Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homemade Chalkboard Do's and Don'ts

So, as you will likely soon gather, I am somewhat of a Pinterest addict. Mainly because it feeds my creativity, and also because it is the hub of all great DIY ideas on the internet.
I really liked the idea of a homemade chalkboard, and looked at a few of the tutorials online, and it did not look that hard, nor did it look like that much work. I decided to make one.
I was in for a surprise. It is more work that it looks like.

Sure, if you want to buy the special chalkboard paint, it probably would have been easier, but me and my creative self decided that I didn't want a black chalkboard, which most of the ready-made paints come in. No, I wanted a grey chalkboard. For more reasons than one, but that is another story.

I looked up all the recipes of homemade chalkboard paint, and they were all pretty consistent. 1 cup of paint + 2 Tbsp. unsanded tile grout."This we can handle." I thought.
I went to the store and bought the smallest thing of unsanded tile grout I could find, and spent less than $5 for all the grout I could desire- it should be well enough for several projects.
I almost bought paint, but undecided on the color grey I wanted, decided to go home with some paint chips instead, and decide at home. Then, my frugal self realized that I have several cans of paint from other home projects; including white and black. Yes. I decided to mix them. I mixed away, and when it got to a color I liked, I dumped out enough so that I was left with 1 cup of delightful grey paint. I added the tile grout and was quite pleased with myself for saving so much on a can of paint.

By this point though, I had someplace to be, so I put a lid on the mason jar I used to mix the paint in, and put it away for later. 
Chalkboard paint on glass

I had already done some research on whether or not I could paint this chalkboard paint on a glass surface, as the frame I had purchased at Goodwill was a print in a frame with glass. The few sites and blogs I looked at said that you could, given that the glass was very clean and that you buffed the glass a bit before painting, to "rough" it up.
This I did.
This did not work. See picture.

The paint peeled, and I was frustrated to have to start at square one. It also peeled when I tried washing off the chalk with a damp cloth. See picture.

DON'T: Paint latex chalkboard paint on glass.
DON'T: Wash chalk off homemade chalkboard with damp cloth.

Paint peeled off glass when washed
The next week I stopped at Lowe's and got a piece of the cheapest plywood I could find. At my Lowe's, it was the Birch plywood, 1/4" x 2' x 2'. I have nothing to cut it, so I asked them to cut it to 16" x 20" (the size of my frame). They were happy to do it. I also picked up a roller and paint pan, as I wanted to avoid any brush marks this time around too.

DO: Ask your hardware store to do some of the work for you.

I started over. I got out the roller, paint and board, and painted away. This time, however, I found out that the paint had sat too long, and there were lumps of grout in it. It had been about a week, but apparently that was long enough. I tried lifting them off with my fingertip while the paint was still wet, but that still tended to leave fingerprints. I gave up on the roller idea, and smoothed over it with a little foam brush. I just went over it lightly, and that was enough to get rid of the lumps and not take off any paint.

DON'T: Use a paint roller on paint with lumps.
DO: Use fresh paint.
DO: Use a foam brush instead of a bristle one for fewer brush marks

Finally! My chalkboard was done. I put it in the aged frame. Now it's time to doodle!
How to age a picture frame- post for another time.

One post I read said to condition the chalkboard by rubbing chalk all over the whole thing (using the side of the chalk) and then wiping it off before using it. So I did. I had come this far, I didn't want to ruin it now.
I used the dustless chalk, figuring it'd be less of a mess, but there was still a lot of dust. No biggie. I did notice, however, that my wet rag was getting a little bit of grey on it when I was washing off the chalk. I decided before I erased anything again, to actually get a chalkboard eraser.
Then I drew my picture and was pleased as punch.

DO: Condition your board with cheap chalk. It will use at least 1 stick.
DO: Use an actual chalkboard eraser, not a damp cloth.

In search of a chalkboard eraser... SO hard to find! I looked at Wal-Mart and several office supply stores. I did not want to pay shipping for such a simple thing. I finally looked at a local school supply store, and found one for $1.57. So today, I erased it, ready to draw something new, and was then appreciative of the dust-free chalk. There was NO MESS! Wow! I was very pleasantly surprised. The chalk just sortof "disappeared"! Hooray! One thing finally went right with this project.

DO: Get dustless chalk. It's wonderful.

Quickly, I will show you the difference in the off brand chalk vs. Crayola. I went ahead and got both boxes, because the Crayola did not have brown, and I thought I might need brown at some point, but check out how much brighter the Crayola chalk is compared to the off brand. Something you might think about when trying to save a few pennies- it may be worth it to get the name brand. When I bought these at Hobby Lobby, the Crayola products were 30% off, and I had a 40% off a regular priced item, which I used for the $1.99 box of chalk. Big spender, I know.

DO: Open the box of chalk at the store if it's not sealed, to check the brightness and color.  

So this long-winded story is my homemade chalkboard journey. I hope it saves someone somewhere some frustration. Just start with wood for your frame if you will be using Latex paint. If you're using homemade chalkboard paint, make sure you use it when it's fresh, as it doesn't keep very well.


  1. This is so fantastic! I am hoping to make some chalkboard paint save a bit of money, because it can be expensive!

    You might not have any experience, because I don't think you mentioned it, but would non-oil based paint work okay on glass? Or would you still not recommend painting chalkboard paint on glass?

    Thanks for this helpful blog post. Already pinned and SO referencing this for my chalkboard endeavors!


    1. Katie, Thanks! Blessings to you too!
      I don't know for sure- what we had that I was trying it with was latex paint, and it was the disaster you see above.

      Just checked and latex paint is considered a water-base. I think because of the latex it has that plastic-y quality to it, so I'm guessing that's why what happened happened.

      I have heard (but, again, did not try- so you can take this advice or leave it) that spray-paint works fine on glass. I'm wondering if I had tried to spray-paint it, and then paint over the spray-paint if that would've worked. I'd be interested to find out if anyone has experience with that experiment. If I decide to give it a go at some point, I will definitely write about it.
      Hope that helps