How to Make a DIY Chalkboard

Learn how to make a colorful chalkboard for a kids' room using laminate plywood, paint and primer.
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If there’s one thing I’m often focused on, it’s making spaces more functional. Whether it’s where I’m living, working, or playing, I always like a place to be organized for utility. I’m that person who scours the back-to-college organization products at the store even though I’m no longer in a dorm, and browses for new utility apps.

Every wall can also be a canvas, lending itself to being more than just a place to slap some paint and hang up your art, and I know that these days, a lot of people take that thought and apply it in interesting ways throughout their own home. Some people create functional wall space in their offices by embracing the dry-erase paint that’s sold in everyday big box stores. Others designate a wall in their kitchen as a chalkboard wall, making room for family schedules and grocery lists. Addiction to a having a well-utilized space hits hard in my own home: I’ve mounted shelves in the dining room, added built-in storage units, and made customized pegboard storage in my office.

I’ve been in the process of decorating my daughter's bedroom. I want to create a large chalkboard that she can turn into an artful mural, a place for her friend’s phone numbers, or a place to make a colorful reminder not to forget her gym shoes on Tuesdays.

With the growing popularity of chalkboard walls, there are lots of options to consider as you plan for your own.

At the store, we bought a few key supplies:

  • A piece of 2' × 4' 1/4″-thick MDF board, $6 (We wanted a mountable/movable chalkboard instead of changing the entire wall itself.)
  • High-adhesion SmartPrime primer, $37 (on smooth surfaces, like MDF, I like to prime with this product)
  • Rust-Oleum Tintable Chalkboard Paint, $15
  • Drywall screws (optional, depending on how you’re going to mount your chalkboard)

We chose the tintable chalkboard paint in raspberry pink knowing that it would be more fun in the soon-to-be girly bedroom.

We started by priming the MDF on the largest flat surface we had available: the dining room table. We left it to dry for several days, moving it out of the way into another room once it was dried to the touch. Days is a long time to wait when kids are involved in the project, but the SmartPrime product really works well when it’s allowed to dry and anchor itself. So hang tight and give them another crafty assignment in the meantime.

Once the primer was set, we followed up with three coats of the raspberry chalkboard paint, adding one coat a day using a high-density foam roller until we could no longer see variances in the layers of paint, and were left with a very opaque, smooth surface. It took us three coats with the rich-magenta color over white primer, but it may not take as many coats with the other color options that Rust-Oleum offers.

The finished product is great. The MDF surface is actually smoother to write on than even the painted chalkboard drywall that I’ve used before, and the color is different than any traditional black or dark green slate board, which makes it a little more fun.

Once we finish painting the bedroom (a project on my to-do list this week), we’ll be installing the MDF directly onto a wall, becoming a semi-permanent canvas for us all to enjoy.

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