What Material to use on a Chalkboard (No, it's not just chalk!)

Ever wonder how to make the designs on your chalkboard stick around for a bit longer?Smudge less?

Pop more??

Well, the question you really need to ask is what kind of material you should be using.

In my experience designing and implementing chalkboard art over the past 6 years I have noticed there are 3 kinds of material that work best and all for different reasons.

First up is


Ahh chalk. If you were born in the 90s or earlier you'll remember having chalkboards up in classrooms long before Smart Boards. One of my favorite things in elementary school was getting the chance to go to the front of the room to show everyone how kickass my cursive was.

It was here that I fell in love with writing... and it was here that every left-handed human learned why sometimes chalk is the worst: it wipes away, smudges, and gets all over your hands and clothes. Despite the small mess using chalk can make there are two scenarios where this material may be your best choice:

1. Daily Changes / One-Day Events or Sales

Chalk can be great for short term projects. Chalk doesn't last in the rain (many sad A Frames on the street remind us of this), it gets smudged if it's within reach of any child, but it also makes it easier to update for those boards with menus that change more frequently.

The biggest pro of using chalk on your boards is the ability to wipe it all away quickly and efficiently. If your business has private events and you want to welcome your guests while letting the public know you're closed for the evening think about utilizing your A Frame. The go-to move in this scenario is usually to hang a printed piece of paper on the door reading "Closed tonight for private event". Think about how special it would be to be welcomed to an event before you even walk through the door.

These small touches are exactly what makes people feel cared for, and make them want to come back.

If you have a weekly/daily special this is also where you want to be using chalk. Rotating beer lists or a wine of the week can be written in chalk to limit the amount of time it takes to change the menu and let guests know what your offers are.

2. Chalkboards Located out of Reach

The biggest reason I stay away from chalk in my work is to avoid the chances of having it get smudged or ruined. However, if the board is not within reach of customers (or children) then chalk is a great option.

So long as your chalkboard is out of the way of water or hands, chalk is a great low-cost option that gives your artwork that rustic, homemade feel.


For less mess and an easier flow try dipping the tip of the chalk in water.

When erasing the chalk off the board use a rag with some coca-cola on it. The coke removes away any and all streaks. When your board has dried be sure to wipe it down once more with some water or sanitizer and clean paper towels (the rag often will “shed” leaving bits of white strands over your chalkboard) to get rid of any stickiness.

Now let’s move onto one of my favorites:


Chalk markers are great for projects that are longer lasting than chalk, but don’t need to withstand as much as something in acrylic.

These markers are specifically designed for a cleaner and more precise look. I love to use chalk markers indoors on larger projects that are type-based. These markers come in a variety of colors and sizes so you can customize for your brand and for the scope of the work - whether it’s a 10 foot mural or a small 6” board for a table.

The downside of these markers is that they’re water-resistant, not water-proof. This means that you can leave the boards that are done in markers outside, however they will not last long. Unlike chalk, they will not completely erase after one rain shower… but they also will not last a couple of months if they are constantly being rained on. These markers are water-based and not oil-based, which means they will fade.

However, for indoor projects that are out of reach - the markers on boards can last years as long as they aren’t wiped away!

Now, although you can wipe away at the markers they will not completely erase - even with coke. The markers are an extra layer of paint, so you get the clean look, but you also have to put in a little extra work to get it off and change the design.

I find the best way to keep things looking clean and professional is to paint over the board again with chalk paint. You’ll need a couple of even layers to erase all of the writing from the markers, but it’ll look good as new!


When drawing menus use blue painter’s tape to keep your writing aligned. There is nothing more frustrating than taking a step back to realize what just took you 30 minutes to write is all completely slanted and the typeface at end of your sentence is 40% smaller than the beginning.

Grid out your board, and measure every line when you start off. Gradually, and with practice, you’ll only need one piece of tape for the whole project, but start off with a few a couple lines at a time.

Finally, onto the last material:


These are the most durable of all the materials on this list.

Remember that sad A Frame we referenced in the beginning? None of those when using acrylics!! When using this paint, you can put your A Frame out in the cold, the rain, even a storm and that paint won’t fade a bit!

Because this paint is longer-lasting I recommend using it for boards that do not change frequently (6 months or longer), and boards that are either in the reach of children, are at someone’s back (behind them on a wall), or are outside.

The process of painting a board with acrylics takes 2-3 times as long as it does with any of the other materials, due to the nature of how it is applied. These paints are applied with brushes, which makes matching the colors to your brand really easy - but the application takes skill and patience.

When painting with acrylics I always sketch out the design in chalk first, and then paint over it after mixing the colors together.

These paints cannot be wiped away if a mistake is made - you must paint over the mistake with chalk paint, wait for it to dry and then paint it again.​


If you think the scope of the work you need done requires acrylic paint - hire a professional.

Writing with chalk or a marker may come pretty easily for some individuals, but without proper practice or training painting typefaces with a brush can be quite difficult. I say this from experience, I mastered the art of typography using pens and markers before I dared to pick up a brush - and the first year or two I did use a brush it was a disaster. With years of trying, changing and learning I am now well versed in how to use a brush, but if you’re running a business and want the work of a trained professional - hire a trained professional.

Your head will thank you and your customers will compliment you for all the beautifully branded work you have in your store :)

If you have any questions or want me to elaborate on anything mentioned - write a comment below or send me an email !


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© 2020 by Arielle Basha

516 - 316 - 7421

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