It’s birthday season! I mentioned this last March, citing the fact that I seem know a whole horde of people (myself included) who were born in March and April. Which makes sense, given that nine months prior (June and July) is the middle of wedding season. To distract from the obvious contemplation of one’s parents actually enjoying themselves in bed (I know, ew. What could be worse? I personally plan to give up sex altogether as soon as I have kids, just to spare them such emotional scarring.) that follows this line of thinking, let’s focus on the here and now, in which we have a season potentially chalk full of celebratory parties and gift-giving.
In such a season, you may well need a lot of gift tags, and so might all your friends, who will probably themselves know a bunch of people with upcoming birthdays. So gift tags you can use, use again and reuse some more will probably come in handy.
Thus, this week’s tutorial is armed with chalkboard paint, to create small, cute reusable gift tags, arming you for the busy birthing (whoops, I mean birthday!) season ahead.
What you’ll need
- small flat items to be painted (see step 1 for more information)
- chalkboard paint (usually available at the hardware store, and at some craft stores)
- ribbon or string
- chalk (chalkboards aren’t really much use without it)
- newspaper, butcher paper, or dropcloth to protect your work surface
- [optional] beads, buttons, sequins, fabric, pretty paper, etc. (to embellish your tags)
- a disposable paintbrush or two (the cheap foam ones work well for this)
- small drill or dremel and/or exacto knife and ruler (depending on what objects/materials you’re painting)
- stir stick (for the paint)
- flat headed screwdriver and a hammer (for prying the paint can open, then banging it shut when finished painting)
Putting it all together
1) Gather your items to be painted. Have a look at the instructions on your can of chalkboard paint to see what materials it can be used on. Mine listed wood, metal, masonite, drywall, plaster and more. You may simply have to experiment a bit to find out what works best. I tried my paint on a variety of items: large wooden popsicle sticks (from the dollar store), corrugated cardboard, mat boards (like the stuff used for matting art when it’s framed), the flat metal top from a can of frozen juice concentrate, old puzzle pieces and even simple cardstock.
In the end, the puzzle pieces, mat board and just plain cardstock gave me the results I liked best. They had the smoothest surfaces, and the cardstock could be cut into whatever shapes I wanted with just scissors and punches, so it was easily the most diverse material. So yeah, you can essentially make a paper chalkboard, and it works just fine!
With wooden items, I would recommend sanding them with a fine grit sandpaper first. The smoother the surface, the better the paint goes on and the nicer writing surface you end up with.
If you need to, cut any of your materials to size. Some materials can also be cut after painting.
2) Prep your space. You’ll want to put down some protective layers of paper or a sheet of plastic. Even if you don’t mind having a splotchily multicoloured dining room table, it’s been my experience that the other person or persons living with you may object.
You may also need to mix your paint a bit – mine had been sitting unused in its can for a many months, and needed a good mixing. Honestly, I think a whisk would have done the job a lot better than a wooden tongue depressor, but as alluded to above, the other member of the house, while supportive of my crafting habit, is simply less dedicated to truly in depth art. Meaning anything that involves kitchen utensils for non-food purposes. I know, makes no sense, right? So I should probably go out and buy a crafting whisk, but honestly, just how many whisks should a person have to keep in one house? This apartment is not made of space. Alas. Probably I’ll actually forget all about buying a crafting whisk until the next time I need one, at which point it will be too late and I’ll go through this little rant again, and forget about it afterwards again, lather, rinse, repeat.
3) Paint! A word about chalkboard paint: it’s very messy, goopy, gooey stuff, sort of like oily tar. This is not your friendly neighbourhood acrylic. Given this, it’s a good idea to use a cheap paintbrush that you can simply throw out afterwards. I tried to clean mine initially, and that was a mistake. Ended up just getting gooey paint all over my hands, and had to scrub off at least two layers of skin with one of those blue kitchen scrubbies to get the paint off. I expect to be digging paint out from under my fingernails for the next few days. So: disposable paintbrush, and a coarse scrubbie for your hands.
Also, if you’re painting a large number of items, you’ll probably get paint on your hands and need to stop and wash them every so often. Otherwise, you’ll transfer that paint to the undersides of the items you’re painting, and other things around your work area that you don’t really want to get paint on.
And it doesn’t hurt to be in a well ventilated area. My boyfriend, innocently doing his homework in the bedroom, emerged as I finished painting and was knocked slightly sideways by the smell. So, yeah.
A fun trick to try: use painter’s tape (or, in my case, masking tape) to make a border around a rectangle of mat board or other material. Paint the surface, let it dry, and when you remove the tape you’ll have a nice clean border around your chalkboard area.
4) Let the paint dry completely, then add a second and perhaps even a third coat. How many coats depends on the material of the item, your judgment, and your own patience or lack thereof. If desired, you can paint the back of the object, either with chalkboard paint or with normal, coloured paint. (Whether or not you want to do this probably depends on how messy the back got while using the chalkboard paint, and on whether you plan to glue the piece to some other backing or not.) Then let everything sit for at least a couple of hours, so it’s thoroughly dry.
5) Drill! Cut! Right, so, at this point we want to turn all these nicely painted objects into tags, which means they need holes to be hung or tied by. Depending on the material, you can use a drill to make a small hole at one or both ends, or an exacto knife to cut a short line through which a ribbon could be threaded. Since paper is a feasible option for painting, you can use scissors or a punch to cut out shapes, and a simple hole punch to make the needed small holes. If you painted large pieces of material to be cut into smaller pieces and shapes afterwards, now is the time to do that cutting.
And look, I’ve finally found a use for our phonebook!
With the chalkboard-painted paper, I can flip it over, trace or draw a shape, and cut it out with plain old scissors. Fantastic!
6) Thread onto a length of string or ribbon. Add any other embellishments you wish.
You can use a stencil and some coloured paint to add little decorations. Use a premade stencil, or make a your own by using a punch or cutting shapes from thin plastic or cardstock. (I had mixed success with this – sometimes the paint smeared horribly, and sometimes – as in the image below – it turned out alright. The more complex the cutout, the less successful it tended to be. Try it out on a bit of scrap material first. I also found that my acrylic paint didn’t attach itself particularly well to the chalkboard surface. Perhaps other paint types would work better.)
You can also glue on beads, sequins, buttons or other embellishments.
Or you may want to glue your tag to a backing of paper, cardboard, felt, foam, wood, etc.
7) Label and gift!