Party Pointer: Making a Chalkboard Party Sign

You see them everywhere now–at restaurants, bars, sidewalks, parties, weddings–chalkboard signs. Chalkboards are no longer just for the school room! And of course, most of these signs are decorated so beautifully that you would never want to erase them. Check out these tips for making a chalkboard party sign.

Supplies you will need:

  • Chalkboard–you might want to start with a smaller board until you have more practice.
  • Chalk – white and colored
  • Small bowl of water
  • Damp rag – do not use paper towels – they will leave a fiber residue on your board. Try a disposable fiber wipe.
  • Cotton swab – dipped in water–they are the best erasers to get into tight spots and fix mistakes.
  • Inexpensive pencil sharpener to keep the chalk points sharp
  • Sewing measuring tape or ruler
  • Computer fonts or art print-outs, clippings, or stencils to use as guides for your signs
  • Sketch pad or paper and pencil to sketch your design on

Getting started

  • Clean your board with a wet wipe. Repeat to make sure you are getting as much chalk residue off the board before starting your drawing.
  • If you are using a brand new chalkboard – season it first. This will help cut down on “ghosting”.  Ghosting is when you draw on a chalkboard and after it is erased – you still see the images, but in black.   To season a chalkboard:  Use a full piece of chalk and run it on its side over the entire surface of the chalkboard.  Make sure to rub it in well.   Once the board is covered – erase it; the board is now seasoned.
  • Use the tape measure to find the center of the board – width and height.  You can draw a faint line down the board to help guide you and then erase it later with a cotton swab.
  • Don’t use dry chalk.  Dip the chalk in water before drawing on the board. As you work, keep dipping the chalk in water to keep it wet.  At first, the chalk lines will look faded – not bright – be patient and let it dry – it will dry bright white or whatever color chalk you are using.   You can also keep the board wet and draw on a wet board.
  • Borders are often best to draw first as they help guide you on how much space you actually have to draw on.   Use a ruler to make straight lines if needed.
  • Make a sketch  to determine the placement of your images and words.  Pick one image to make the focus.
  • Using your sketch as a guide, start drawing your focal image. If you mess it up, just wipe it away and re-do it.
  • You can also use the chalk transfer method to get your drawing or photocopied image on to the chalkboard. On the back of your drawing, lay a piece of chalk on its side and then rub the back of the paper with the chalk so it is covered with chalk.  Flip it over and place the paper/drawing where you want it to go on the chalkboard.  Draw over the image with a soft tipped pencil. The pressure from the pencil will transfer chalk to the chalkboard. When you remove the paper, you will see a faint copy of your drawing.  Go over the lines with chalk to bring your image to life.
  • Mix up font styles – thick, 3-D, thin, serif, shadow, and script. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than 3 fonts–one heavy print font, a script font, and one thin caps font.
  • To find the center of a word or words for one line – count the number of letters and spaces between each word. This is a good rule of thumb to center lettering.  Draw the center letter or space on your center point and then draw the other letters out from this center point to each side to complete your word. This is the hardest part of chalkboard art – making free hand letters.
  • When you add the wet colored chalk over existing dry white chalk, it will appear that the white chalk has been ruined. It has not – just wet and looks faded. When it dries, it will look bright again.
  • If you want to seal your design on the chalkboard so it will not smudge, spray regular hairspray in an aerosol can lightly over the design.

With a little practice and a few imaginative ideas, you will be on your way to creating attractive signs to use for entertaining. Making creative chalkboard party signs can truly add a festive customized touch to your gathering.

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