Monday, November 17, 2014

Chalk Lettering — Part Two: Design & Layout

Welcome to Part Two of my guide to chalk lettering. If you missed it, check out Part One here where I talk about general tips and practice suggestions to get you started.

I'm sharing this guide, not as a chalk expert, but as an amateur myself — hoping what I've learned through my practice will be helpful to other newbies.

Chalk Lettering — tips, ideas, and techniques [part two] │

The following is the basic method of how I design and layout my chalk lettering. I'm sure there are other ways of doing it, but this is what I learned makes the most sense to me. In my experience, it helps to have a plan in place and take things in steps.

Figure Out What Phrase or Quote You Want to Chalk

Sometimes I already have something in mind of I want to say and sometimes I browse Pinterest or google quotes on a specific theme. I suggest you start with a shorter saying until you get the hang of things. Also keep in mind the size of your canvas when selecting your quote. If you have a whole wall, then you can go crazy with a long quote, but if you're just using a small canvas, keep it short and sweet.

I chose "I love the point when you are so tired that everything is funny" for my example.

Chalk Lettering — tips, ideas, and techniques [part two] │

Lay It Out On Paper

1. Write it out. Now's not the time to worry about handwriting or style — just get the words on the page.

2. Decide what shape you want to fill. If your canvas is rectangular and you want to fill the whole thing, then draw a rectangle. In my case, I thought a circle would be a nice shape for this particular short saying.

3. Think about which words are the most important and emphasize them. In my case, I wanted to emphasize "tired" and "funny." The most effective way to do that is to put them on their own line. Since I was working with a circle, I figured out that "tired" needed to be quite big and wide to fill the central spot. I then balanced the rest of the saying to fill my shape.

Chalk Lettering — tips, ideas, and techniques [part two] │

Select the Style of the Important Words

For my example, I already knew that I needed a big and wide style for "tired." I try to pair the mood of the saying with the style of the lettering, so I didn't want anything too frilly or serious. So I sketched out a few examples until I found something that I liked. Here also is not a time to try and letter the words perfectly, just do a rough sketch.

The top example wasn't bold enough and looked a little too thin, so I chose the second and wider choice. For the word "funny", I didn't like how the two "n's" can look like an "m" in the script. I almost liked the second sketch, but at the last minute decided to not shade in the bold downstrokes.

If you don't think you can come up with your own lettering style, pick out an appropriate font and try to copy that as closely as you can.

Chalk Lettering — tips, ideas, and techniques [part two] │

Draft It Up

Now we get to the chalk. Draw your shape and roughly sketch in the words, paying attention to scale. This sketch is not for style, but for size. To get things centered, I don't write from left to right, but start in the middle and work out.

Fill It In — Top to Bottom

Line by line, I erase the rough sketch and carefully chalk in my lettering. I start at the top because I usually end up accidentally smudging the lower lines as I go.

Chalk Lettering — tips, ideas, and techniques [part two] │

Embellish It

The last thing I do is embellish. For my example, I made the circle into a simple laurel wreath. I like to leave the embellishments until the end because they are of secondary importance to the words. I prefer to keep them rather simple too, which is a purely personal stylistic choice.

I'm intending to write a "part three" that talks more about embellishments and all those pretty little extras soon.

This is the method I used to design my fall chalk wall. Here's my initial sketch:

Chalk Lettering — tips, ideas, and techniques [part two] │

My chalk wall is tucked in a back corner of the hallway. Here's what it looked like in the end:

Chalk Lettering — tips, ideas, and techniques [part two] │

If you have any questions or comments, please reach out and comment below or email me!


  1. Thank you- just the inspiration and tips I needed! I just made a gallery wall with a round framed chalkboard in my dining room.

  2. What type of paper do you use? How do you seal the chalk once complete? Any you thought YOU were an amateur ;)

    1. Hi Amy! I chalk all my designs on chalkboard — not paper. I have a small chalkboard wall in my hallway and a chalkboard canvas (tutorial here:, which I used for this post.
      I don't seal any of my designs so that I can change them out seasonally. Some people use chalk pens which are more permanent, but I have never used them. I just use my dollar store chalk. :)

  3. Hi there!
    Would you consider making a chalk design template?

  4. So inspirational. Thank you for sharing!!

  5. Thank you very informative and right to the point


I'd love to hear what you have to say. All comments that are kind, helpful, and relevant are welcome.