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How do the chalk artists do it?
September 12, 2006 11:20 AM   Subscribe

At my current place of employ, I have an ever-changing list that I think would look cool on a chalk board. However, I don't like how chalk leaves behind that white haze after you erase something, and I've never been able to acheive the nice solid color that you see at the local coffee shop or Trader Joe's. What are the secrets of a chalk artist?

Mainly: how do I get nice vibrant, solid colors? They almost look like pastels at the coffee shop I frequent. Is there a special kind of chalk that's better than the run-of-the-mill $0.99 box from Staples? And since the list will be changed on a regular basis, how do I avoid the dreaded white haze from continual erasings? Any other tips or pointers would be greatly appreciated. CHALK ON! sorry, that was corny
posted by c:\awesome to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
A wet rag after an eraser should eliminate the haze.
posted by penchant at 11:23 AM on September 12, 2006


Actually, many of those chalk signs you see hanging around grocery stores, coffee shops, etc. arrive pre-printed from the home office. All part of the corporate identity.

Beyond that, there are many high-quality artist chalks that will leave the sort of vibrant look you want.

Penchant is correct about cleaning the board, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:27 AM on September 12, 2006


Just water, or do you need some sort of cleaning agent mixed in?
posted by c:\awesome at 11:32 AM on September 12, 2006


If you mean this sort of thing, don't they use pens with some kind of paint as ink, rather than actual chalk?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:32 AM on September 12, 2006


Go shopping.
posted by Sallysings at 11:39 AM on September 12, 2006


I work at a certain coffee chain that you've probably heard of. We use these. They still can be tricky to clean. A wet towel followed by a dry one, repeated maybe once or twice more usually works ok. Still, when you look up close, you can see faint images of old designs.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:45 AM on September 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


Funny, I was just marveling at the TJ's signs last night... Trader Joe's signs don't come from the home office -- they're made in each store by a local Hawaiian-shirted employee who happens to have some talent. (Or so my local TJ's tells me.) The Starbucks chalk isn't the same as TJ's -- my guess is that TJ's uses pastels or more likely Conte Crayons to get that soft, flocked effect. Conte is like chalk mixed with pastel -- the softness and luminence comes from the oil content (pastel = more, Conte = less, blackboard chalk = none, which is why you can erase it). There is thick colored chalk out there that has good color and coverage, but the erasing situaution is about the same. (Also, fyi, big chalkboards weigh a ton.)

My possibly goofy suggestion: Get a black-colored whiteboard and those colored (often fluorescent) dry-erase markers they use at the other coffee chains...
posted by turducken at 11:59 AM on September 12, 2006


Water works fine for cleaning up after changes.

Also, though, realize that if the board is anywhere that people get near it, it will smudge. The really nice fancy ones you see are sprayed with a sealant so they can't be smudged. But it means they also can't be changed.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:01 PM on September 12, 2006


I got talking to the chalk artist in my local pub recently, and he soaked his (ordinary, standard) chalk in 7-Up to achieve that deep vibrant colour. Can't help with the erasing I'm afraid.
posted by punilux at 12:06 PM on September 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


Water :O
posted by chunking express at 12:30 PM on September 12, 2006


Actually, many of those chalk signs you see hanging around grocery stores, coffee shops, etc. arrive pre-printed from the home office.

Not around here, they're not. I can't think of the last time I saw a fake chalkboard in San Francisco.
posted by jjg at 12:32 PM on September 12, 2006


Buy non-oil pastels from the art supply store and use a damp cellulose sponge to clean it up. Also I'm assuming you are using a slate chalk board?
posted by JJ86 at 12:58 PM on September 12, 2006


I'm confused... I always heard that using water on a chalkboard looks nice for one day but ruins it afterward.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:17 PM on September 12, 2006


you dont want to drench the chalkboard, just wipe the board with a damp towel and follow with a dry towel, careful not to smudge any leftover residue but this helps prevent any water damage on the board. afterwards you can use regular chalk in bright colors and it will show up nicely, chalk ink pins will come out even nicer though.
posted by trishthedish at 1:40 PM on September 12, 2006


I'm confused... I always heard that using water on a chalkboard looks nice for one day but ruins it afterward.

I cleaned (with water) many a chalkboard during my elementary school career. Never ruined one.
posted by clh at 2:01 PM on September 12, 2006


jacquilynne writes "Also, though, realize that if the board is anywhere that people get near it, it will smudge. The really nice fancy ones you see are sprayed with a sealant so they can't be smudged. But it means they also can't be changed."

A quick spray of shellac would seal the chalk but could still be removed with a little alcohol on a cloth.
posted by Mitheral at 2:03 PM on September 12, 2006


If they're those fake, laminated-particle board chalkboards, then they can be ruined with excess water. But if they're real slate, then you're not going to ruin them.

And yeah, the real solution is to get a box of artist's chalk. It comes in deep, vibrant colors, from poppy red-orange to dark violet to lime green. Then wet the chalk and/or the surface before using, to ensure thicker coverage. That's how we did it in art class back in elementary school.
posted by limeonaire at 2:04 PM on September 12, 2006


TeacherHack:
On a regular chalkboard, always wash the board to get rid of streaks and ensure a clean board.

To Prevent Chalk Smudging (without sealing the board).
If you write on the board with regular chalk -while it is wet-, the chalk will dry and stick to the board. If you use a dry eraser, it will not come off. Use a wet cloth to remove.
posted by billy_the_punk at 4:01 PM on September 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


When I was at [redacted national coffee chain] everything was done in the store by whoever was willing to do it using paint pens on blackboards. It was a water-soluble paint that came in a five pack (white, yellow, blue, magenta, and green if I remember correctly). The pens had firm felt bullet-style tips that needed to be depressed to get the paint flowing and they had a noisy slider on the inside to shake up the paint(like the ball in a can of spray paint). We cleaned them off with a damp cloth, some colors would require two or three cleanings until it was completely gone.

I can't remember the brand or find anything like it with a quick search in online art store catalogs. gauchodaspampas' suggestion looks closest to what we used every day, or you could try something like this or this.

If you are willing to give it a try, next time you see a board you like, discreetly swipe your finger on the board and see if the art smears. If so, it is a chalk or pastel, if not it is a water-soluble paint (they only smear on the board or your finger when they get wet). Ask the an employee what they use if you like the colors. Get the name of the product and go to a real art and ask if they can get it for you or something close.
posted by peeedro at 6:58 PM on September 12, 2006


Or try going to a real art supply store. They are staffed with people who love to help you find what you are looking for.
posted by peeedro at 7:04 PM on September 12, 2006


With all the griping about chalk (not vibrant, dusty, doesn't erase well) I second the vote to just forget about a chalkboard altogether and go for a black dry-erase board (a "black whiteboard") with markers. Instead of chalkboard paint (which is just very matte regular paint) use dry-erase paint (which is just very glossy regular paint).

I did this in my kitchen -- painted black board, fluorescent dry-erase markers, similar reasons. I also like the fact I can use markers, like those for overhead transparencies, that are much thinner/finer than chalk.
posted by rokusan at 3:13 AM on December 12, 2006


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