Chalkboard Lettering For The First Time.

Two weeks ago, I worked on a chalkboard lettering design for a client’s daughter’s first birthday. I have never done chalk lettering before, but it was a timely project because The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering I ordered from Amazon just arrived a few days prior. I am not an expert by any means, having just completed one project for this particular medium, but I want to share my process and the things I have learned. Hopefully, one of you guys out there is going to find it useful if ever you get asked to work on a same piece. 🙂

SKETCH YOUR IDEA ON A PIECE OF PAPER.

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This was the rough draft I sent for the client approval.

It all starts with a pencil and paper, as most drawing and design works are. I didn’t have to come up with a super unique idea, though, because the client — let’s call her Miss R — already checked out a few chalkboard design pegs online. Similar to the samples she saw, she also wanted the board to contain random facts about her daughter. What I had to do next was figure out how to put all the details she gave into a design layout that’s visually appealing and readable. 

BUYING THE MATERIALS.

Logically, chalkboard design should be made on, well, a chalkboard — you know, the thick and sturdy ones we use at school. Lame luck, though, because the local bookstore had no available chalkboard when I bought my materials. As an alternative, I opted for a 1/2-sized illustration board because design had so many details I had to squeeze in. I also bought a 12-color chalk and a ruler.

DRAW BORDER LINES FOR THE MARGIN.

border lines

One of the first things I learned from The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering is you should always start by drawing border lines so you can keep the margin and avoid “bleeding out” or getting your lettering and/or design at the edge of the, unless it’s your intention to do so. We’ll erase these lines later so just use a light-colored chalk and keep the pressure light.

USING A LIGHT-COLORED CHALK, SKETCH YOUR DESIGN ON THE BOARD.

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I think of it as the pencil draft so I know where to put the elements on the board and make it identical to the design I submitted to the client. With a light-colored chalk and very light pressure — because again, we’re going to erase this later — I started working on the black side of the illustration board.

ADD DETAILS WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY ERASING THE SKETCH MARKS.

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Because I already have my rough sketch underneath, all I had to do was trace the letters and drawings, sometimes making spacing adjustments to make sure it would fit but won’t look too crowded. I also vary the pressure and thickness of some elements I wanted to standout for emphasis and variety.

When it comes to erasing, a slightly damp cloth for big areas and Q-tips for smaller areas are the perfect companion for a chalkboard. On an illustration board, however, those tricks won’t work. Rubbing a damp cloth or Q-tip on an area over and over would wear out the surface of the board and mess it up. Some areas of the board were already worn out by the time I realized this. Instead, I used a very slightly damp cloth to erase the first time, then I lightly rubbed it with rubber eraser (I used the one I got from Muji, but Stabilo’s black Exam Grade eraser is also good.)

For smaller details, I used this mechanical eraser, a Mitsubishi E-Knock I bought from Fully Booked.

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It took me almost the entire afternoon to complete the board. More than half of the chalks were snapped and my family couldn’t walk around the living room because I occupied most of the space. Come night time, this was how the completed board looked:

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It was the right decision to use a 1/2-sized board, after all. I delivered it to the client a week before June 24th. After seeing this photo from the birthday party, I felt happy and certain that all the work I did have paid off. 🙂

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