How to Make a Chalkboard Wall – A Step by Step Guide

kid drawing planets on a chalkboard wall

I have been fiddling around with the idea of making a chalkboard wall for years now, and I’ve finally decided to take the plunge. But before I could get my tools out, I wanted to do some research and find out what it would take to create one. I also wanted to understand what some of the challenges would be.

Now, after going through the thick of it, I’ve come out the other side stronger (with a few blisters), and with a beautiful wall. Without further ado, here’s what I learned.

Before You Start, Consider This

Look, I’ll be the first to say it — chalkboard walls are really fun, but they can be a pain in the neck to complete (literally). So to help you avoid some common pitfalls, I’ve compiled a list of a few drawbacks that might make you reconsider the project. And if by the end you think that you can rise to the occasion, well, have I got a tutorial for you.

1. Never a Focal Point

If you’re here, reading how to make a chalkboard wall, I’m sure that you love the idea as much as I do. But are you going to feel the same in two or five years? If you’re not 100% sure, I suggest doing a chalkboard wall on a smaller surface or somewhere less obvious.

Don’t do an entire wall in your living room, because you might get tired of it, and getting rid of it is hell. So don’t make it a focal point, but rather a fun little nook where you can enjoy it whenever you want.

2. Your Wall Has to Be Completely Smoothed Out

Now that you’ve chosen the perfect wall for your DIY project, it’s time to prep it. For the chalkboard wall to work, the surface beneath it has to be completely smooth. Even the tiniest bumps will be visible on the wall, which is why you need to execute this step perfectly.

Go over your wall with your hand, and try to catch any bumps or imperfections. Then, using fine-grit sandpaper, smooth them all out before you start applying paint.

3. One Coat, Two Coats, Three Coats?

Here’s the thing, to get your chalkboard wall to be fully opaque, you’ll need to do a few coats. How many coats you end up doing will depend on a bunch of different factors, including the size and condition of your wall. It’ll also depend on the paint and brushes you’re using, which I’ll get to a little later.

That being said, you will need at least enough paint to do two full coats. Of course, if the surface isn’t smooth or the right color, you’ll have to do more. So I suggest keeping an extra paint can or two, just in case.

4. Chalkboard Wall Takes Days to Dry

Like virtually any other paint in the world, you need to wait for the coats to fully dry before you move on. But since you’ll have to go in a couple of times, drying takes a bit longer — two to three days, to be exact.

Also, you’ll need to wait a few more days before you can season the wall. So if you think that you could make an entire chalkboard wall in an afternoon, you’ve got another thing coming.

5. Magnetic Walls Are a Hit or Miss

The idea of having a magnetic chalkboard wall sounds too good to be true, and that’s because it usually is. I’m not saying that magnetic paint flat out doesn’t work, but it takes a lot of finessing.

You’ll need to apply 4–6 coats of primer, wait until they dry, and then go in with paint. You also need to understand that a magnetic chalkboard wall will never come out as smooth as a regular one.

My last piece of advice if you still want to try this is to find the right magnets. Magnetic paint won’t hold just any magnets, and it’s best if they’re lightweight but strong, like the ones in poetry kits. Just keep in mind that they’re really small, so they might not be the best choice if you’ve got young kids.

6. Dust and Stained Floorboards

If you haven’t been deterred from creating a chalkboard wall so far, get ready for this one, because it’s a biggie.

A chalkboard wall will (especially if it’s black) attract a lot of dust. Not only that, but when you draw on it, the chalk residue will start flying up in the air and land on your floor. Whatever’s underneath the wall, whether it’s a carpet or floorboards, will get stained over time.

Since it’s not really something you can avoid, I suggest buying a cheap mat and putting it right under the wall. Even if it gets ruined, you won’t feel as bad as you would if it was hardwood floors.

Making a Chalkboard Wall in 6 Easy Steps

Before I go into my tutorial, I first want to quickly go over what you’ll need to complete a chalkboard wall:

  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Painter’s tape
  • Spackling paste
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Primer (for magnetic paint)
  • Paint stir stick
  • Paint roller
  • Chalk

1. Choosing the Right Wall

types and kinds of wall

As I mentioned earlier, the first thing you have to do is find a suitable wall for your chalkboard project. Depending on who you think is going to get the most use out of it (you or your kids), choose the room wisely. If you’re someone who loves cooking, you could do a small wall in your kitchen, for example. But if you want to do this for your little ones, put it in their rooms.

2. Finding the Best Supplies

The success of your entire chalkboard wall endeavor might depend on the paint you choose. If you’re looking for brush-on paint, I’d recommend either of these brands:

There are also a couple of spray paint options, I haven’t tried these but they get great reviews:

One cool thing about buying a chalkboard spray paint is that you’ll have a bigger selection of colors to choose from. You can also buy clear paint, so if your wall’s already dark enough, it can serve as the board.

You’re also going to need a smooth paint roller, as well as a couple of brushes. I like both Magimite and Pilot Fish sets because they are pretty solid kits, and you’ll get all of the tools you need in one order.

3. Fixing Bumps and Imperfections

Now that you have your wall, it’s time to do some prep-work. First, you’ll want to sand the wall as I explained earlier, using fine-grit sandpaper. If you’re doing a large wall you may want to consider purchasing a palm sander (if you don’t already own one) – it will more than make up for the price in time saved.

If there are any holes in the wall, get some spackling paste, and go over them. Then, sand once again, and you’re done.

4. Prepping for Painting

All of that spackling and sanding will kick up a lot of dust, which you’ll have to vacuum before moving on. Make sure to get up in all of the little crevices and edges because you don’t want to paint over dust.

Then, grab your painter’s tape, and protect the wall borders and moldings. During this step, it’s key that you take your time and be really precise with your tape because chalkboard paint is almost impossible to get off.

5. Painting the Wall

Using chalkboard paint is not much different than regular paint. First, you have to grab your can and your stir stick and really get in there. You should spend a solid couple of minutes doing this, to ensure that you get an even consistency.

Then, pour the paint into the tray, grab your roller, and begin painting. If you want, you can take your brush and start with the edges before moving on. Also, remember to protect your floors and carpets with paper or foil.

Finish the first coat, wait a couple of hours (or maybe a day), and apply another. If you still don’t like the opacity, keep adding more coats until you’re happy with the outcome.

6. Priming the Canvas

Now that the paint is opaque and dry, it’s time to prime, or season, your wall. The step helps prepare your chalkboard wall for future drawings, as well as prevent ghosting. Basically, if you were to skip seasoning, every time you erased something, you’d just see the thing that you ever drew first in that spot. So don’t skip it.

To season a wall, you’ll need some white chalk that you have to smear over the entire surface. Once it’s covered every single spot, you can erase it, and your wall is ready to go.

You can draw all sorts of things, and let your (or your kids’) imagination run wild. But if you’re struggling with lettering or want to teach your little ones how to do it, I recommend this excellent book. It will not only show you the basics but also help you develop your own style.

Dealing With Ghosting

If you forgot to season, and now have little marks showing up every time you erase chalk, don’t worry, there’s a fix. You need to buy some strong liquid dish detergent and soak a few Mr. Clean Cleaning Pads with it. Scrub the whole wall with it, then clean it up using a wet cloth. That should get rid of all the chalk residue, and you won’t have to paint over the wall again.

Fun Alternatives to Chalkboard Walls

If the chalkboard wall is a no-go, but you still want to do something fun, here are some excellent alternatives.

1. Framed Chalkboard Wall

Instead of buying a chalkboard or painting an entire wall, you could compromise and do what Cathy from A Hosting Home did. Using chalkboard paint, and a couple of pieces of scrap wood, she created a framed chalkboard wall.

She first mapped out and marked the areas that she wanted to paint. Once she covered that with chalkboard paint, she cut up 1×4 pieces of wood to create a frame, which she then stained. Cathy also added a drawer pull that doubles as a chalk holder, which was a pretty ingenious detail in my opinion.

2. Whiteboard Paints

Another way to think outside the box is to use whiteboard paint instead of chalkboard. The end result is pretty similar, but you could draw with markers instead of chalk. That would eliminate the dust problem, and you wouldn’t have to worry about stained floors.

To pull off a whiteboard wall, you need some paint like this one from Rust-Oleum.

But be warned, while most of the reviews of these types of paints are positive, some of the reviews mention that the paint just does not go on easily, and certain types of markers don’t come off easily.

3. Chalkboard Stickers

If you like the idea of a chalkboard wall, but just aren’t ready to commit, you could use a sticker instead of paint. I will warn you, though, it definitely won’t look the same. But it is a pretty low-effort way of getting a wall that you could draw on with chalk.

For the project, you’re just going to need a chalkboard banner in whichever color you want. The one I like is from the MMFB Arts & Crafts Store, and there’s black and green to choose from. Then, clean your wall, get rid of bumps and dust, peel off the protective layer, and lay down the banner. I also suggest getting a smoothing tool to get the job done easier and quicker.

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To Sum Up

Learning how to make a chalkboard wall isn’t difficult, but actually pulling it off takes a lot of hard work and effort. However, if you do it right, the results will astound you. More importantly, having a chalkboard wall has proven to be a blast in my home, and I’m sure that it will in yours, too. So if you’re ready to put in a couple of days to do this project, it’ll definitely be worthwhile.

kid drawing planets on a chalkboard wall
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