How to Paint a Chalkboard Wall

I’ve lived in my own apartment for the past several years, and after being raised in a house for a majority of my life, I became accustomed to a certain way of life.  My definition of “normal” consisted of walking right into my door (no flights of stairs), free laundry (never needed quarters), and being able to decorate however I wanted (within my parent’s definition of reason, of course).  When I moved into my own place, I was able to adjust to my new definition of “normal” and the ways of apartment life.  However, one thing I wasn’t thrilled about giving up is being able to make my living arrangements, no matter what they may be, feel like a home. Luckily, I love to decorate and I have been able to make my place my own within the confinements of my lease and I consider that an accomplishment.  Even more conveniently, my apartment complex allows you to paint your walls as long as you put a coat of primer back on them when you leave.  I realize that not everyone has the luxury of being able to paint in their rentals, and I wanted to take advantage of the freedom I have.  Which leads me to this project. 

Here’s the before of my dining area with everything in it (Please don’t mind the seasonal mess, I was in the process of getting out all of my Christmas decorations):

Why a Chalkboard Wall?

Chalkboards are EVERYWHERE these days.  They’ve gone from their traditional classroom roots to being used for organization, decorating, restaurants, labels, paper crafting, holidays, weddings, and more.  They serve practical, every uses and unique ones as well.  Everywhere you look there’s chalkboard. 

Personally, I’ve always liked the look of chalkboards and have a variety of chalkboard items in my apartment currently.  I’ve been a few places that have used chalkboard paint on the walls and then used it for artwork, a guestbook, and even grocery lists. After having a vinyl chalkboard wall decal in my smaller apartment, I loved the idea of a chalkboard accent wall in my new apartment. 

I began doing research to see how other people were using chalkboard paint in their homes and to find out what it would take, financially and time wise, to tackle this project in my own place.  Just a simple “Chalkboard Wall” search on Pinterest brought back hundreds of pins, and a Google search found even more.  

How to Accomplish this Project

To accomplish this Chalkboard wall, all you need is a free weekend, an assistant (if you have a large surface to paint), approximately fifty bucks worth of supplies, and a little motivation.  My project took a Saturday morning until a Sunday afternoon, one trip to the hardware store, and recruiting my boyfriend to help (he’s almost a foot taller than me, so he was very helpful for this).  The paint is ready to use in 3 days, and you can apply water to it after 7.  

Before You Paint

Choosing What Area to Paint

After a bit of Googling and Pinterest pinning, I had a good idea of what I wanted to do.  I chose an accent wall because I didn’t want to darken my apartment too much.  The chalk paint is very dark – the brand I used came in dark green or black, and I chose black to match my apartment.  I didn’t want it to be overwhelming.  I chose an accent wall in my dining area because it’s large, flat wall that is large enough to draw on.  It’s also far enough away from my dining table so that I don’t get chalk dust on my food.  That was a concern I had when choosing my wall, and that should be one of yours as well.  Putting it somewhere in the kitchen that’s directly over a food prep area, or somewhere that could get wet wouldn’t be ideal.  If you get water on the chalkboard it could wash away your design, and chalk dust is something you want to keep away from your shower and food.  Other than that, you can pick whatever wall works for you.  I chose the back wall of my dining room because you can see it from every area of the main room of my apartment. 

Once you choose a wall or the area you want to paint, measure it.  Get length and width of the wall and also calculate the square footage of your surface by multiplying these two dimensions together.   It’s important to have this information with you when you go to the store to buy supplies. The area I painted wasn’t a perfect rectangle, so we over estimated our dimensions as 8’ by 10’, which would give you an area of 80 ft².  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Your Supplies

After I did some research and chose a wall, I made a list of what I would need to complete the project.  I paint and do crafts fairly often, so I already had a few of these supplies at my place. 

Once you’ve chosen and measured the wall for your project, make a trip to your local hardware store to get all of your materials.  When you’re shopping make sure you’re really reading the labels or asking for help if you’re not sure of what items work well together or what items are best used for this type of project if you don’t stick exactly to this list.

Here is a complete list of supplies.  I included pictures for specific items that are good to have.  Ones without pictures, you can just buy whatever brand or style works best for you:

1. Primer specifically for chalkboard paint or multi-surface primer
  1. I used 1 one quart can of Rust-Oleum primer
  2. Each quart covers 120 ft² – my wall was 80 ft²

2. Chalkboard paint in the color of your choice

  1. I picked black – this brand also offers green
  2. I used 2 one quart cans of Rust-oleum Chalk Board paint – one for each coat
  3. Each quart covers 120 ft² – my wall was 80 ft²

3. Drop cloth

  1. I got the least expensive one I could because I didn’t plan on painting anything else
  2. If you get a more expensive one it would probably be more durable than mine, but mine was fine for the job and I didn’t feel bad throwing it out when I was done

 

4. Small paint brush for touch ups, or a very tiny roller

  1. If you use a paint brush, choose something with a sharp and soft edge.  I used a brush that I usually use for acrylic paint
  2. A flat, bright, or angle paint brush would be good for this project if you don’t have a small roller
  3. I would recommend a tiny roller for touch ups because if you use a paint brush it will not have the same texture as a roller
  4. The brush is fine for things you can’t see or that are too hard to get to with a roller

5. Roller

  1. Foam Pro Perfect Balance Roller Set
  2. Make sure you get the correct kind – ask someone if you aren’t sure which one you need
  3. I asked at the store and they recommend this kind
  4. The foam rollers are perfect for this kind of project
  5. 9” roller

6. Edging tools

  1. Foam Pro Deluxe Corner Roller
  2. Small foam roller for corners
  3. Same material and brand as the larger roller, so that everything will be consistent

7. Chalk

  1. Washable chalk
  2. I wouldn’t recommend starting off with the bistro chalk markers – they don’t always erase on painted chalk walls easily
  3. I recommend using the larger sticks made for children to start with, they’re easier to write with on larger surfaces and you’re going to need a lot of chalk to prep your wall

8. Chalk designated eraser

  1. Don’t use the same one for anything else – it’s messy and you’ll end up with chalk everywhere you don’t want it, or other materials on your chalk wall
  2. I found an inexpensive one at Meijer – Expo brand in with office supplies

9. Dip/stir stick

  1. To make sure your paint is evenly mixed
  2. They should give you one wherever you get the paint

Necessary Prep Work

Everyone’s least favorite part of painting is the tedious prep work that comes with it.  But the more time you spend on your prep work, the less time you’ll spend correcting errors later on.  Start by taking everything off the wall.  The next thing you should note is the condition of the wall you want to paint.  Make sure there isn’t any damage to the wall, and if there is – repair it first.  If you need to patch any holes, here’s a link to a video to help you do that.

Cleaning

Once you’ve made sure your wall is in good repair, or have repaired your damaged wall, you can start cleaning.  Start by removing all of the furniture and decorations from your room.  If you can’t move something, or just don’t want to, cover it with a drop cloth and tape it on with painter’s tape if the surface will allow it.  You don’t want to get paint on anything you don’t want paint on.

After the furniture is covered or moved, clean the wall really well. I used a Magic Eraser to remove any scuff marks.  Use a paint safe cleaning product if the wall is very dirty or just a sponge with warm soap and water if it just has a normal amount.  Let the wall dry. 

Since I planned on painting this wall when I moved in to my apartment, so I made sure I didn’t put any holes in the wall.  There wasn’t anything that needed repair for me.

Getting Ready to Paint

Remove any wall plates from the wall and remove the baseboards if you want to or are able to.  My apartment paints the baseboards and the wall at the same time so you can’t remove the baseboards without removing paint that you don’t want to remove.  If you’re able take the baseboards off, you’ll have to be less concerned with how straight the bottom of your paint is.  

Here’s the wall cleaned with the wall plate cover removed:

Using painter’s tape, tape the area off that you want to paint.  Be sure to make sure your tape line is straight and without creases or bubbles.  Apply it slowly and precisely.  If you notice a line isn’t straight, make adjustments.  Take special care of corners.  If you’re painting an entire room just make sure to tape off the edges, baseboards, any crown molding, and door frames.  I just painted on a flat wall so I put up tape around the left edge of the area I wanted to paint, across the baseboards, on the right side, and across the top.  Tape over your any outlets, sockets, ports, and anything that is open, so you don’t get paint in them.   

Put your drop cloth across your floor and tape down the edges in order to hold it in place.  Make sure you’ve covered all the areas that paint could hit.  Since I was also painting above my counter, I put a piece of wax paper where the paint could drip and taped it down.  It worked really well because it was a small area.

Get Your Paint Ready

Once you’ve completed prepping everything else, it’s time to prep your paint.  When I went to the store, they were able to mix the paint and primer up for me and give me dipsticks just in case.  When we opened the cans of paint and primer we gave them a quick stir to make sure that they were still the correct consistency.  Pour out just the amount of paint you need into the tray without making it overflow when you put the roller in it.  You want enough to paint to get you through a large portion of your project, but not enough to where it could start drying if you leave it out, causing you to waste primer.

Now You’re Ready to Paint!

Now that all the prep work is done, you can start applying your primer and paint to the wall or surface of your choice.

Apply the Primer

The first coat anyone should be doing is a coat of primer.I poured it out into the paint tray and began working on the edges first. I started by putting a thin coat around the edges and corners of the wall and around my outlets.  Make sure the paint isn’t thicker than it should be and that the edges are smooth so that you don’t end up with seams. I used a paintbrush on areas that weren’t seen and where my edging tools wouldn’t fit. The corner rollers are great for getting an even coat along the edges. Also make sure that you are not putting your roller or paintbrush underneath your paint seam. This will cause the seal to break and for your line to be uneven. 

 

Once the smaller areas were done, I took a roller and evenly applied a coat of primer to the entire wall, making sure everything was evenly coated. It helps to make an “M” or “W” with your roller to make sure the paint covers as it should. I noticed that having someone paint while someone else steps back and checks for any spots that have been missed is a good way to do things. I noticed that the primer is fairly thin, meaning it wanted to drip far more than the actual paint did.  I found myself trying to remove more primer from the wrong places than paint.  

The primer is dry to the touch in 1 hour and fully dry within 2-4. I only needed one coat of primer and it was ready to paint over in about 3 hours.  If you need a second coat of primer, add it once your wall is dry. Once you’ve finished with the primer, clean out your paint tray or let it dry so that it is ready for the chalkboard paint.  Also get out your new roller, or wash the primer one and let it dry really well before you use it for the chalkboard paint. 

Apply Chalkboard Paint

Once you’ve achieved an even coat of primer and it is ready to paint over you can begin your first coat of chalkboard paint.  Pour the paint in the paint tray the same way as you poured the primer and apply the paint in the same process you applied it as well.  Start with edges and around your outlets, making sure to keep edges smooth and coating even.  Then use your large roller, apply the paint using the same “M” or “W” motion as you did with the primer.  The paint dries to the touch in 30 minutes, is able to be handled after 2 hours, and completely dry between 2-4 hours.The Home Depot has a PDF of the paint’s information here if you’d like to take a look at it.

We waited about 3 before we added the second coat. When applying your second coat, make sure you’re using the same practices as for the first coat so that everything is consistent.  Step back and make sure everything is covered evenly, and go over what got missed or where paint isn’t sticking as well.  

Watch the Paint Dry

I know this sounds horribly THRILLING, but watching the paint dry is key in making sure your final product looks right. Take note of any heavy drips, uneven coverage, or places that paint has gotten that it shouldn’t. If you notice a clump of paint, try to even it out if you can before it dries with a roller so you don’t have paint marks. If you get paint on another wall or the floor, try to wash it off as you go if you can so you don’t forget to come back to it later. Make sure whatever you’re doing doesn’t interfere with the wet paint that you’re trying to keep on the wall. While your paint is drying, make sure that it drying evenly and that nothing is coming in contact with it. If you have pets or children, make sure they don’t accidentally get into the wet paint. 

Correcting the Mistakes

After everything has dried, remove your painter’s tape. I waited until the next morning after painting the final coat to remove the tape. This isn’t a necessity by any means, it was just about 11 pm when the second coat got finished and I didn’t want to be up all night waiting for it to be dry. I’ve never used painter’s tape and had a 100% clean line – if you do, you’re awesome. I have learned the hard way to paint AWAY from the seam of the tape, so that you’re not pushing your brush under the edge of the tape and breaking the seal.  Once the tape is gone, go and fix any edges that may have gotten messed up, or any uneven surfaces. 

Too Much?

If you notice that you’ve gotten paint anywhere it shouldn’t be – floors, baseboards, other walls, the ceiling, carpet, furniture, counters – the possibilities are endless, do your best to remove that without causing more damage in the process.  You can use paint thinner to remove mistakes, but that can also take paint off of your surfaces that you don’t want to remove paint from.  I used rubbing alcohol and acetone on a lint free cloth to clear up any mistakes that I had on my laminate flooring and other walls.  I also CAREFULLY used a paint scraper where things were very thick.  I live in an apartment, and my complex has spare paint that I can use to fix my trim if I want.   If you get paint on something that needs to be painted over, sand it down and paint over it with touch up paint. 

Or Not Enough?

In my case, there was more paint MISSING from places that it should be more than there was extra paint where it shouldn’t be.  I noticed that there were some unusual lines when I removed my tape.   Also, while painting my second coat, I noticed some spots on the wall weren’t taking paint as well as others, so I made sure to keep an eye on these areas.  Once the coats were dry I attempted to fix these.  I initially tried using a paintbrush to cover those small spots but realized that you could see every brush stroke.  After this mistake, I grabbed a roller and was able to even out the surface of the touch up, making it virtually invisible once I finished.  

I noticed that the craftsmanship in my apartment isn’t always 100% perfect, as many rentals often are.  The ceiling and edges aren’t completely even, and neither is the baseboard trim that I have in my dining room.  Therefore, you just have to make sure you adapt to the strange edges when you can, fix what doesn’t look right, and sometimes just accept that an imperfect wall will never be perfect, even when painted.   However, I did notice some vast improvements in the overall look of the painted wall once I corrected painting mistakes.

I was able to put the furniture back while I waited 3 days for the surface to be ready to use.  I noticed the accent wall already made a huge difference in the look of the room, even without the chalk on it.

After You Paint

And Now We Wait…

The paint needs to dry fully for 3 days before you can use it.  This step is one of the hardest for me.  I get excited about projects I work on and I want to be able to see them in action and use them right away.  It also gave me three days to see every imperfection on the wall – most of which weren’t my doing (as I stated above about the craftsmanship).  I was able to put the furniture back while I waited 3 days for the surface to be ready to use.  I noticed the accent wall already made a huge difference in the look of the room, even without the chalk on it.

Prep the Chalkboard Surface

After the 3 day drying period you have to condition the chalk surface.  This is to ensure that the chalk will stick the best and erase easily as well.  Take the side of a piece of chalk (you will need several if you have a large surface).  All I had at home at the time were a bunch of small pieces of chalk so we ran through them pretty quickly and it was a waste of chalk.  That’s why the wall looks like this.  I would recommend getting a bucket of children’s chalk – the larger chalk that’s easier to hold and will last longer.  I wouldn’t use this type of chalk for artwork, especially if you’re trying to get good detail, but it’s great for prepping the wall, covering large areas with chalk, and if any children will writing on the wall.  

Clean off the Surface

Erase the chalk so that you have a nice working surface and can no longer see the different colors and patterns of the chalk you applied to the wall.  Everything should blend together.  Wipe off any excessive dust with a lint free cloth or your chalk specific eraser.  The wall is now ready to use, but it may still be pretty dusty.   

A Helpful Note

I noticed that the first time I conditioned the wall I ended up with too much chalk dust left on the surface.  Since the paint was new I couldn’t yet use water on it to remove any more of that dust.   After a week you are able to actually clean the chalkboard surface with soap and water.  I recommend doing this so that anything that’s on the wall that shouldn’t be there is gone.  This will also make your surface less dusty and less likely to interfere with your artwork.  Make sure that you complete the conditioning process again once you washed the wall.

Enjoy!

You can use your chalkboard wall however you want.  If it’s a full wall, you have the opportunity to do a lot of creative things with it.  I’ve seen many people make theirs into to do lists, calendars, grocery lists, and guest books.  You can choose to keep the design the same all the time, or you can change it up for special occasions and different seasons.  I plan on changing my artwork on the wall for holidays and seasons or when I see a cool design.  I like to draw so I’m really having fun with it the versatility of it and being able to have unique and ever changing artwork at your fingertips. 

Here is a design I made to celebrate the New Year:

It doesn’t matter if you’re not an artist.  You can use various tools to make sure your designs are centered and square.  You can look online to see inspiration for specific designs or just for the unique ways people are using their chalkboard walls.  Pinterest is a good place to look.  I also found a book that teaches you about chalk lettering.  Here it is on Amazon: The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering.  

The greatest advantage to chalk is its versatility.  You can create and erase something in one minute, or in one day.  If you make a mistake, erase it.  If you hate what you did, redo it.  It’s a great medium for people who embrace change.  

Conclusion

Now that you’ve completed this project, you have a great new canvas in your home that will always be exactly what you want it to be.  You can be as imaginative or as practical as you want to be.  And if you don’t like it – change it to something else.  It’s up to you. 

I’ve had my chalk wall for a couple months now, and I love it.  It looks great as an accent wall and I’m having fun learning how to make my own art with chalk.  I know I accomplished my goal of making my apartment feel more like a home.