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Keep Calm Painted Canvas “Chalkboard” Tutorial

I recently shared my latest DIY for the classroom project: a chalkboard inspired painted canvas sign that reads “Keep Calm and Let Them Play.” When the Keep Calm craze swept across the internet last year, those two words became my mantra. Every time I felt overwhelmed or stressed I reminded myself to “Keep Calm, Keep Calm, Keep Calm…” I was surprised to feel it actually having a calming effect.

Thank you to Michaels for sponsoring this blog post. I received payment, trade and/or products from Michaels in exchange for promoting. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links, which helps to support the blog.

chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial

This year I intend to keep that philosophy alive in my classroom during my students’ daily playtime. When the children play inside of the classroom, the noise level rises and it takes my blood pressure up with it. I am not a fan of loud noises and inside play time is often my least favorite part of the day as a result. My students don’t even get THAT loud, but it’s loud enough to case me stress. I intend to display this sign somewhere prominent in the classroom to remind me of the importance of play in child development and to help me keep my cool during those wound-up moments of play.

Now that you know the story of why I NEED this sign in my classroom, here is the step-by-step tutorial of HOW I created my chalkboard-inspired sign.

Gather Supplies

I created this project by applying acrylic paint to canvas. I love the chalkboard look, but I wanted to have something permanent in my classroom that couldn’t be erased on accident. I used craft smart paint from Michaels in the following colors: white, black, bright yellow, ocean breeze, apple tart and bright pink. I also created stencils by cutting clear contact paper letters on a Cricut using the Opposites Attract cartridge. The canvas was a 18×24″ Artists Loft product. I also used ArtMinds foam brushes, scissors and small paper plates (as my painting palette) on this project.
supplies for creating a chalkboard-inspired painted canvas sign

The Tutorial

The first step was painting the canvas. I started by covering the entire canvas with black paint. It took 2 coats of black paint to have it sink into all of the nooks and crannies of the canvas weave.
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
Once the layer of black paint had dried, I wanted to give the canvas a little depth. I created the effect of white chalk dust on the painting by mixing a little white paint into a fresh dollop of black paint. I left the outside edges completely black and added a slightly grey border a few inches from the edge. The closer I moved to the center, the more white I added to to my mixing palette. A little bit of white paint goes a long way and I wanted the difference to be subtle, so I added the white paint sparingly. I kept blending, and blending, and blending.
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
After I had a nice grey starburst effect, I took the sponge brush and randomly smeared the wet paint in every direction because I didn’t want it to look too “perfect.”

While I waited for the grey paint to dry, I got to work creating my stencils. I used a Cricut cutter and the Opposites Attract cartridge to cut out a stencil of each word for my sign. The words “Keep Calm And Let Them” were cut to be 4″ tall. The word “Play” is 7″. The words were cut into Contact paper (you know how much I love the stuff) so the stencil would temporarily adhere to the canvas and not move while I painted the letters.
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
Once the words were cut out, I arranged the stencils on my painted canvas.
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
Then I carefully peeled each stencil and adhered them to the canvas.
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
I did this on a very HOT and HUMID day and moisture in the air was working against me. It took some patience and gentle pressure to get a good seal on each piece. You can see a few of the places it tried to curl in the photo.
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
I squired a little white paint onto one of my trusty paper plates and used a foam brush to dab each letter. I avoided making brush strokes because I didn’t want any paint to bleed under the Contact paper.
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
I added a pop of bright colors when I painted the word PLAY.
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
I am officially obsessed with these colors!
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
After the painting was complete, all that remained was peeling the Contact paper and waiting for the big reveal!
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
I was so nervous that the paint had bled under the Contact paper, I swear I held my breath as I slowly peeled the first stencil from the canvas. Thankfully, each letter was painted beautifully.
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
When I was done, I had a pile of sticky painted contact paper.
Even the garbage from this project was pretty!
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
My completed masterpiece! I can’t wait to hang this in my classroom.
chalkboard-inspired painted canvas tutorial
I created my chalkboard-inspired canvas as a fun back-to-school project in collaboration with Michaels #create2educate sweepstakes! Share your own classroom projects for back to school on Instagram with hashtags #create2educate and #sweepstakes for your chance to win a $50 Michaels gift card!
#create2educate sweepstakes
Complete information about the #create2educate sweepstakes can be found here.

You’ll also want to become a follower of @Kindercraze and @MichaelsStores on Instagram!
Alright everybody, I’m off to go get sweaty at school so I can get my classroom ready for this cute new sign!

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Maria Gavin

Maria is a former kindergarten and first grade teacher, with 13 years of teaching experience. Her love and passion for all things early childhood is now fulfilled as a mom to two amazing kids. She loves sharing practical and creative tips and ideas that are perfect for young learners – in the classroom or at home!

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15 Responses

  1. Maria….I love, love, love this!! Your instructions are so clear I think even I could follow them! I know how important play is for Kindergarteners. When and how do you fit it into your schedule?

    Terri Izatt

    1. Hi Terri. I’m so glad you found the tutorial easy to follow. My kids usually play for 15 minutes a day. We only go outside when the weather is nice because it takes too long to bundle them up in warm clothes during Michigan winters. It is TOUGH to fit everything in. Fortunately, my principal whole-heartedly believes in the value of play as well.

  2. I teach middle school but have a kindergartener of my own. Sometimes, it is really difficult to remember that these hulking 8th graders who have their first chin whiskers were once 5. I may need to make this JUST to remind myself! =D

  3. I love it, Maria! It turned out gorgeous and the sentiment behind it is a very important one. Whenever I am consulting to an early childhood classroom, it is common for a teacher to be apologetic about the noise level when kids are playing. I always tell them I think it is the MOST delightful sound. It is exactly what I want to hear…wild, unabandoned play. It does a soul good. Anything less would make me raise an eyebrown. Your sign is perfect!

    Wendy =)

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Hi, I'm Maria.

I’m a former kindergarten teacher turned work-from-home mom. I still love sharing ideas and resources to make teaching easier, so you can focus on what really matters in the classroom. When I’m not working on the blog, you’ll find me chasing kids around the house with a cold cup of coffee in my hand (some things never change even once you’re out of the classroom!)


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