How to make a wedding sign from a child’s blackboard

Let’s talk wedding signs! From a lovely warm ‘welcome to our wedding’ to a ‘thank you for coming’ or from ‘please find your seats’ to ‘this ceremony is unplugged’. There are so many different messages you might want to get across to people at points during your day and a sign is the perfect way to do just that.

There are lots of different options when it comes to signs, some depend on the message you’re trying to share, others on the venue and the amount of space you might have available. A few I’ve seen in my wedding planning include; printed cards, acrylic, wood displayed on an easel, to wedding banners which roll out similar to signs you’d see a conferences, pallets are commonly used for order of the days or seating arrangements due to their size and rustic feel or large mirrors with vinyl added if ‘rustic’ isn’t the wedding style.

From my research these signs tend to clock in at around £60 each, which if you need quite a few: "welcome", "find your seat/choose a side", "this ceremony will be unplugged", "order of the day", "seating plan", "sign our guestbook", "dancefloor rules", "thank you for coming", etc,  you’re looking at a pretty big stationary bill! One option would be not to have a few of those I’ve listed above but, before we get to cutting things back, an alternative option may be to DIY your own.

I created a sign for our wedding to welcome our guests and (on the reverse) thank them for coming as they leave. The entrance to our venue is through a side door and I felt we needed something to direct people away from the main entrance to the side of the building. Being outside, it needed to be something quite sturdy that wouldn’t blow away in the wind or be spoiled if it should rain (but it won’t rain I’m sure!). It also needed to be quite big so that anyone walking towards the venue will notice it.

I went for a child’s blackboard, which I revamped. I'm super impressed with the results, and so I thought I would show you the process I followed!

What you will need

Child’s Blackboard. I used the IKEA Mala blackboard. You can buy it new for £18, however, I found it on Facebook marketplace second hand for just a fiver. When I’ve been scrolling through Facebook, I’ve seen quite a few people offer them either for free or for about £5 and if you’re going to paint them anyway it really doesn’t matter if it’s got a bit of a scribble on the back or needs a clean.

An electric sander or sand paper. Depending on what you have to hand, and how much time and patience you have! Sanding by hand will take much longer but if you don’t already own a sander, and you probably aren’t going to use it after this DIY project, it’s a bit of an unnecessary expense!

Paint for the wooden blackboard frame. I used white acrylic paint which I already had lying around but a wood paint or stain might be better if you need to buy paint or if you already have that around. It will also depend on the look you’re going for. If you want a more natural feel then a clear varnish would be good, or for a cleaner feel a white, gold, rose gold or silver paint would be good, if you have a colour theme that you’d particularly like to pull out you could be really creative and paint your frame a colour to match.

Blackboard paint. Depending on the quality of your board, the type of board you have and whether you want it painted double-sided you may or may not need this. I got a second hand blackboard and even the blackboard side was marked with colours which couldn’t be removed. I also wanted to paint the whiteboard side to be a blackboard too. With the excess, I painted the inside of the apex frame as well so that it was all nice and consistent.

Cover for bottom of chalk shelf. This is only if your blackboard has one. The IKEA blackboard has a little tray for the chalks to rest in which I intend to use for some extra decorations. You could use paper, such as a wallpaper sample, decoupage paper or other craft paper or something different like fabric. Of course you could also just paint it if you’d rather.

Pencil and Chalk. This is just to trace your printed text and design on to the blackboard.

Design. Printed from the computer unless you have a stencil or something you want to use, or if you are planning to use vinyl. I found some ideas and fonts for my design online and duplicated, cropped and stretched them in Word to spread across 4 pieces of A4 paper which was roughly the right size for my board.

Sticky tape.

Paint for the design. I chose to trace my design and then paint it. It took quite a while so if time is of the essence, not budget, then printed vinyls might be a better option.

Range of sized paintbrushes. From really small to large.

Decoration for the board. This could be artificial flowers added to the frame or ribbons for the horizontal bar. You could add recycled jars, teacups etc to the tray with lights or flowers in. We plan to use different types of Guinness bottles filled with fairy lights added for ours.

Step One – Sanding the frame

If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t bother with this step because I’m lazy and was too keen to get onto the painting step but here is why it’s important. By sanding the frame you remove the glossy lacquer. This helps the paint to soak firmly into the wood and prevents the paint from peeling off if the frame gets bumped, scraped, knocked etc.  It may also help with coverage, meaning you need to do less coats.

Children's blackboard

Step Two – Painting the frame

I found with the IKEA frame it was easiest to lay it on the floor in a large space and paint one side and then flip it once dry and paint the other. Be careful if you’re using newspaper to rest it on because it will get stuck to the paint and then when you peel it off you’ll end up with a board with pieces of newspaper attached (I learnt the hard way!). If possible you’d be better to use a dust sheet or old bedding to rest it on. Depending on how messy you think you’re going to get this may want to be waterproof or lined underneath with bin bags to protect your flooring/carpets!

I tend to use paint I already have lying around for these types of things rather than buying new paint every time so I just used a white acrylic based paint. You can pick large tubes of these up for £2 from The Works. While wood paint might be better, it is also more expensive, and for what we need and for the amount of time you’re using your board for I think cheaper is better.

I didn’t bother using masking tape or anything to prevent the paint going onto the blackboard because I knew I was going to paint that next. You could do this if you wanted or if you don’t intend to paint the blackboard, but I’d still be careful because I have always found that even the non-bleed tapes do in fact bleed.

Painted children's blackboard

Step Three – Paint the blackboard

Even though one side, or both depending on what type of blackboard you have, is already a blackboard, I’d still recommend a quick coat of paint to give it a nice finish. You could use masking tape around the edge to stop wayward strokes from catching the frame but I didn’t find this necessary. There’s always a risk with masking tape that you will pull the paint you’re trying to protect off, so I try to avoid it. If your blackboard is lying flat on the floor you’re painting downwards onto the board so it’s a nice angle, which should minimise the risk of your paintbrush catching the edge. Just do those bits nice and slowly.

I used a really small brush to carefully go around the edge of my board and then a much larger brush to cover the middle section more quickly. My blackboard does have brush strokes from this method but you can’t tell unless you look close up – especially not once you’ve added your decor/wording. If you wanted to avoid this you could try other applicators, like a sponge, but that’s just another thing to buy for a very minor difference in the overall outcome of your board.

If you’re painting the whiteboard side it’s a little tricky. You’ll need to apply multiple coats and you’ll need to let each coat completely dry before trying to do the next coat. Otherwise the semi-dry paint will peel and move around with your brush. Ideally I’d say leave yourself a few days and do one coat each day until you’re happy with the coverage.

If you do get a bit stroke happy and you end up getting blackboard paint onto your frame you can quickly wipe this off with a wet cloth or sponge. Just don’t press too hard or you could take of your paint!

First coat of black paint
The first coat of blackboard paint applied to the whiteboard side - It gets better!

Step Four – Adding your Lettering

Once the painting is finished, it’s time to add the lettering and design. There are a few different options you can choose to do this. The first, and potentially simplest, is to make or buy adhesive vinyl wording. They’re reasonably cheap and can be purchased quite readily online if you don’t have your own cutter, but it’s another expense to factor in so this is what I decided to do instead.

I did a quick google search for freely available floral designs which I thought might work nicely on my board and fonts which I also liked the look of. When I found something that I liked I downloaded it and opened it up in Word. I used an olive leaf ring and the word ‘Welcome’ for the front.

I knew that my IKEA board was roughly 4 pieces of A4 sized (2x2) so I enlarged my image so that a quarter filled the page and copied it 4 times. Each image was then cropped to leave one of those quarters, with a small overlap so that they could be accurately matched up once printed.

Once printed, I used sticky tape to hold the 4 quarters together, matching up the overlaps where required. I did the same with the "Welcome" text, but across two sheets of A4, conscious that it would need to fit inside my olive circle.

Starting with the olive ring I flipped the stuck together design over and used a white chalk stick to scribble all over the back of the paper. Take your time again with this step, I got a bit carried away and ended up ripping my paper.

Once chalked, flip your paper back over and position it on your blackboard where you want it to be. I just eyeballed mine into the centre but you can measure and mark with the chalk if you want it to be exact.  I used a piece of sticky tape on each edge to hold it in place and then carefully traced around the outline of the shape with a pencil. When the tracing is done the chalk will have marked your design onto your blackboard and you can remove the paper. Repeat this step for the wording.

Tip: When you remove the piece of paper I’d suggest doing it slowly from one edge and checking as you peel that you have actually traced the design on fully. I found with the olive ring that there were a couple of bits I had missed so rolled my design back down and traced over them.

To paint the chalked outline I used the white acrylic paint. You’ll need a really small paintbrush for this bit and it will likely take a few coats to get good coverage. If you accidentally smudge part of the paint (I'm left-handed!), you can always just touch it up with blackboard paint.

Chalked outline and the first coat of acrylic paint
Chalked outline and the first coat of acrylic paint at the top

Once you're done painting and your board is dry, use a wet sponge to remove the remaining chalk and give your design a polished feel.

Step Five – Decoration

Depending on your blackboard - You might want to decorate the chalk tray. It could hold some flowers, your favours or perhaps confetti.

I lined the base of the chalk tray with a floral decoupage paper and used different Guinness bottles with fairy lights for the decoration. I also looped some ribbons around the bar on the opposite side in my wedding colours. Finally, for some extra decoration at the top of the board I made my own bunting from oven bake clay (left over from when I made an oven bake clay cake topper) which I painted and fastened to the top of the board.

Wedding blackboard sign with decoration

This last step is really only limited by your imagination (and your budget I suppose...). I hope you found this post useful, and you use it to create your own wedding signs for your special day.

Finished wedding blackboard sign

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