How to Use and Apply Chalkboard Paint

Blackboard in Kitchen

Jo-Ann Richards / Getty Images

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. Apply chalkboard paint to a child's dresser so he or she can write out the contents of each drawer (kids go crazy over this!). Paint an entire wall as a canvas for murals. Grab interesting plates at your local thrift store and turn them into memo pads. Coat wine bottles with chalkboard paint or convert an ornately framed mirror into a writing pad. Whatever you desire, let your imagination run free.

How Does Chalkboard Paint Work?

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 either a dry powder or in pre-mixed form. Pre-mixed chalkboard paint—found at craft stores and home improvement centers—is relatively inexpensive and easy to work with. Do not expect surfaces painted with chalkboard paint to be as smooth as actual slate or slate-substitute chalkboards. Instead, it 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.

Four ounces of chalkboard paint will cover about 10 square feet. Be sure to purchase a dense foam roller cover and matching roller, not the larger covers and rollers used for home wall and ceiling projects. You can accomplish this project quickly and neatly since chalkboard paint cleans up with soap and water. However, allow a full day of curing time before applying chalk to the surface.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 1 hour for about 10 square feet
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Material Cost: $20 to $40

What You Will Need

Equipment/Tools

  • 6-inch dense foam roller cover
  • 6-inch roller frame
  • Paint tray and liner
  • Sandpaper
  • Clean cloth or tack cloth
  • Latex gloves or alternative gloves if allergic to latex
  • Painter's tape (optional)

Materials

  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk sticks

Instructions

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. So, you need to bring the surface to the condition that you expect to see after the chalkboard paint has cured. 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.

Sand the Surface Prior to Applying Chalkboard Paint
Lee Wallender 

Clean the Surface

Using a tack cloth or a clean, dry cloth, wipe down the surface to remove all traces of sawdust. With tack cloth, be especially gentle since the embedded beeswax can transfer to the surface, causing the paint to eventually fail.

Clean the Surface
Lee Wallender 

Pour out the Chalkboard Paint

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

Pour Out the Chalkboard Paint
Lee Wallender

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.

Pick up the Paint on the Roller Cover
Lee Wallender

Apply the Chalkboard Paint to the Surface

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

Apply the Chalkboard Paint to the Surface
Lee Wallender

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 on a separate piece of cardboard. 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 since 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.

Bring Chalkboard Paint to the Edges
Lee Wallender

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.

Condition Chalkboard Surface
Lee Wallender

Finish by rubbing the 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.