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One of my favorite Pinterest/Etsy trends right now is the DIY birthday chalkboard.

For A’s third birthday last year, I decided I’d try my hand at making one. The result was really adorable, and A LOVED it! Since then, I’ve made a few other chalkboards.

They’re a little time-consuming, but I’ve loved putting them on display at the girls’ parties because they’re so darn cute, and they’re a great way to commemorate each child’s favorite things and abilities at that stage of life.

Now that I’ve got a few chalkboards under my belt, I thought I’d share a really thorough step-by-step with some helpful tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.


1. Elmer’s Foam Board in black. Look for white foam on the interior, not black: UPC 079946129939 (about $7). 

This is the only type of board that won’t just absorb the paint from your paint markers. I found these boards at Michael’s.Elmer's Foam Board label  Foamboard price tag

See how there’s white foam in the middle of the boards on the bottom shelf? That’s what you want!

2. Sharpie Paint Markers in a variety of colors (this 5-pack from Amazon goes for $12-13)

Sharpie Paint Markers

These would be great!

3. Ruler
4. Pencils: one mechanical and one dull, yellow/#2 pencil
5. Scissors
6. Access to a word processing program, like Microsoft Word, and a printer

DIY birthday chalkboard materials

Making Your Chalkboard

1. There are some parts of this chalkboard that you can freehand, and there are others that it just makes so much sense to do from a computer printout. For instance, the lettering of the child’s name up top.

If you’re especially skilled at recreating serif fonts by hand (who is??), go to town! If you’re anything like me, you’ll be glad you spent the extra time to find a font you like on your computer and print out the name to transfer onto the board.

The board we’re using is 20″ wide. Therefore, when you open Word (or whichever program you’re using), you’ll want to set the orientation and the margins on the page to accommodate that width.

Here’s what you do:

  • First, change the orientation of the page to landscape, so the page is wider than it is tall.
  • Then, change the margins to “narrow,” so they’re only 1/2″.
  • Now, if you put two pages of this document you’re making side-by-side (10″ each x 2), the text will be the same width as the top of your poster board. Genius, right?!
  • The only thing left to do is type in your child’s name so the letters fill up two whole pages and print them out. I prefer a serif font for this section, but choose something that speaks to you. Be sure to note the name of the font, because we’ll be using it again.
  • In my example, I used Baskerville, 400 point font.

printout of the name Sophia

2. Once you’ve printed out your child’s name, take your paper to the window, flip it over so you’re looking at the back of the paper, and use your mechanical pencil to trace the outline of the letters. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just pretty close. Then, trim the extra paper from around the letters.

tracing letters against a window

3. Place the papers, right side up, at the top of the poster board and once more trace the outline of the letters, this time using your dull #2 pencil, which is more likely to have a tip wide enough to hit on any marks you made on the backside of the paper. Now you have the outline of the name!

dull pencilSuper dull #2 pencil

transfer of traced lettersCan you make out the letters on the foam board, ever so faint?

{Alternate #2-3. If you’d prefer not to do your child’s name in a straight line (but in an arc or with the letters askew), you can cut out the individual letters from the printout, place them where you like, and then trace the outline of each letter.}

letter S cut-out

4. Next, create the scroll that will say which birthday your child is celebrating (first, second, etc.). What I try to do is decide where I want the top, center mark of the scroll to be under the name, then I very lightly mark a gradual slope in one direction and then the other, trying to maintain the same angle on both sides.

Now, consider how thick you want your scroll to be—maybe 2″ to 2.5″—and draw the bottom of the scroll in, maintaining the same width all the way across as best you can. You can draw the ends of the scroll a few different ways, but the easiest is to just make them look like they loop back around, as I did:

first birthday written in cursive on chalkboard

5. Here’s where the freehand begins, with writing in “first [or second/third/etc.] birthday.” If you’re feeling uncomfortable with this part or your handwriting leaves something to be desired, it might be worth it to practice on a piece of scrap paper first, especially since these boards do not take kindly to erasing. I actually think the eraser marks are worse than a little stray pencil mark here or there!

Once, you’re comfortable, do your best to think about the sizing of your letters and where to begin writing in order to center your words on the scroll. Good luck! The first freehand marks are the scariest!!!


Looking to improve your handwriting?
Check out this post on
#rockyourhandwriting resources!

rockyourhandwriting resources for your Bullet Journal



DIY birthday chalkboard text

6. I like to include the date on my chalkboards, and it will fit nicely under the scroll. Try to choose a different font style than the ones you’ve already used (serif and freehand cursive, in my case). You want to give your chalkboard an eclectic look by using a bunch of different fonts and colors. –>

7. Now, use one side of the rest of the board for the baby’s “stats”: height, weight, and number of teeth. Take a ruler and mark six inches in from either the left or right side of the board in several places and connect the dots to make a line. Now, divide that space in three, so you have a spot for each stat.

DIY birthday chalkboard baby measurements

8. Here’s where I think it’s totally worth it to go back to your computer. You’re going to have some pretty gigantic numbers on this part of the chalkboard, and frankly, I stink at doing them freehand.

If you create a new Word document, it’s automatically set to have six inches of space in the middle of the page, which is perfect for making these numbers. Go back and reuse the same font you chose for your child’s name, and size your numbers so they take up the width of the page.

Print everything out, go back to the window and trace from the backside of the paper with your mechanical pencil. Cut away excess paper around the numbers and transfer them to your chalkboard with the #2 pencil.

Beneath each number, write in “pounds,” “tall,” and “teeth.”

9. Now a good portion of your board is filled in. The rest will be for any variety of fun facts you’d like to include about your baby. Things like:

  • I love to…
  • I can (say/do)…
  • My favorite foods are…
  • My nickname is…
  • My favorite toy is…
  • My favorite song is…
  • My favorite book is…

I’ve had good luck filling the top of the remaining portion of the chalkboard with “I love to” phrases in nice, big letters that span the width of that space. Then, for some visual interest, I divide up the bottom portion in two or three sections, to have smaller areas where I can put in some other fun facts.

Before I begin a new line, I place my ruler beneath where I plan to write my letters, so I can try to make each line straight and level. Again, remember to choose a different style of writing for each line and practice ahead of time if you’re not really comfortable with a particular font.

10. Once you’ve got a few different sections of fun facts filled in, you’ll need to think about how you want to separate each set of information: a simple line, dots, a border, etc. Again, try to have some variety in color and texture.

11. It’s really fun to add some drawings of the things baby loves to your chalkboard, like her favorite food or musical notes to represent songs. If you’re not an artist by nature, like me, just google “How to draw ______” and you’ll inevitably find a simple cartoon drawing of that item.

For instance, I wanted to add a mango to Baby J’s board but had NO IDEA how to start. I googled “How to draw a mango” and came up with this shape that looked just right! Easy enough to recreate.

mangoImage source

12. Now comes the “fun” part (read: nerve-wracking). Get your paint markers together and give them a really good shake. Make sure you test each one on a piece of scrap paper to make sure the paint is flowing well and not globbing up, as they sometimes do.

scribblesBy the time I’m finished with each chalkboard, I have a scrap page FULL of test marks.

Tracing over your pencil marks is best done in one sitting after bedtime, or sometime when you know you’ll have an uninterrupted chunk of time. This part usually takes me about an hour, and you can’t rush it! You’ve worked so hard to prepare your board, and it would be incredibly frustrating to mess it up now.

Here are just a few more tips for this step:

  • Remember, with these paint markers, there’s no erasing! If you mess up, you just have to go with it: add an extra flourish to a letter; draw a little flower where the paint leaked; whatever you have to do.
  • Try to work from top to bottom and left to right (unless you’re left-handed?), so as not to smear wet paint with your hand as you write.
  • I find it easiest to work with one color at a time. So find all the spots you want to be pink across the board and do those all at once.
  • Move the paint marker slowly enough that it’s depositing a nice thick line of paint and you don’t have to keep drawing over the same line, which tends to look messy.
  • And most importantly, trust your pencil marks! If you’ve been careful to line things up, space things evenly, use your best handwriting, etc., don’t decide to “fix” anything once you get to the paint marker stage. You’re almost never going to improve upon anything.


DIY Birthday Chalkboard final

You know, I see a lot of computer-generated birthday chalkboards on Etsy, and I think they’re just lacking a certain charm that a handmade sign has. I certainly want my sign to look nice and neat, but it also looks a little…imperfect, and I like that!

These chalkboards would make a spectacular gift, and they’re a great memento of a special day. Both my girls still have their birthday chalkboards in their bedrooms :) (Catch a glimpse here and here.)

So, are you going to give this a try? Or have you made a birthday chalkboard already? Send a photo to merelymothers [at] gmail [dot] com. I’d love to feature your chalkboard in this post!

Evie signature


If you’re feeling crafty…

You may also like my DIY Better-Than-Paint-Chip Mobile tutorial.

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53 thoughts on “DIY Birthday Chalkboard

  1. Wow! Looks amazing, and what a great keepsake. I love the ingenious method of transferring pencil from the print-out to the board. I agree — handmade with love trumps perfect everytime!

    1. Thanks, Jane! One of us will have to make a birthday chalkboard for N’s second birthday ;)

  2. I am glad I came cross this, going to try to make one for my daughter’s first day of preschool. :)

    1. That’s a great idea, Isabel! I’d love to see how it turns out. Send me a photo at merelymothers[at]gmail[dot]com, if you get a chance!

    1. Stephanie, try REALLY shaking up the paint markers and then depressing the tip so that globs of paint come out. Once you start to see the colored paint coming out with a white liquid (see photo above), you should be ready!

  3. I love this idea so much! I’m making one for my son’s first day of Kindergarten! Thanks for the tips.

    feel free to delete this part…
    The book that you wrote on the sign… I think it is Goodnight Moon not Boodnight moon. I could be wrong but I just didn’t want you to have an error posted that people might make negative comments on. Once again, thanks for the ideas.

    1. Glad you like the chalkboard, Amanda! I’d love to see yours once you’re finished :)

      You’re definitely right that the title of the book is Goodnight Moon. I just make my cursive, capital letter G like this, so without the big loop at the bottom, it does look like a lowercase letter B. I’d never noticed that before!

    1. So glad you like it! I’m actually in the process of making another chalkboard for my nephew today! Good luck with yours!

  4. I came across this to find ideas for my son. He will be on 2 on Saturday and I attempting to do this :) I hope it turns out as great as yours did!!!

  5. What a wonderfull tutorial, can’t wait to make it for my daughter’s first birthday, i have a question, what color of marker did you use to simulate the white chalk ? Thank you in advance

    1. First, I traced around the letters with silver, then went back in and traced inside the silver lines with pink. Finally, I used the pink to make diagonal lines through the middle/inside of each letter. Does that make sense?

  6. i really love this! my sons 1st birthday is in april and i really hope to do it you make it look easy

  7. I did this and my board absorbed a lot of the paint. It took several strokes over a spot to get the color to stay and its still dull. :/

    1. Tiffani, I’ve had that problem with some of the chalkboards I’ve made, too. I believe it has something to do with the type of board you purchase. If you go to buy an Elmer’s brand foam board, you might notice that some of the boards have white foam on the inside and some have black on the inside. Some of the boards have a shinier black finish, and some are more matte. The problem is, they aren’t labeled any differently!

      I’m still experimenting to see which type of board absorbs the least paint. I’ll update the post once I do!

  8. I have made several birthday boards similar to these. I have a question, after marking your lines with pencil, I’ve had a hard time getting the eraser marks off my board? They tend to show up a lot. Is there a special secret for getting rid of that? It causes a smeared look on my boards. :( Thanks!!

    1. Good question, Krste. I try not to make pencil marks that I don’t intend to trace over with the paint marker, for this very reason. Some of the black foam boards I’ve purchased do not allow for any erasing without making a big old mess; others are just fine with some light erasing. It really depends on the board.

  9. First let me start off by saying how much I absolutely adore this idea! I’m currently making one for my daughter’s first birthday on Sunday (last minute, I know!). There is one part that I’m a bit confused by, however. In making the stats, you say to use the margins and size the numbers so they take up the width of the page. When I do that, some of the numbers end up HUGE. For example, “25” (lbs) ends up using a size 350 font and “7” (teeth) uses 800. While both are the 6″ wide, the 7 is substantially larger! Your numbers all look the same size though. Help me, please!

    1. Sorry for the late reply, Catherine, but I was away on travel last week.

      Here’s the thing. Those stats only take up 6″ on the side of the board, so before printing the numbers, I changed the margins of my Word document to make the space I was typing into in the middle only 6″ wide.

      Then, I figured out how large I could make the font in order to have two numbers for the height (30″) and weight (19#) fill the space. Let’s say the font size was 72. So, I used that same size font (72 point) to make the number 6 for the number of teeth the baby has. I hope that makes sense!

  10. I have my board all ready to paint and the paint soaks instantly into the foam board. Any suggestions??

    1. Sadly, the only thing you can really do is make sure your paint pens are properly shaken and go over and over your strokes if you’ve got one of those boards that soaks up ink :(

  11. Love this! I’m attempting my own chalkboard for my daughter’s first birthday and was wondering if there’s anything you spray on it when it’s finished to make sure it doesn’t smudge or anything? Please advise if it’s necessary or not. Thanks!!!

    1. Susan, if you use paint pens, you won’t have any smudging. If you were to use regular chalk on a poster board or chalkboard, you’d probably run into some trouble. (I’m sure there’s a secret for that, but I’ve only ever used paint pens on poster board.)

  12. Hi! Great tutorial. I am one of the unfortunate that must have got a bad board because these markers aren’t working for me either. Do you think chalk paint markers would work?

    1. You know, I’ve wondered about that, Kate. But the last time I was in the craft store, I picked up a package of chalk markers, and the package said they’ll only work on “non-porous surfaces,” so probably not great for poster boards :(

  13. I also had trouble with the markers soaking into my Elmers foam board but I think I have found a solution! I thought making it less porous would help so I painted a layer of Matte Mod Podge on the blank foam board and now the markers work awesome! Before that the only marker that would work was the silver metallic Sharpie. Now all the colors work! Thanks for posting this. Yours looks amazing!

    1. Hilary, that’s pretty brilliant! I’ve been trying to think of something you could paint or spray onto the board to give it a kind of nonporous layer on top, but I hadn’t thought of Mod Podge. Of course! So multipurpose!

      And you’re right. The silver metallic Sharpie will work on ANY type of board, so if you don’t care much about having your board be multicolored, then stick with this combo.

      Lastly, I think I finally figured out which type of board you need in order to ensure you won’t run into this problem of the paint soaking in. I’ll be updating the post soon! Thanks so much for commenting with your solution!!

  14. love this! I am making one for my daughter’s first birthday and this is the best tutorial I have seen! I found Crayola Dry Erase Bright Crayons work so great on the black and look more like chalk without coming off if you’re ever looking for an alternative to the paint pen (I really suck with paint pens lol).

  15. Did you use medium or fine point markers for your chalkboard? I’m so excited to try this!

  16. Thank you for this! I’m not the most creative or crafty but my project turned out great!

    1. Hi Lauren, these are actually two different techniques for transferring the letters you printed out onto the poster board.

      1) Trace the outline of the letters on the backside of the paper. Then, put the paper on top of the poster board and retrace the outline of the letters on the front of the paper. This way, the lead from the back of the paper transfers to the poster board.

      2) This method requires no tracing from the back. Just cut the letters out, place them on the poster board as they should appear, and trace around them.

      Does that make sense?

  17. Do the markers have to be neon or pastels?? I really need primary colors for my daughters Mickey Mouse clubhouse board???

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