Marketing a small business is super hard. There’s no doubt about it (especially in today’s world).

With more competition than ever, you need to find a way to set yourself apart and connect with your customers, all while staying within your budget.

But there’s good news.

An often overlooked, secret weapon, that will act as an extra employee:

Chalkboard signs.

They might sound old-fashioned, but the reality is, your indoor chalkboards and outdoor sidewalk signs attract half of your new business and will be the key to your survival.

So if you’re a beginner and ready to:

  • Discover simple chalkboard techniques.
  • Learn the basics of lettering and chalk art.
  • Craft marketing messages that sell.
  • Design your digital message online for free.
  • Transfer your digital design to your chalkboard.

Then you’re in the right place.

This is the most extensive guide about business chalkboards — so let’s get right to it.

Since I share a lot of how-to ideas with creative people like you, naturally my content may contain affiliate links with resources I love — this means if you click on a link and buy, I will earn a tiny bit of chalk money which I promise to use to create even more design inspiration. 😁

Go to Business Boards 101 chapter

1. Business Boards 101

In this chapter, we’re going to cover the basics of business chalkboards:

  • What they are
  • The benefits of them.
  • What businesses should use them.
  • The Top-5 most popular business signs.

 Let’s dive right in.

What are Business Chalkboards?

Business Chalkboards are outdoor or indoor signs that promote your products or inform, lead or entertain your customers.

They are not your primary signage — signs with your business name and logo — but rather secondary signs used to communicate a strategic message.

For example, you may want to get more followers on social media, promote a seasonal sale, offer a special restaurant dish or announce a new product release.

The bottom line:

Your options are endless and you should leverage the flexibility of chalkboards to attract new customers and profit.

The Advantages of Using Chalkboards

Why should your business use chalkboards? That’s a good question.

Here are the 10 most common benefits:

  • Affordable — Chalkboards are easy on the budget since you don’t have to replace them after each use. You can buy quality boards, like A-Frames, for around $100 from places like Amazon or Hobby Lobby.
  • Customizable — You can easily erase your chalk marker designs (usually with just a damp cloth) whenever you need to update your messaging or product offerings. You can even make your own DIY boards, magnetize them, paste on posters, add art, and much more.
  • Authentic — Chalkboards invoke a strong feeling of nostalgia and help people relate to your products or menu items. It’s the ultimate personal touch and a perfect icebreaker for new clients.
  • Convenient — Making your own DIY chalkboards is easier than you think since all the materials are easy to find, use, and clean up. You can even create your own digital design from the comfort of your computer and effortlessly transfer it to your board.
  • Promotional — Have a special event coming up or launching a new product? Since you can customize chalkboards on the fly, they act as an extra salesman (with no training required) to advance your marketing efforts.
  • Relevant — Use your board to stay updated and communicate your company’s mask policies, health updates, and any other social or economic guidelines.
  • Portable — Most chalkboards are super lightweight (some even come with wheels) so you can place them anywhere you want, especially outside on the sidewalk to attract foot traffic and curious buyers.
  • Durable — Many chalkboards, especially A-Frames, are naturally weather-resistant, have sturdy frames, can withstand the wind, and won’t wash off in the rain — making them ideal for outdoor use.
  • Enticing — Showcase vibrant colors, logos, and images that match your brand and attract new customers. You can even add interactive elements — like spinners, comment boxes or maps — to engage your audience.
  • Versatile — You can hang them on doors, mount them on walls, stand them on tables, or make an entire room a chalkboard surface. There are too many possibilities to list, but you get the idea. 😉

So you see, chalkboards can basically do it all.

But what types of businesses benefit most? We’re about to find out.

What Types of Businesses Use Chalkboards?

Almost any business can benefit from their own chalkboard — it doesn’t matter if you have a small boutique, a restaurant or even a large retail chain.

But are they right for your business?

Here are just a few industries that have mastered the practice and thrived:

BusinessSpecific IndustriesHow They Use ChalkboardsHow They Benefit (PILE)Unique Uses
Restaurant & BarsRestaurants, diners, pubs, fast-foodMenus, specials, welcome signs, open & closed signs, happy hour signs, social mediaPromote products, inform customers, attract foot traffic, entertainInform customers about wait times
Fashion Boutiques & Clothing StoresRetail stores, toy storesSales signs, welcome signs, open & closed signs, social mediaPromote products, inform customers, attract foot traffic, entertainNew sales, limited-time offers
Cafes & BakeriesCafes, coffee shops, bakeriesMenus, specials, welcome signs, open & closed signs, happy hour signs, social mediaPromote products, ask for customer reviews & social media likesSpecial menu item, ‘What’s Fresh’ board
Local EntertainmentGolf courses, movie theaters, variety shows, ziplines, mini-golf, escape rooms, axe throwingWelcome signs, open & closed signs, social mediaPromote products, inform customers, attract foot trafficCustomer scoreboard, 'Winners of the Week' board
Amusement ParksAmusement parks, water parks, ski resortsWelcome signs, open & closed signs, social mediaInform customers, interact with customersLine wait times, the status of rides (or ski slopes)
Salons & SpasHair salons, nail salons, massage parlorsQuote signs, welcome signs, open & closed signs, social mediaPromote products, inform customers, attract foot trafficLimited-time offers
Gyms
Gyms, yoga studios, fitness centersQuote signs, welcome signs, open & closed signs, social mediaInteract with customers, attract foot traffic, ask for customer reviews & social media likesGoal board, limited-time offers
Pet Shops & ServicesVeterinarians, pet grooming, pet sitting, retail pet suppliesWelcome signs, sales signs, open & closed signs, social mediaPromote products, inform customers, attract foot trafficDrink or treat station
Day Cares, Schools & UniversitiesSchools, universities, school eventsQuote signs, welcome signs, open & closed signs, social mediaInform customers, interact with customersSpecial events, parking, game days
Markets & Grocery StoresGrocery stores, farmer’s marketsSpecials, sales signs, welcome signs, open & closed signs, happy hour signs, social mediaPromote products, inform customers, attract foot traffic, ask for customer reviews & social media likes‘What’s in Season’ board
Medical ServicesDoctor’s offices, pharmacies, dental practices, urgent care clinicsQuote signs, welcome signs, open & closed signs, social mediaInform customersCOVID updates, seasonal shot reminders
Real EstateReal estate agents, rental offices, leasing officesWelcome signs, open & closed signsInform customers, interact with customersOpen-house buffet and bar signs, home perks boards
Family / SpecialGarage sales, lemonade standsQuote signs, sales signs, welcome signsPromote products, inform customers, interact with customersSpecial sales, navigational
Tourism & Business ChambersMarinas, boat/dolphin tours, city tours, welcome centersWelcome signs, open & closed signsPromote products, ask for customer reviews & social media likesPromote brochures, top-rated local attractions list
Car Wash & AutomotiveCar washes, repair shopsWelcome signs, sales signs, open & closed signsPromote products, ask for customer reviews & social media likesWait times, upgrade packages

Does your business qualify?

Now let’s discover how your business can specifically use chalkboards.

Go to Marketing Ideas chapter

2. Chalkboard Marketing Ideas

Releasing your chalkboard to the world is the fun part.

But first, you need to have a strategy and define the roles of each of your chalkboards.

In this chapter, we’re going to use the PILE System to categorize your signs and come up with a marketing plan of attack.

Chalkboard Roles: The PILE System

Before you design your signs, it’s important to know how each chalkboard will fit into your overall marketing strategy.

That’s where the PILE system comes into play — a simple way to organize your chalkboards into one of four categories based on their role.

An easy way to remember these categories is using the acronym PILE: Promote, Inform, Lead, Entertain:

Promote

Promotional signs help your business send a message to your customers to BUY.

Use these to promote new items, highlight limited time offers, hard to find items, free gifts, and repeat customer discounts.

Inform

Informational signs educate your customers with a message that tells the customer something they didn’t know before.

Open & Closed Signs, signs labeling items, warning signs, exit signs, and Menu Signs are just some examples.

Lead

Lead signs tell your customer to go somewhere, whether physically or online.

Examples include: Welcome signs, ‘Leave a Review ‘signs, ‘We are Moving’ signs, social media signs, ‘Check-In Here’ signs, or ‘You Are Here’ map signs.

Entertain

Entertaining signs are signs that beg to be photographed — think about funny signs
you see online.

These signs include thought-provoking quote signs, interactive signs, selfie-worthy signs (e.g. angel-wing signs), and many more.

Once you start thinking about chalkboards, you’ll start to see them everywhere.

So next time you see one, try to assign it a role from above, and see if it would fit into your business’s strategy.

Ok. So you’ve learned the first step is to decide on a role for your new chalkboard.

Now let’s dive deeper and discover how your business can specifically use chalkboards in each of these role categories.

PRO TIP ✩

When deciding on a role for a chalkboard, it’s helpful to think of it as an extra employee — since each employee has a specific job (or role) within your company.

9 Ways to Use Your Chalkboard

Here are 9 ways you can use your chalkboard to help your business:

Common UsePILE Category
Showcase new products, new promotions, and specials.Promote
Inform foot traffic you’re open and ready for business. Invite customers into your shop even if they never knew you were there before.Inform
Create interactive signs, whether a 'spin-to-win' type sign or a sign begging to be 'selfied’ (i.e. photographed) with.Entertain
Boost your online ratings by asking for or posting customer reviews.Lead
Tailor chalkboard signs to local events and take them with you.Promote
Inform customers of upcoming events.Inform
Ask for social media Likes & Follows.Lead
Announce new or hard-to-find items.Promote, Inform
Add a human touch and share your brand image with those who are
unfamiliar.
Inform, Entertain
Make your customer laugh or smile. Funny signs are often shared on social media without even asking! Add a funny quote or picture that will draw your customers’ attention.Entertain

Now you know what the roles of your chalkboards are and the most common ways to use them.

Let’s wrap this chapter up with a quick list of the most popular signs out there.

The Top 5 Business Signs

Here are the most popular business signs that you’ll see out and about:

  • A-Frame Signs — these can be any type of signs — like Sales or Quote Signs — that are outdoors and designed to entice people to enter your doors.
  • Welcome Signs — to greet your guests when they arrive.
  • Quote Signs — fun signs that motivate your customers and communicate your company values.
  • Open & Closed Signs — fancy business hour signs you can hang in your doorways or windows.
  • ‘We are Moving’ Signs — these signs tell your customers you’ve moved to a new address or plan to in the future. They usually include your new address as well.

Now that you’re a business sign expert, it’s time to get creative…

Go to Crafting Your Message chapter

3. Crafting Your Message

So you know what type of chalkboard you’re ready to make. Fantastic.

But now you’re probably wondering:

What should my board look like? What should I include in my sign message?

Let’s answer that together.

Cardinal Rules

Messaging is the MOST important part of your chalkboard.

Your message is more than just words — it includes symbols, art, and a concise design that sends a clear message to your customers.

(Don’t forget that, if you want to be a successful signmaker.)

Here are the cardinal rules when it comes to messaging:

Must-Haves

  1. Concise Wording — Stick to only the most important words.
  2. Readable Fonts — Use only easy-to-read fonts.
  3. Personality — Choose one font to represent the sign’s personality.
  4. Image — Use a simple image to draw the viewer’s attention. Color helps!

Possibly

  1. Arrows — Use them to help navigate the customer somewhere.
  2. Quotes — Write a funny or thoughtful quote to enlighten the viewer.
  3. Deals or Prices — Include prices if they’re a good deal or necessary.

Never Include

  1. Unnecessary Details — Keep your message concise.
  2. Hard-to-Read Fonts — Avoid so-called ‘pretty’ fonts that are actually ugly.
  3. Negativity — Always keep your message positive.

Remember those rules and you’ll avoid 90% of the mistakes most business owners make.

Content Creation Questions

It’s time to play Shakespeare and craft our message masterpiece.

Below is a list of questions to help you discover the perfect foundation for any message.

And as we go through these questions, let’s answer these like a real-life company — a brick-and-mortar loaded tea company, that sells nutritional beverages:

  1. What is your business known for? — Ask a friend how they would describe your business or think of terms customers might search for you in Google.

Real-life Answer: ‘Delicious Nutritional Drinks’

  1. What products or services differentiate you from your competitors? — Look up the websites of 2 to 3 of your competitors. What services do they promote and focus on? Make a shortlist of what you do differently or better.

Answer: ‘We are the only place in the city serving loaded teas; We are the ‘fast food for healthy people’

  1. Do you have special products or services that are in demand right now, unique or hard to find? — What do you offer that customers are looking for right now.

Answer: ‘Loaded teas with over 50+ flavors’

  1. Who is your ideal customer? — Think busy working moms, health-conscious millennials, adventurous tourists, animal lovers, etc.

Answer: ‘25-year-old healthy or health-conscious people with some disposable income’

  1. Do you have an online presence? — What social media profiles (or groups do you currently utilize? For example, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, Reddit, etc.

Answer: ‘Facebook, Instagram, and Google’

  1. Do you run any specials or promotions? — What unique offerings should your customers know about? And how often do they change?

Answer: ‘We run the same specials daily: $1 OFF social media check-in’

  1. BONUS Question: What ‘Boosters’ do you offer? — ‘Boosters’ are special perks your customers get to enjoy, simply by working with you. For example, free shipping, money-back guarantees, no-hassle returns, etc.

Answer: ‘Get a free loyalty punch card and redeem it for a free drink after 10 purchases’ 

All you need to do is keep these questions close when it comes time to write your message.

Based on how you decide to use your sign — promote an event, showcase a product, etc. — plug in a relevant answer and you’ll have plenty of ideas.

Prioritize Your Words

Now let’s get even more precise.

And talk syntax.

Your message’s syntax — the way your words are arranged — is critical to its success.

These are the most important elements of your message that you should prioritize (in order):

WHOShould only be most prominent if a well-known name.The Beach Boys
(OR) WHATShould be most important if WHO is not a well-known name.A wine tasting
WHERECan be played down, but still more important than date and time.In the lounge
WHENIf they’re just added as a courtesy, they should not interfere with the main message.At 8:00 PM Tue, 9/2
WHYShould be an itemized list of items, features orb benefits.Taste the most unique white wines from New Zealand.
HOW MUCHThe only time a price should be the largest is when the subject is already known.$10 per person
NOTE: This chart was inspired by the master of sign layouts.

Here’s the thing to remember:

Only include the elements above — starting from top to bottom — only if they’re completely necessary. Or else leave them off.

Keep your message concise, with a goal in mind, and you’ll knock it out of the park.

Go to Text Design chapter

4. Text Design

There’s another way to make your message even better.

The design.

This chapter is all about choosing the right font, formatting, and extra elements that will make your chalkboard unforgettable.

Font Rules

Guess how many seconds it takes to capture a customer’s attention?

Five. Cinco.

That’s pretty quick.

So not only does your chalkboard’s message need to be distinct and clear, but you also need to choose free fonts that are super easy to read.

Follow these 3 font rules when coming up with your message:

  1. Never use messy fonts — Try to avoid many script style fonts that are hard to read. You want lettering that conveys your message quickly.
  2. Use a maximum of 3 font families — A font family is a specific style of typeface that includes all its variations (bold, regular, italic, light, etc.). Each of these variations is a font. Stick with 3 max per chalkboard.
  3. Use at least one heading font and one secondary font — Use larger fonts that match your brand and a different, smaller font for the majority of your body text. You want both fonts to pair well.
NOTE 📌

Remember, the fewer words you use the better. But don’t use too few or else you’ll confuse your audience.

We’re almost ready to choose the perfect font.

But first, let’s get a quick recap on heading and secondary fonts.

Heading Fonts

Heading Fonts (also known as ‘Personality’ or ‘Brand’ fonts) are the larger text words or phrases often used for the most important words on your chalkboard.

Since they make a big impression, you’ll usually find them before larger bodies of text, similar to a title, with emphasized formatting.

Use them for section headings or to communicate the primary message or main goal of your message.

But here’s what really matters:

Make sure you choose a heading font that matches your brand’s personality.

For example, if you’re a Mexican restaurant choose a fun font that matches.

Many businesses ignore their heading font, but if you stay consistent, you’ll immediately gain trust among your customers (and have an immediate advantage over your competitors).

For example, all the ‘Margaritas’ in the image below are heading fonts:

A collection of heading font options
PRO TIP ✩

You can find font combinations (like the one in the picture) from Canva. Click Text in the left toolbar, scroll down below the effects bit, and you’ll see all the different combos.

Secondary Fonts

Secondary Fonts make up the body of your message and occupy a majority of your chalkboard surface.

So if you have a board with a longer message, like a restaurant menu sign, you’ll get to know your secondary font real quick. 😊

Bottom line:

You want to use Sans Serif fonts, and make sure they’re easily readable, well-spaced, and not too bold.

What Are the Best Fonts to Use?

I have tried every FREE font you can imagine.

Check out the master list of 139 free chalkboard fonts with all my heading and secondary font favorites.

(You can get a free printographic there. 📄)

Here’s another sweet idea:

  1. Create a free Canva account.
  2. Click Text in the left toolbar.
  3. Look for the Font Combinations section.
  4. Scroll down past the effects bit, and you’ll see all the different font combos (larger headings with smaller secondary fonts).
  5. Click on the ones you like and try replacing their text with your own.
  6. Adjust spacing and move text boxes around to see which ones you like best.
Watch a video on Canva Fonts
NOTE 📌

You don’t have to use Canva. Many other reputable graphics software come with built-in font combos as well.

PRO TIP ✩

Learn more about how to manage and upload fonts to Canva in this post.

Now you know how important fonts are in your message design.

Let’s take it a step further and quickly touch on how to digitize your design and get it onto your chalkboard.

Go to Sign Making chapter

5. Advanced Sign Making Strategies

We’ve been waiting for this chapter.

Here’s what we’re going to learn:

  • An overview of how to make a chalkboard design on your computer.
  • Options for transferring your digital work to a chalkboard.
  • What supplies you need to need to master the process.

Might seem like a lot, but we’ve made it this far. 😊

Trust me on this one — your sign is about to come to life.

Digitize Your Design

Once you find fonts you like in Canva (or any program), you can make a digital design mockup that you can transfer to your chalkboard.

For example, I make most of my designs in Canva or InDesign — then depending on the size of the sign — I print it out and trace it onto the board.

Or, if it’s a very large project…

I use a projector (the device) to project my design onto the chalkboard, then I trace directly on the board’s surface.

(You can learn how to create your own digital design in the How-To Guide on Farmhouse Signs.)

Here’s a quick summary of the process:

  • You choose your perfect heading and secondary font combo.
  • Make your digital printable.
  • Add any images or object art.
  • Print your design.

Follow the steps above to create your template design.

But how do you move your design to your actual chalkboard?

It’s called ‘transferring’, and that’s next.

Transfer Your Design

Transferring is the process of copying a design from a printed piece of paper or digital image onto your chalkboard.

There are 3 awesome methods you can use to transfer your design:

  1. Use the Chalk Way, if you’re on a budget and your printed design is not too complex.
  2. Use the Transfer Paper Way, if you want cleaner markings to help you draw your final design.
  3. And finally, use the Projector Way, if you want to go digital and have a large project.

(You can learn more about all of these transfer methods in the Beginner’s Guide to Transferring Your Chalkboard.)

Now depending on the transfer method you choose, you’ll need to gather the right materials.

Supplies recommendations are coming up next.

Supplies You Need

You have a TON of options when it comes to chalkboard supplies (and it can be overwhelming).

And choosing the right supplies really is vital to your project’s success, so let’s make this easy.

Here is a chart of all the supplies you’ll need for each of the three transfer methods:

SupplyChalk WayTransfer Paper WayProjector Way
Your Printed Design Template-
Chalk--
Chalk Markers
Chalk Pencil--
Pen-
Scissors and Tape-
Ruler*
Washi / Painter’s / Ruled Tape*
White Transfer Paper--
Eraser*
Damp Microfiber Cloth*
Magic Eraser*
Portable Projector--
Chair / Ladder*--
Leveling Tool*--

*These supplies are optional
** Your printed design template assumes you have a computer with a connected printer.

If you’re looking for the easiest, DIY approach, go with the Chalk Way.

If you want a slightly more precise design, grab some transfer paper.

And when it comes time for that large chalkboard job, definitely consider the Projector Way.

NOTE 📌

You can see all my supply recommendations (with pictures) on the Supplies page.

Go to Summary chapter

6. Summary of Steps

Now you’re prepped and ready to tackle your business chalkboard.

But before we go — let’s recap what we’ve learned.

  1. Business chalkboard signs will elevate your small business above the competition.
  2. There are a lot of benefits to having a business chalkboard, most noticeably being affordable and customizable.
  3. The PILE System — Promote, Inform, Lead, Entertain — is a simple way to categorize your chalkboards based on their role.
  4. There are 9 common ways to use your business chalkboard and here are the Top 5 sign types.
  5. When it comes to your sign’s message, there are some cardinal rules, but it’s most important to use concise wording and readable fonts.
  6. Be aware of your message’s syntax and how you prioritize the who, what, where, and when of your message.
  7. Use a maximum of 3 font families and never use messy fonts.
  8. Use at least one heading font and one secondary font (here’s the master font list).
  9. Create a digital design template on your computer that you’ll use to transfer to your board.
  10. You have 3 methods at your disposal to transfer your digital designs: Chalk, Transfer Paper or Projector.
PRO TIP ✩

Did you know you can make chalkboards for any occasion (not just your business)? Here’s the bible on chalkboard sign ideas.

Go to FAQ chapter

7. Bonus FAQs

Need help making your business board? These answers will give you a boost.

Start

How do I make my wall a chalkboard?

Get yourself some chalkboard paint. You can make your own homemade chalkboard simply by painting your wall with chalkboard paint (not chalk paint, that’s different).

Do chalkboard markers work on walls?

Yes, they absolutely do (it’s a myth that they don’t).

Erasing can be the tricky part, though.

If you want to be able to erase your marker, you probably want to avoid your average, textured drywall, since walls are generally porous.

How do you transfer letters to a chalkboard?

Design a digital template, print it out on paper, then use transfer paper to trace it on your chalkboard.

You have a few chalkboard transfer options.

How much does a business chalkboard cost?

Business chalkboard signs will cost you anywhere from $50 to $300.

The price will depend on your sign size, and word count… and the quality of your artist. 😉

(here’s my pricing.)

What can I use on a chalkboard instead of chalk?

Chalk markers or chalky pastels.

Just don’t use dry erase markers or crayons.

(You can see all my recommendations on the Supplies page.)

What is the best brand of chalk markers?

I like to use Posca markers on chalkboards or chalkboard-painted walls.

How do I prime my chalk marker?

Priming (or activating) is when the marker tip is filled with ink and ready to letter.

With the cap on, shake the marker a few times (you’ll hear the ball rattling around inside).

Then press the tip hard on a piece of paper for a few seconds, then lift up.

Repeat the process — it should take around 10 times — until the whole marker tip has changed color and you see ink on the paper.

Are chalk markers erasable?

Yes, they definitely are.

The best way to erase your chalk markers is with a damp cloth or a damp Magic Eraser.

But what really matters is your surface’s material.

This is when we start talking about the term porosity — if it’s porous, it will absorb the ink more and be more difficult to erase.

Here’s the best way to think about it:

Harder and smoother = less porous. So easy to erase.

Soft and textured = more porous. So hard to erase.

Is a chalkboard better than a dry erase?

A chalkboard is much better.

If you use the right chalk markers — especially on any outdoor or sidewalk sign — your chalkboard writing will stay permanent and be able to withstand the elements.

Do I need to season my business chalkboard?

The point of seasoning is to prevent stains or ghosting, so only do it on active areas of your board (places you plan to edit).

For example, more static design elements — company name, signature products, etc. — won’t need to be updated as often, so you don’t need to season those areas, but fluctuating menus or ‘specials’ sections will need to be.

How do you make a chalkboard magnetic?

You can add strips of magnetic tape or you can try and paint a layer of magnetic primer on your board (unfortunately, that’s kinda hit or miss).

8. Leave a Comment

Be proud.

You now know the basics and are WAY above the competition.

Do you have any questions or success stories?

Leave a comment:

Comments help all of us become better sign makers. 😁

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