How To Make A Chalkboard (For Photography)

Last year I decided that I wanted to make a chalkboard to use in my photography.  It’s been all the rage and I fell prey to the desire to be part of the trend.  So, I bring you my own version of the DIY Chalkboard that I use a lot in my photography and when I’m playing school with my kids. :)


I frequent thrift stores because my husband and I are always on the look-out for props for our freelance work and my photography.  I happened to have 5 minutes one day to run into a thrift store to look for something to turn into a chalkboard for my Art Supply Cupboard post for Design Mom.

I found a great framed wooden board calling my name in a heap of wood planks and frames discarded in a corner.  It was love at first sight and it was only $4.  I loved that it already had an aged wood frame on it, and I knew the wood grain would be beautiful for a white-washed second side.  (I’m sure you’ve noticed that I use it almost all of the time in my pictures.)

I had my board.  Time for the supplies!

 wooden-framed-board (1 of 1)

Left to right, top to bottom:  cheese cloth (for dusting), chalkboard paint (we also ended up using a can of paint too), sandpaper (fine and coarse), a power sander (my second favorite power tool), a mask, and painter’s tape.

chalkboard-DIY-materials-needed (1 of 1)

The board had some residual staples and paper and some gunk in in the corners and edges.

We used a razor to scrape off the paper and the flat side of a screwdriver to remove the staples.

When you sand something, you should start with coarse grit sandpaper and end with a finer grit.  (220 is considered a very fine grit for bare wood.)

We only sanded with two different papers because the wood was fairly clean and without too many blemishes.  Check with someone at the hardware store to help you decide which grade of sandpaper to buy for your specific project.  Just remember that coarse sandpaper is for quick removal of the topmost layer, for example if there had been areas of sticky tape residue or a layer of old paint.  The finer grit papers help even out and keep the surface as smooth as possible.

We bought our power sander when we were refinishing some furniture.  The advantage of a power sander is that it’s fast and you’ll end up with a more evenly sanded surface. We left the frame as it was–no sanding.

Wipe off the dust with a cloth.  A vacuum with a dust attachment would work well too.  This removes the bulk of the dust.

Follow up with the cheese cloth.  It will catch the tiniest bits of dust and leave a very clean surface for the paint to adhere to properly.

Taping the frame well was very important for me.

I didn’t want any black paint to mar the perfect patina the wood frame had.  My husband carefully taped inside and out, completely around the perimeter of the frame.

Next came the spray paint.  I underestimated how much paint it would take, so we ended up running back to the hardware store for a can of chalkboard paint.  It took a whole can of the chalkboard spray paint and part of the quart of chalkboard paint.  We ended up doing three coats.

I didn’t use a primer here, but depending on the surface you’re using, you might want to consider it.  Looking back, I may have done that if I had known how much paint the wood would soak up.  Use a primer for sure if you are applying chalkboard paint to glass or metal.

Each coat has to dry completely before doing the next coat.  The chalkboard paint hardens as it dries.  It was easy for us because we were outside and it was hot and dry.  It may take several days to complete if you are doing this inside.  There was no need to sand between coats of paint.

The chalkboard should cure for three days before using as a chalkboard.  After the three days, it’s important to rub white chalk over the entire surface of the chalkboard to “break it in.”  I’ve looked into why this is important and can’t find the reason, but everything I read said to do this and erase well before using for the first time.


It’s ready to use!

This board has been my favorite backdrop and surface yet.  I love, love, love it!






While I don’t have a picturesque tutorial for the white-washed side, I basically treated it the same as I did the chalkboard side.  I used a vintage white acrylic paint that I watered down a bit and then brushed on with a wide sponge brush.  As it wore off in places (and as my kids drew on it…) I had to repaint it once.  For that time, I used a traditional paint brush.  I really should seal it with some kind of coating, but I like the way it looks and if there’s a mark on it, it’s easy to wipe or scrub off and touch up.  Plus I like the matte surface.

Please excuse the distorted picture, but you get the idea of what the back of the chalkboard looks like.  Since taking this picture, I decided to brush more white paint to the edge because I found the frame to be distracting in some pictures when I used it.

In this picture I’ve used it as a backdrop.


Most of the time I use it as a surface.  I love the clean, white base that helps the food be the star of the picture.

And that’s how I made my favorite chalkboard/white board for photography!

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  1. Its like you read my mind, this morning I was wondering how I could get a vintage chalkboard for a product shot I have coming up. Thanks heaps this is awesome – and looks much easier than searching every vintage store for a blackboard.

  2. It’s like you read my mind. Making a chalkboard backdrop is my project for the weekend, and now I have a great tutorial on how to do it!

    I’m jealous of that board you found. You said you found it at a thrift store? What thrift stores around here sell scraps of wood?

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