prefer using old school chalk, the kind that comes in the yellow box. Why? For me, it has a very particular powdery texture that adds an authentic touch to the final piece. Chalk pens and markers are quite a bit easier to use, sure, but they lack the texture of real chalk.
In order to get a sharp edge on my chalk, I’ll take the time to rub the nib of the chalk down diagonally until I have the angle I need on the tip. Take your time, work slowly, and if you find your hand dragging through your gorgeous work, put a piece of paper between your wrist and the work to prevent smearing.
If you want to add dimension to your work, dip a small Q-tip and add shadow marks. Confused on how? Remember this trick. Either shade above and to the left of every shape OR shade below and to the right of every shape. That’ll get you shading good enough to really make your artwork sing.
If you mess up, no worries! Happens to the best of us! Use a small paintbrush or Q-tip and a drop of water to magically erase any mistakes that you make along the way.
Step 5: Preserve Your Piece
This step is totally optional. Once you’ve finished, consider making your piece smudge-proof with a light spray of hairspray or fixative that you purchase at an art supply or craft store. As long as the fixative or hairspray is water soluble, you’ll be able to wipe it down with Windex to reuse your chalkboard. This step will prevent any unintentional smudges or smears.
And, side note: if you spray your piece with hairspray and it seems to disappear, don’t panic! As long as you used a light coat, the design will reappear once the hairspray’s dried completely.
I just love, love, love this chalkboard sign. It looks so good in our family room, displayed in a small gallery wall with our family photos. I can’t wait to see what you create! Post it on Instagram and tag me @homebeautifully so that I can see it. I’ll repin my favorite onto my feed!
And if you haven’t yet gotten your free prints, click right down below!