Make Your Own Colored Chalkboard Paint

March 24, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night.  Really, it was.  Last weekend, I was home on a Saturday night in my pajamas, experimenting with some brands of colored chalkboard paint, making vases, and halfheartedly watching a movie.  This is the suburban life I lead. 

All of a sudden I had an idea.  What if I didn’t want to stick with the manufactured  colored chalkboard paints I was working with?  What about a DIY version in any color I could possibly imagine?  I remembered that Martha Stewart had published a recipe years ago for homemade chalkboard paint, but I had never tried it.  When I went to find it online I couldn’t.  That dark and stormy night had killed my internet connection.  I recalled it was some combination of non-sanded grout and paint, so I started experimenting, mixing up batches of my own, wondering if this would really work. 

Pay no attention to that Cabernet.  I swear it had nothing to do with it! 


OK, maybe it did.

sat night in kitchen


At first, I came up with 2 tablespoons of grout to 3 tablespoons of paint ~ a combo that was way too thick.  So I kept at it, adding more paint each time, eventually ending up at a formula that was made up of 3/4 cup of latex paint and 2 tablespoons of non-sanded grout. 

recipe test


With the blue paint left over from my boy’s room, I created this little toothbrush holder, with my very own homemade chalkboard paint.  Love it!

cg chalkboard toothbrush holder

(If you want to recreate something similar, read this article about applying water based chalkboard paints to ceramics.)

By the end of the night, I discovered that Martha was correct.  A combination of non-sanded grout and latex paint truly does create a working chalkboard surface in any color you wish. 

So I made some spring planters too, in more custom colors I mixed myself.

ima chalkboard planters


They’re great just in case you want to leave messages to amuse yourself. . .

thin mints chalkboard message


. . . or welcoming ones too.

cg colored chalkboard planters


My final experiment was with a piece of paneling leftover from our recent board and batten project.  I was able to make a wall mounted chalkboard in the kid’s playspace with the same exact wall color from this room.  Awesome.

kids chalkboard wall


cg colored chalkboard panel


A few things I learned in my experiments.

1.  Your concoction should look like runny oatmeal once mixed.  Mmmm, tasty!  You will question your sanity and whether this will ever really work, as I did many times.

like oatmeal


2.  When you first apply your homemade chalkboard paint, there are a ton of granules that convince you this will indeed never work. 

grainy surface


3.  As you apply the paint to the surface, 95% of the granules dissolve leaving a mostly smooth surface.  You’ll have to pick out a few of the larger remaining clumps, but for the most part, I was shocked how the grout seemed to ‘melt’ into the paint.  Cool.

4.  Chalk ink pens are not friendly to your homemade concoction. 

chalk ink pens


So unfriendly, it required that I repaint over the entire section with my homemade colored chalkboard paint.  Grrrr. 

**update: one reader suggested the use of nail polish remover for chalk ink pens.

paint over chalkboard paint


5.  If you want to use chalk ink pens, stick with the manufactured colored chalkboard paints.  Those surfaces will not discolor like the homemade version does when using the specialty chalk pens. 

6.  The good news is, traditional chalk works perfectly!  In fact, a simple damp rag allows you to erase any white chalk and start over with a clean chalkboard background.   

damp rag chalkboard surface

7.  Refrigerating your paint between coats helps prevent your homemade paint from getting too clumpy. 

8.  Unlike the manufactured colors by Hudson and RustOleum, your surface will not be as smooth.  The nice thing about the manufactured paint colors is they go on perfectly smooth like ordinary acrylic or latex paints.  The homemade version, at least in my experience, required that I pick out some of the granules as I went along.  Light sanding might help alleviate this problem with the first coat, but then you have the same issue with the second coat.  I’d still do recommend the homemade version for smaller projects. 

9.  A final lesson learned.  Kids will always take over your fancy chalkboard for themselves no matter what you say. 

girl drawing on chalkboard


But at least I have my planters!

cg chalkboard planters

Those outdoor pillows I found last year at OSH, I wish they still had them but I checked, they don’t. 

My final colored chalkboard paint recipe was 3/4 cup of latex paint for every 2 tablespoons of non-sanded grout.  Martha’s chalkboard paint recipe calls for 1 full cup of latex paint for every 2 tablespoons of non-sanded grout.  I’m thinking anywhere in between, you really can’t go wrong.

Anyone else experiment with your own formula?  What were your results? 



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