How to Paint Using Chalkboard Paint

Sign made with chalkboard paint bucket in front of fresh flowers and paint roller

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Overview
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $20–$40

Once you use chalkboard paint for the first time, you'll instantly be hooked. Chalkboard paint lets you turn any clean surface into a writing slate and a drawing pad for conventional chalk sticks or chalk markers. You can apply chalkboard paint to a child's dresser, so they can write out the contents of each drawer or paint an entire wall as a canvas for murals. For home decor ideas, you can take interesting plates at your local thrift store and turn them into memo pads. Coat wine bottles or convert an ornately framed mirror into a writing pad. Chalkboard paint gives you creative license to personalize your entire home inexpensively and turn it into a craft.

Tip

Chalkboard paint and chalky finish paint are different materials that are easily confused. Chalky finish paint is a color coat paint that has a soft, matte-like surface similar to soap and is often used for antiquing furniture. You cannot write on chalky finish paint with chalk.

Chalkboard paint is available in a dry powder or in pre-mixed form. Pre-mixed chalkboard paint from craft stores and home improvement centers is relatively inexpensive and easy to work with. Surfaces painted with chalkboard paint aren't as smooth as actual slate or slate-substitute chalkboards; they will be rougher and not as deep black as an actual chalkboard. Occasionally, you will need to revive the surface with another coat or two of chalkboard paint.

What Are Slate-Substitute Chalkboards?

Slate-substitute chalkboards are typically made of steel and are coated with porcelain enamel. These chalkboards are generally green instead of dark gray or black slate. 

Preparation

Doors, tables, cabinets, picture frames, flower pots, and more—you can use chalkboard paint on each of these surfaces. Materials like wood, metal, glass, and terra cotta work, but you will need to clean off dirt, grease, oil, salt using a commercial detergent. Make sure to rinse with fresh water and allow it to thoroughly dry. Remove loose paint or rust with a wire brush or sandpaper. Lightly sand glossy surfaces.

Warning

If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint from any surface predating 1978, you may release lead paint dust. Lead is toxic and exposure to lead dust can cause serious illness. Use a dust mask or respirator if you are scraping or removing old paint.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 6-inch dense foam roller cover
  • 6-inch roller frame
  • Paint tray
  • Paint tray liner
  • Sandpaper
  • Clean cloth or tack cloth
  • Gloves (latex or allergy-friendly alternative)
  • Dust mask or respirator
  • Painter's tape (optional)
  • Wood putty or filler (optional)

Materials

  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk sticks

Instructions

Materials and tools to use and apply chalkboard paint

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  1. Sand the Surface

    Start with a clean surface that has no cracks or other flaws. If there are any imperfections, repair with wood filler or wood putty. Using fine-grit sandpaper, gently sand down the surface. Chalkboard paint is not as thick as acrylic-latex house paint and lacks the ability to fill in and compensate for surface problems. Therefore, you need to bring the surface to the condition you expect to see after the chalkboard paint has cured.

    Wooden sign sanded down with fine-grit sandpaper while wearing blue gloves

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Tip

    If the surface is especially rough or porous, treat it with paint primer or multi-purpose sealer, then sand down with sandpaper in the 180- to 220-grit range. For a super-smooth surface, you can even move to 320-grit sandpaper.

  2. Clean the Surface

    Using a tack cloth or a clean, dry cloth, wipe down the surface to remove all traces of sawdust. Be gentle if using a tack cloth, as the embedded beeswax can transfer to the surface, causing the paint to eventually fail. Turn the tack cloth over frequently to a clean side.

    Wooden sign wiped down with dry cloth to remove sawdust

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Tip

    Do not use water to clean the surface as this will only raise the texture, necessitating another round of sanding.

  3. Pour Out the Chalkboard Paint

    Bring the chalkboard paint to room temperature. Shake the bottle well or stir it up. Pour a small amount of the paint into the paint tray, and let it settle down since bubbles may have formed when you mixed it up.

    Black chalkboard paint poured into paint tray

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Tip

    Four ounces of chalkboard paint will cover about 10 square feet.

  4. Pick Up the Paint on the Roller Cover

    Begin by gently pushing the roller into the chalkboard paint, covering the entire roller cover. Roll out the paint so that it is fairly dry. It should not be heavy or dripping with paint. Avoid the dimpled section of the paint tray as the pattern may transfer to your work surface. Chalk paint has a relatively long working time, so there is no need to rush.

    Paint roller covered in black chalkboard paint in paint tray

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  5. Apply the Chalkboard Paint to the Surface

    Apply the chalkboard paint to the surface in a single light coat. Even more than conventional paints, chalkboard paint does not apply well if you attempt to lay down thick coats. Apply a minimum of two coats of chalkboard paint. After that first coat, let it dry for one hour before applying the next coat.

    Paint roller with black chalkboard paint rolled on to wooden sign surface

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  6. Bring the Chalkboard Paint to the Edge (Optional)

    You can define edges on a flat surface with painter's tape or, if you have a 90-degree edge, you can bring the paint to the edge without slopping onto the adjacent side by rolling with an extremely dry roller.

    Roll out as much paint as possible on the working surface or a separate piece of cardboard, and then lightly roll along the 90-degree edge but stay only on your work surface side. Roll parallel to that edge. This is the best method of painting up to edges because painter's tape is difficult to apply precisely on that edge. Additionally, when you try to mask that way, bleed-through is a distinct possibility.

    Chalkboard paint rolled on to edge of wooden sign

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  7. Condition the Chalkboard Surface

    After all layers of the chalkboard paint have dried for at least 24 hours, you will need to condition the surface before use. Using the edge of a chalk stick, rub the entire surface lightly, and then rub chalk into the surface with a clean, dry cloth. The aim is to create an off-black, deep gray color that is consistent across the surface. After the surface has been conditioned, you can write on it with chalk.

    Edge of chalk stick rubbed on chalkboard surface for conditioning

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Creative Projects Using Chalkboard Paint

Children's rooms are a popular place for chalkboard paint. For children's dresser, you can paint the edges of dresser drawers to help them identify the contents. Painting an entire wall in your child's room with chalkboard paint will allow them to unleash their creative spirit. Also, using painter's tape, you can create a monthly calendar grid in your child's room and have your child help map out the month's events. Consider painting a clock face with chalkboard paint and add fun symbols instead of numbers.

You can frame a chalkboard, draw a pretty picture, and give it as a gift. Or paint some flower pots with chalkboard paint or mugs with chalkboard paint, fill them with goodies, and wrap them for holiday or birthday gifts.

You can build an organizer for keys or a phone charging station around a small chalkboard for decor around the house. As an easy way to record your must-haves on your next grocery trip, paint the inside of a kitchen cabinet door and hang chalk on a string. Another interesting stark decoration is chalkboard-painted wine bottles.