Not long ago, the head chef at Hyde Park restaurant A10 brought me some slate sandwich boards and asked me to paint them up for him. I’d done this already for Billy Sunday, and he wanted a few similar boards for his restaurant.

Normally, I work in pencil (which is erasable) or pen & ink (which is white-out-able), or digitally, which can always be changed and edited. So working in permanent oil based paint on a chalkboard made me pretty nervous. I knew from my Billy Sunday experience that mineral spirits could erase a stray spot in an emergency, but they weren’t perfect, and you had to catch the spot right away to make it even halfway passable.

So! How to make permanent marks on a chalkboard that wasn’t mine while leaving as little room for error as possible? I used a technique I’m pretty sure I learned in grade school art class, and started with pencil sketches.

a10_01 a10_02

I sized the drawings to the exact width they needed to be on the boards, and printed them out. This required a little bit of cutting and taping to get everything on one sheet.


The next step was coating the back of the paper with chalk…


…and taping that sheet in place on the chalkboard…


…and then pressing over every line to transfer the chalk onto the board below. I find it helpful to do this in colored pen, so I know which lines are done and which are left to do. In this case, I used a glittery magenta gel pen, because I am a class act, through and through.


Once you’re done, ta da! The lines are laid out for you on the chalkboard. It’s not perfect by any means, but the general layout is there, and every major piece is where it needs to be.


After that, it’s a simple matter of painting over the lines – although you have to be very careful not to erase the chalk lines while you’re working. It’s counterintuitive, but even though I’m right-handed, I find it easier to work right to left – the paint lines dry pretty fast, and I really, really didn’t want to smudge the chalk off and have to start over again.


Then once you’re done, the chalk lines wash off easily!


Et voila! The finished pieces.


All in all, not too painful. Using chalk transfer lines feels a little bit like cheating, but it gets the job done!