How to Use and Apply Chalkboard Paint

Blackboard in Kitchen

Jo-Ann Richards / Getty Images

  • 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. 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. 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.


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. However, don't 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.

What Are Slate-Substitute Chalkboards?

Slate-substitute chalkboards are typically made of steel coated with porcelain enamel. These chalkboards generally have a green color versus the dark gray or black of slate. 

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)
  • Painter's tape (optional)


  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk sticks


  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 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. For a super-smooth surface, you can even move to #320 grit sandpaper.

    Sand the Surface Prior to Applying Chalkboard Paint
    Lee Wallender 
  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.

    Clean the Surface
    Lee Wallender 


    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.


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

    Pour Out the Chalkboard Paint
    Lee Wallender
  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.

    Pick up the Paint on the Roller Cover
    Lee Wallender
  5. 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
  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 on 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.

    Bring Chalkboard Paint to the Edges
    Lee Wallender
  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.

    Condition Chalkboard Surface
    Lee Wallender

10 Chalkboard Paint Project Ideas

  1. Build an organizer for keys and phones around a small chalkboard.
  2. Paint the edges of dresser drawers to identify the contents.
  3. Frame a chalkboard, draw a pretty picture, and give it as a gift.
  4. Paint flower pots with chalkboard paint.
  5. Paint mugs with chalkboard paint, fill them with goodies, and give as presents.
  6. Paint the inside a kitchen cabinet and hang chalk on a string for grocery ideas.
  7. Use tape to partition a large chalkboard as a reusable monthly calendar.
  8. Paint an entire wall in a kid's room with chalkboard paint.
  9. Paint a clock face with chalkboard paint and add fun symbols instead of numbers.
  10. Paint wine bottles and use for decorations.