Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A sorta chalkboard sign

Hi there!  I'm so excited to share this project today!  I finally tried my hand at making a chalkboard-ish sign, and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.  I've been needing something substantial to put on the wall next to our bed for a while, so I thought a hand-painted sign might fit the bill nicely. As I've worked on the main living spaces of our home, our master bedroom has been sadly neglected.  I've been needing to work in there for a while, but since pretty much no one but our family ever sees it it always gets shunted to the back of the decorating line.  No more, I say!  This chalkboard sign is stage one of project "Make Our Bedroom Look Less Crappy" (no, I probably won't continue calling it that).  Here's how the headboard wall looked before this project:

Pretty uninspired, huh?  I love the side tables and the lamps that I made to go on them, but they really get lost in the vacuum of those blank walls.  Oh, and I'm not even going to show you the other side of the room.  Total. Disaster.  That's for another time, people.

Since the sign was going in our room, I decided to make it a little mushy and use it as my Valentine's Day present for Stephen.  I went with a quote from my all time favorite book, Wuthering Heights.  Funnily enough, he kinda hates that book and thinks it's way too depressing.  Whatever, I'm making the sign so I get to choose!  I've seen other signs with this particular quote, but Jennifer from Dear Lillie's is definitely my favorite.  So, without further ado (sorry for all the lead in!), here's the sign:

Isn't she perdy?  I love her!  I'll get to the book page pieces in a minute, but first let me tell you about how I made the sign.  Be warned: there has to be an easier way to make one of these, but you're on MY blog so you get to see my way :)  If you're looking for easy, go with someone else's tutorial.  Seriously, you'll thank me.

To start I grabbed a 24 inch square piece of precut 1/2 inch plywood from Lowe's.  I didn't want a square sign, so I had them cut it down to 20x24 for me.  Once I got it home I chose the smoother side and sanded it to within an inch of my hand's life.  I used some 80 grit sandpaper first and finished it off with some 220, just to give myself the smoothest surface I could.  I'm calling this a "chalkboard-ish" sign since I didn't really use chalkboard paint, but rather just some dark charcoal grey flat latex.  Since I have no plans to alter the design in the future, though, that part doesn't really matter.  Here's what it looked like after 2 coats of the paint

Holy wood grain, Batman!  That's what happens when you use the cheapest plywood you can find.  For under $5, though, I was willing to find a solution.  After this coat dried completely, I applied one more coat going against the grain and that made a very big difference.  Another quick sanding with the 220 grit sandpaper and the wood grain was really reduced.  Another way to have (properly) gotten rid of the grain would have been to sand more initially and use primer.  But who has time for proper?  Not this girl!

The next part was absolutely the most painful.  I don't have any sort of stencil-making or overhead projector type device, so I had to do it the very slow and old fashioned way: with an X-acto knife.  Ugh.

That's right.  I had to trace every letter with a blade to create my "stencils" for the lettering.  I had simply printed the lettering out on plain computer paper in the fonts I wanted.  This would have been infinitely easier if I had access to a projector and could have just traced the projected lettering.  But...I don't, so I had to suck it up.  I have to admit that it worked out just fine (even if my hand was absolutely killing me after all that cutting!).  After making the stencils, I arranged the words how I wanted them and taped them to the prepared board.

Once I had them arranged to my liking, I simply traced inside the letters with a pencil.  After that was done I went back with a fine paintbrush and painted in the lettering with some Pure White AS Chalk Paint.

I love how the imperfections in my painting just add to the handmade feel of the sign.  Embrace the imperfections, tell people you did them on purpose, and you'll be like a real life artist!  It really looks hand-lettered, don't you think?  I'm totally sold on this technique.  I definitely see more chalkboard art in our home's near future.

After I finished the sign and hung it on the wall in our room, I felt like it needed a bit more heft.  Enter the ever-versatile vintage book page.  I really can't say enough about how wonderfully easy book pages are for making simple, high impact decorations for your home.  Seriously!  That vine and little bunch of leaves took maybe 20 minutes to make, but they make such a huge difference in how the sign looks in the room.

I love the depth and texture they add to the sign, too.  The leaves in the corner are hot glued to a small scrap of cardboard that I used a little Command strip to stick to the bottom corner of the sign itself.  The vine and rosette up above the sign are just leaves that I glued successively onto an L-shaped piece of cardboard, starting from the outer edges and working my way in towards the center.  (I had intended to use more Command strips to stick the vine to the wall, but it kept falling down so I ended up nailing it up there.)  I decided that the middle looked a little wonky without anything in there, so I made that little flower at the last minute.

The center of the flower is just some crumpled up scraps, but I think they look just right.

So there you have it!  A chalkboard-ish sign with some pretty book page embellishments that really help our bedroom look much less sad.  Here's a (totally un-prettified) picture of how the room looks now:

So much better already!  I had 2 very persistent photo bombers running around that morning, so there was no way I was going to be able to make the bed AND get a picture.  Clearly, I just went for the picture :)  I'll do a post about the picture on the other side of the bed soon, but for now I need to head to bed!  Thanks for stopping by, and please let me know if you make a sign of your own!

** I'm submitting this project to the Creating with the Stars contest!  Woo hoo!**


  1. That turned out really pretty! I love the book page flowers.

  2. That was such a beautiful accent to your room! Well, I also believe that there’s nothing to worry about the perceived imperfections on this work. It is something that adds character to every piece and just reinforces the idea that this was hand-made. Anyway, I’m excited to hear about the contest. I wish you had fun!

    Josh Saunders @ Signs Unlimited USA