Pub Chalkboards

An eye-catching and well drawn chalk board is one of the essential marketing and information tools for any pub, whether it’s displayed outdoor (such as A-boards) to tell passing trade what’s on in your pub or used indoors for a specials board or advertising the next Big Match you are showing. 

Many pubs use the services of professional chalk board artists and sign writers to create permanent marketing displays, however keeping chalkboards up to date means you or your staff will need to know how to create clear and visually appealing messages etc for your customers.

Chalkboard art and lettering is not hard to get right, it just takes some planning and patience. This step-by-step tutorial will help you create vibrant and legible chalkboards as well some great tips and tricks from other publicans and sign-writing professionals.

What You’ll Need…

  • Chalk – white and coloured (traditional chalks or chalk pens) 
  • Bowl or glass of water
  • Damp rag – Do not use paper towels – they will leave a paper fibre residue on your board. (An old cloth bar runner. bar towel will do.)
  • Cotton Buds – dipped in water are the best erasers to get into tight spots and fix mistakes
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Computer fonts or art print-outs, clippings, or stencils to use as visual guides
  • Sketch pad and pencil

Nine Easy Steps to Chalkboard Perfection

1.  Clean your chalkboard with a wet rag (or use a chalkboard cleaner). Repeat to make sure you are getting as much chalk residue off the board before starting your drawing.

2.Use the tape measure/ruler to find the centre of the board, by measuring the width and height.  You can draw a faint line down the board to help guide you and erase it later with a cotton bud.

3. Draw the border first as it helps provide a visual guide for how much space one truly has to draw/write on.   Use a ruler to make straight lines if needed.

4.  Using your sketch as a guide, start drawing your focal image. If you mess it up, just wipe it away and re-do it.  You can also use the chalk transfer method to get your drawing or photocopied image on to the chalkboard.

5.  Add in the rest of the design.

6. Add any colour last.  Remember the white chalk around the newly applied coloured chalk will look like it faded since water touched it after it was dry. Just let it be, it will dry to a bright white again.

 7.  Erase mistakes and smudges with the tip of a wet rag and/or cotton bud.

8. Let dry and display.

9. If you want to seal your design on the chalkboard so it will not smudge (for instance on exterior mounted chalkboards of A-boards), spray hairspray in an aerosol can lightly over the design.

How to Transfer a Drawing to a Chalkboard

On the back of your drawing, lay a piece of chalk on its side and then rub the back of the paper with the chalk so it is covered with chalk.  Flip it over and place the paper/drawing where you want it to go on the chalkboard.  Draw over the image with a soft tipped pencil. The pressure from the pencil will transfer chalk to the chalkboard. When you remove the paper you will see a faint copy of your drawing.  Go over the lines with chalk to recreate your image on the chalkboard.

See How It’s Done…

John Neal, a prolific UK chalkboard artist has produced a 40 minute “how to” video you can download here (currently priced at approximately £6.00), plus loads of other free videos on basic lettering techniques.

Top Tips

  • If you are using a brand new chalkboard “season” it first. This will help lessen “ghosting”.  Ghosting is when you draw on a chalkboard and after it is erased you still see the images, but in black. To season a chalkboard use a full piece of chalk and run it on its side over the entire surface of the chalkboard.  Make sure to rub it in well.   Once the board is covered, erase it.   It is now seasoned.
  • Some publicans swear by cola or Guinness on a cloth to clear chalk residue when cleaning their chalkboard.
  • Most important tip:  Don’t use dry chalk.  Dip the chalk in water before drawing on the board. As you work, keep dipping the chalk in water to keep it wet.  At first, the chalk lines will look faded – not bright – be patient and let it dry – it will dry bright white or whatever coloured chalk you are using.   You can also keep the board wet and draw on a wet board.
  • Keep it simple at first, the more boards you create the better your drawings, centering, and lettering will become.
  • Make a sketch  to determine placement of your images and words.  Pick one image to make the focus.
  • Make a border – use a square at each corner and double lines, coming off on the vertical and horizontal, then fill the double lines in with dots of colour.
  • Mix up font styles – Thick, 3-D, thin, serif, shadow, and script. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than 3 fonts.  One heavy print font, a script font, and one thin caps font.
  • To find the centre of a word or words for one line count the number of letters and spaces between each word.  If using both lower case and capital letters, remember capital letters take up a bit more room, but this is a good rule of thumb to centre lettering.  Draw the centre letter or space on your centre point and then draw the other letters out from this centre point to each side to complete your word. Making free hand letters is the hardest part of chalkboard art; some letters will be bigger and your centering will look “off”.  Whilst you’ll want to aim for the perfect centering don’t be put off if the end result is a little “off”, imperfections can sometimes add to the charm of chalkboard art.
  •  Use a pencil sharpener to keep the tip of  the chalk pointed.
  • Use coloured chalk on the focus image or border.
  • When you add the wet coloured chalk over existing dry white chalk it will appear that the white chalk has been ruined. It has not when it dries it will look nice and bright again.
  • Download ornamental fonts for scrolls, lettering and other shapes to your computer, here are some good examples:  Ornaments, Nymphette, Swinging


If you need some inspiration for some humorous A-Board messages this collection might help

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