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How to Make Chalk in Colors You Actually Love

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The appeal of matte black "chalkboard" walls is that, by nature, they're fun. You can use yours to jot out the week's grocery list, practice your bubble letters on an inspirational quote, or let your kids express their inner artiste without worrying about the clean-up. Just wipe a chalkboard wall down with a wet cloth when you want to start afresh, and then have at it all over again.

Making chalk itself, on the other hand, is something you'd do because the process itself is fun—a little messy, but no more than making waffles, and a great way to get the sizes and colors you actually want. (I opted for thumb-sized sticks of chalk in faded sage greens, rich blues, and a brooding grey—try finding those at Michael's.)

Photo by Bobbi Lin

There is a generally-accepted recipe for sidewalk chalk—Plaster of Paris + warm water + water-based paint—but the various ways to shape the chalk differ widely. Some people use ice cube trays and popsicle sticks to make chalk-pops, while others use wax paper-lined paper towel rolls to approximate the chunky shape of traditional sidewalk chalk. Here, I oped for tubes of wax paper, which can be rolled tighter or looser depending on how large you want your chalk sticks.

As for paint, just add it squirt by squirt until you get a color you like—since the chalk base is white, a small amount of a dark color will make a pastel. (Keep in mind that lighter colors will show up better on a dark chalkboard!) Here's how to make chalk at home, in any size or color you like:

What you'll need:

  • Plaster of Paris
  • Warm water
  • Tempera or acrylic paint
  • Wax paper
  • Masking tape
  • Plastic zippered quart baggies
Photo by Bobbi Lin

How to make it:

1. Mix up a batch of chalk.

Using a ratio of 1 part warm water to 1 1/2 parts Plaster of Paris, stir together as much wet chalk as you want in a certain color. Add paint, squirt by squirt, until you get a shade you're happy with—and keep in mind that lighter shades will show up brighter on a black chalkboard.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Keep stirring until the color is evenly distributed and any lumps have been mashed away. Below, I used black paint to make grey chalk, but I also love playing with pinks, blues, and light green.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

2. Roll tubes of wax paper to pipe the chalk into.

I was aiming for small chalk sticks more akin to the kind you'd find in a classroom, rather than chunkier tubes of sidewalk chalk, so I rolled tubes of wax paper that were snug on my fingers at either end.

Choose whatever width you want, and then tape one end closed using masking tape (flattening it to do so will result in a sharpened point, which will actually be a useful edge for writing).

Photo by Bobbi Lin

3. Pipe the chalk into the tubes.

Spoon your wet chalk mixture into a plastic baggie, zip it shut, then snip the corner to make a piping bag. Use that to squeeze it into the prepared wax tubes, tape them together anywhere they need a little added support to stay rolled, then set them upright in a jar to dry.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Let the chalk sticks sit out for a full 24 hours to fully dry, then untape and unroll them, discarding the wax paper, and you're ready to use!

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Have you ever painted a chalkboard wall? Share your tips for making one, in the comments!

Tags: diy, chalk, plaster of Paris