Tuesday Tutorial: Using Technology to Design Chalkboard Art

I love the blog done by Maggie at Little Miss Maggie and if you haven’t been following her, you are really missing out. She is very creative and comes up with many unique and great ideas. Back in July, she posted a table I was just blown away by.

Little Miss Maggie Ironing Board Table
This was such a great idea. She took an old ironing board and painted chalkboard art on it and I just loved it.

Recently my sister-in-law asked Paul and I to creatively paint a thrift store table for her that she had painted black for the new cabin she and her husband are building. Immediately, Maggie’s chalkboard table came to mind and I knew I wanted to paint it in that style and I thought I would do a tutorial on it to share with you at the same time.

When I sat down to work on my tutorial, I realized it was way too much information for one week and I decided to break it into two. This week I will show you how to use a program like Photoshop Elements (PSE) to design the chalkboard art and next week I will give you the steps I use to paint the table. Bear with me though as this will be a long, picture intensive tutorial.

I am a computer teacher by trade and teach my students about different types of fonts or lettering styles. All fonts fall into one of several categories. The two largest categories are serif and sans serif fonts. Serif fonts like Times New Roman or Baskerville Old Face have extra lines or curves on the letters to add to their appearance and make them easier to read in print form. Sans serif fonts like Arial or Calibri do not have extra lines and curves on them and are easier to read on-line where the resolution is not as high. Now you’re probably asking yourself why I’m telling you this. The reason is that in chalkboard art the fun interplay of serif and sans serif fonts is part of what makes the art so appealing, therefore you need to use a mix of these two types of fonts when you create it.

Here is the final version of what I am going to create and cover in the following steps.

chalkboard table FINAL copy

Of course when I paint it everything will be white on a black background but for design purposes the color did not matter.

Here’s the steps I followed to create this look:

Step One

Measure the surface you are designing for and create a new file in PSE with those dimensions.

New file

Step Two

Insert your first line of text using the Text tool 

Insert first line
and if you want the text to curve use the Text style tool and select the type of curve you want.

Word Arc

If you want the curve or arc to move in the opposite direction, set the bend to a negative number rather than a positive one. I used the same arc style for my top and bottom lines of text and just made one bend positively and the other bend negatively.

Changing arc of word

Step Three

Keep inserting lines of text in different layers in the file. (PSE will automatically create new layers if you click on the text tool each time you start a new line of text.) By using different layers you will have individual control over each line and will be able to move or resize them (using the Move tool) independently from the rest of the text. Change between the styles of fonts and sizes of fonts to add variety and interest. Also add special things such as the following:

  • Add simple design elements as space fillers by searching the Internet for free graphics.

Simple Design Elements Search

When you find something you like, right click on the picture and choose Save Picture As, name it and then open it in PSE. Select the graphic you want to use by pulling the Rectangular Marquee tool around it

Selecting part of photo

and copying it. Switch to your chalkboard art file and paste the design element in to the file. Use the Move Tool to pull it into place and rotate it if necessary.

  • Add shapes from PSE as space fillers as well. Use the Custom Shape Tool to find an appropriate shape and then click and drag to place and size it into your art.

Adding shapes

  • Change the direction of some of the text so it is placed vertically rather than horizontally. This provides interest and helps when there are space issues. To do this, you simply click on the change text direction tool 

immediately after typing the text while the text tool is still active.

Changing Text Direction

  • Add a fun graphic to put text on like a ribbon by first finding a free one on the Internet, saving it as a separate file and then opening the file in PSE. Select it like you did the design elements you saved earlier, copy it and paste it into the chalkboard art file. Adding a second ribbon graphic is a problem without some modifications because they are moving in the same direction as seen in the picture below.

Two Ribbons

If you want to use that same graphic again, it will need to be a mirror opposite. To create this you will need to do the following: paste a copy of the graphic into a new file in PSE, select Image then Rotate then flip horizontal.

Ribbon Flip

This will create a mirror image version of the graphic which can then be copied and pasted into the chalkboard art. Unfortunately, you can’t just put two copies of the graphic into the chalkboard art and flip one of them. The Flip Horizontal option will flip both of them unless one of them was copied into a different PSE file first and flipped there before pasting into the chalkboard art.

Place text on the front folds of the ribbon and use the Move tool to rotate the text into place.

Text on Ribbon

Finally, have fun creating the design of your chalkboard art. The great thing about using technology to design it first is it allows you to correct any problems before you commit it to the surface you are designing for thus reducing the stress of the project.

Stay tuned for next Tuesday when I show you my techniques for painting this design on to the table I designed it for.

Thanks for visiting,


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