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. 😁
1. Transfer Basics
Before we start transferring our chalkboard designs, let’s go over a few basics so we are all on the same page.
What Is Transferring?
Transferring is the process of copying a design from a printed piece of paper or digital image onto another canvas or medium, like chalkboard or wood, typically using transfer paper or a projector.
For example, let’s say you have a photograph or print an image you like on your home printer, that you want to draw on a chalkboard.
You would take a sheet of transfer paper and insert it between that printable and your chalkboard, and then simply trace on top of the printable.
(Read this guide to create your own printable template.)
Why Is Transferring Important?
Transferring is the easiest and fastest way to replicate professional images and lettering.
Especially for non-artistic people.
What Is Transfer Paper?
Transfer Paper — also known as tracing or graphite paper — is paper you insert between your printed design and canvas (i.e. chalkboard), that you trace over to leave an imprint of your design on your canvas.
What Is Tracing?
Tracing is outlining the borders, lines, and visual sections of artwork or calligraphy, using a writing utensil.
In the context of chalkboard transferring, tracing is done in two consecutive actions:
On top of a printed template to imprint the design on the underneath chalkboard (using either chalk or transfer paper).
On the chalkboard directly, over the markings from the printed template (using chalk markers or paint).
You trace on top of a piece of paper to imprint the design on an underneath canvas (like a chalkboard).
Then you remove the paper template and trace again on the canvas to make your final design. 🚀
Make sense so far?
Don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds.
Now that you know the basics, I’ll show you 3 separate ways — from cheapest to most expensive — that you can use to transfer any design to a chalkboard.
Before you get started, make sure you prime your chalkboard — also known as ‘seasoning’ — by filling up the tiny empty spaces in your porous board with chalk. Just cover the whole board with the wide side of a piece of regular chalk (don’t use the tip), then simply dry erase.
We’re going to start with the easiest and cheapest transfer method first: The ‘Chalk Way’.
With this method, you simply grab a piece of regular, white chalk and cover the backside of your printed template.
You then stick the paper to your chalkboard and trace over the design to imprint markings on the board that you can touch up later.
Quick Pros & Cons
You don’t need any extra supplies.
The chalking part is time-consuming,
especially if the sign is complex.
Easy cleanup of chalk markings (just use a pencil eraser).
It can be hard to know if you put enough chalk on the template.
The cheapest method.
The transferred markings/lines may be
blurry and not exact.
For this method, you must have your template printed to the same size as the chalkboard (learn more).
Supplies You Need
Your Printed Template
Scissors and Tape
Washi / Painter’s / Ruled Tape (optional)
The Process (Chalk Way)
Print out your design template and tape it together (it needs to match the same size as your chalkboard).
Turn your template over so the backside is facing up.
Take your chalk and cover the whole backside (make sure to at least cover the design objects).
Hold your template up to the light to ensure your chalk covers any part with a design on the front side.
After all your chalk is applied, flip your paper over (face up), and align it perfectly over your chalkboard.
Once you have it in place, tape it down securely with washi or painter’s tape (you may need to use a ruler to straighten the pages).
Use any pen (I use a white gel pen), and trace over the whole design of your template — don’t press too hard and indent your chalkboard, but press hard enough to make sure the chalk transfers to the next page.
Check your progress, by carefully lifting a corner of the page to make sure your chalk marks are transferring to the board!
Finish tracing over the template, and make sure to trace over all the outlines of objects, as well as areas with different color tones (hue) and saturation.
Then carefully remove all the taped paper.
Now you’re ready to use chalk markers and write directly on your chalkboard!
PRO TIP ✩
When tracing over your template, make sure to outline any areas with subtle variations in color, shadow or vibrance. An easy way to know which areas you need to outline is to just imagine how many different pen colors you’ll need when it comes time to finish the design on the board — if you’ll need a new pen color, then you should outline that area.
That’s all there is to it.
Just add chalk to the back of a paper design, then trace over it.
But don’t forget:
The con with this method is that it can be hard to transfer clean lines to your board.
Luckily there’s a solution — transfer paper.
3. The ‘Transfer Paper Way’
Want to know the secret to transferring super crispy lines to your chalkboard?
The projector I use is the TopVision brand from Amazon (it costs ~ $130). There are several versions online (including a newer version of mine), but make sure your projector is compatible with your smartphone!
The Process (Projector Way)
Lean your chalkboard against an open wall area.
Put your projector on a chair (or another raised surface) facing towards the board.
Plug your mobile phone into the projector and open up your design image on your camera roll.
Adjust your projector height and focus settings to get the picture to fit perfectly on the chalkboard (this can be tricky, but take the time to get it right so it won’t budge during the transfer process).
Grab a chalk pencil and trace over as many details and outlines of your projected images as you can on the chalkboard.
Now turn your projector off.
Make sure your chalk pencil outlines look good, then trace them in chalk marker (more permanent) to finish your board design.
Not too hard right?
All we are doing here is projecting an image and using a chalk pencil to get your guidelines in place, then using a chalk marker to finish the design in full and to add color.
You may need to elevate the projector (on your chair or another surface) AND move the base of your chalkboard further in & out from the wall, to get your projected image to fit just right.
(Just play with all the angles a bit, and you’ll get it right. 👍)
To move an image from a computer to your mobile phone, you can use a USB cord or AirDrop (for iPhone) — learn about all your options here.
PRO TIP ✩
When transferring secondary fonts, I use Scotch Masking Tape to create guidelines for straight baselines. Also, in this example, I stretched the letters taller to make them easier to read.
5. Video Summary
Who said transferring a chalkboard design was hard?
Let’s recap what we’ve learned:
There are 3 methods you can choose from when transferring a design to your chalkboard.
Use the Chalk Way, if you’re on a budget and your printed design is not too complex.
Use the Transfer Paper Way, if you want cleaner markings to help you draw your final design.
Last but not least, use the Projector Way, if you want to go digital and have a large project.
Your Sign Size
Transfer Paper Way
Small - Large
Large - XL
Digital / Phone
Now you’ve got all the DIY skills to create something amazing!
If you want to see transferring in action from start-to-finish, watch this video:
(And don’t forget to check out the all new FAQ section too.)
6. Chalkboard Transfer FAQ
Have more chalkboard transfer questions?
Check out these helpful answers.
What is ‘Seasoning’?
Seasoning is the process of filling up the tiny empty spaces in your porous board with chalk dust, to prevent ghosting and to give you a smooth, artist-friendly chalkboard surface.
Grab a piece of regular chalk (yes, the old school kind). Turn it sideways (don’t use the tip) and make horizontal strokes back and forth. Then make vertical strokes back and forth. Let your chalk sit for at least 5-10 minutes. Now wipe off the chalk with a non-abrasive, soft cloth or dry sponge (don’t wet erase).
Your board will now be covered with a smooth cloudy surface that is ghost-resistant!
Why do I need to season my chalkboard?
You want to season to brand new chalkboards for a few reasons:
To extend the life and quality of your board.
To prevent ghosting (faint leftover chalk).
Creates a smooth surface for your chalk markers.
To prevent stains.
To make your board easier to clean.
If you don’t season it, your chalk markers will leave stains after you erase each design — especially if your board is not labeled as ‘non-porous’.
What is ‘Ghosting’?
Ghosting refers to the residual chalk markings leftover after you erase one of your previous designs.
They are those pesky faint lines that leave a ‘ghost’ like impression on your chalkboard.
To prevent ghosting, it’s always a good idea to season your board before you use it for the first time.
How do I erase ghosted artwork?
If a wet cloth isn’t working for erasing leftover chalk marker, try using vinegar instead of water on your cloth.
If this doesn’t work, use a wet Magic Eraser or a Magic Eraser sheet.
If the Magic Eraser still doesn’t work, you may need to repaint the surface of the chalkboard — I like to use Rustoleum chalkboard spray paint for this.
Can I transfer images using any of the three methods?