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How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster

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IT’S HERE!  IT’S HERE!  I’ve finally written up a post detailing how to make a birthday chalkboard poster!  {*let the parade begin!*}  I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me asking for a tutorial….sorry it’s taken me so long, guys!  I just wanted to make sure it was very detailed and thorough.  Soooo, that means it’s a pretty long one too.  Ha! ;)

So what’s a mom to do when she wants a chalkboard poster for her son’s first birthday, but she doesn’t really love any of the ones for sale on Etsy??  Why, the answer is to make her own, of course!

How-to-Make-a-Birthday-chalkboard-Poster-Graphic

 

That’s how I came to creating these birthday chalkboards.  All the ones I saw online just weren’t quite to my liking (I am pretty picky), and none of them seemed to include all the information I wanted to share….my little dude is super cool and I wanted to display everything about him!

So one day before his party, I fired up Photoshop Elements and started cranking out my own.  I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I ended coming up with a method that worked well and a poster that was just what I wanted.  I did the whole thing again several months later and created a birthday chalkboard for my niece (hers was Classic Alice in Wonderland-themed).

Here I’ll walk you through how I make these birthday chalkboard posters….it’s really not that hard, so save your money and make your own!

 

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster

The Birthday Chalkboard Posters I’ve Created

Here are the two birthday chalkboard posters I’ve made so far.  My son’s party was dinosaur-themed, but I just decided to print out a black-and-white engineering print for it.  I later created a colored version matching the colors in his room as a keepsake for his baby book.  (Oh, and this is what I’ll be using for this tutorial.)

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

My niece’s poster was created for her Classic Alice in Wonderland-themed party….and it sure was nice making something with pink for a change! #lifeasmomofaboy

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

And here’s the one I made for her second birthday.  This one was zoo-themed!

Zoo-Themed Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Disclaimer: I am neither a professional graphic designer nor a tech wizard.  I’m just a complete amateur with an inkling for dabbling in all things creative, and I’ve happened to be fond of Photoshop ever since taking a Photography class in high school….which pretty much only involved slapping a filter on photos of my dog.

The following tutorial is just the self-taught way I make my birthday chalkboard posters….there may be easier/better/smarter ways to do it, but this works for me.  Hopefully it works for you, too!

 

Install Photoshop

I make my posters in one of my all-time favorite inanimate loves, Photoshop Elements.  It’s the just-as-awesome-but-waaaaay-cheaper version of full-fledge Photoshop.  You can of course use Big Daddy Photoshop (or any similar program….I’ve also written up a tutorial showing how you can use Preview to make a chalkboard poster on a Mac) and follow the same tips that are below, but this tutorial will walk you through the steps using Photoshop Elements.  Take the pieces that you need.

Also, please do NOT be intimidated by Photoshop!  I know it seems very scary when first diving into, but I promise it is very easy to use once you get the hang of it, which doesn’t take long.  Plus, there are tons of resources available online and how-to books and DVDs if you get stuck.

But the BEST PART is that making these types of posters in Photoshop is SOOOO EASY!  And I mean that.  After reading this tutorial, you will be amazed at how stinkin’ simple this is.

Adobe now provides several ways to purchase Photoshop: either buying the disc/instant download outright for Photoshop Elements (which is what I’ve done), buying it outright as part of a package with Premiere Elements, or purchasing a monthly subscription to full-fledge Photoshop alone or with Lightroom:

Note: For this tutorial, I’ll be referring to it as ‘Photoshop’ just to save some key strokes, but it’ll be of the Elements variety.  Also, I’m still running the dinosaur Version 11 instead of the current Version 13, so that’s what my directions and screenshots will depict.  I’m sure it’ll match pretty closely to the newer versions though (hopefully!).

 

Download TONS of Fonts

Before you start designing, I recommend downloading lots and LOTS of cool fonts.  Seriously, go on a download spree and grab yourself a bunch of fonts that look very chalkboard-esque or are cool handwritten ones.  Get lots of dingbats too (more on these below).  There are tons of great free ones available to download, or you can of course find some gorgeous ones to purchase.

If you need help on how to download and/or install fonts, check this out.

And you’re in luck because I’ve already compiled a bunch of my favorite free fonts to use with birthday chalkboards!

The Best Free Fonts for Birthday Chalkboard Posters! | Where The Smiles Have Been

Check these collections out too for even more inspiration!

Free Chalkboard Fonts 50 MORE Fabulous and Free Chalkboard Fonts Awesome Free Dingbat Fonts for Chalkboards

You can also make a font from your very own handwriting for free, too!

How-to-turn-your-handwriting-into-a-font-for-free-THUMB

 

I’ve also compiled a list of my favorite sites that offer awesome FREE digital resources!  High-quality fonts, SVGs, backgrounds, digital scrapbooking, Photoshop fun….it’s all covered here (and most include commercial rights too)!

Where to Find the Best FREE Digital Resources: Fonts, SVGs, Clip Art, & MORE! | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Get a High-Resolution Chalkboard Background

Ok, now that you’ve got all your fonts ready, you’ll need to find your chalkboard.  I’ve already written a full tutorial on how to find a nice chalkboard background for this purpose, so I’ll spare you the details here.

Once you find one to your liking, open it up in Photoshop and make sure you’re on the Expert screen (and don’t be intimidated by that name!).

When I start making one of these, I usually don’t know what final size I’ll wind up printing it out as, so I just leave the chalkboard as is and work with it at full size.  Then, once I have my poster designed, I’ll make any necessary cropping at the end before sending to print (more on all this below!).

[Note: For all of the below screenshots, you can click on them to open up a larger and easier-to-read image!]

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

The Main Tools

Photoshop is obviously a very powerful program with tons of capabilities, but for these posters, I just use a handful.  So, once again, YOU DON’T NEED TO BE AN EXPERT IN PHOTOSHOP TO MAKE ONE OF THESE POSTERS.  There….are you relaxed yet?  Sorry for all the shouty capitals. ;)

These are the main tools that I use for this type of project:

  • Move Tool: Used to move different layers/elements around and to resize and/or rotate them.
  • Shape Tool: I don’t use this one very often (I instead prefer to use dingbats….more on these below), but this is an easy way to add different shapes/lines.
  • Text Tool: This is the BIG KAHUNA of these prints and comprises about 99% of what you’ll use!
  • Layers: Not actually a tool, but this menu on the right side of the screen will list all the layers you add, so you’ll see all the Shape and especially Text Tool layers you create here.  It will not only show you what you have added, but also is what aligns elements on top of each other.

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Start Adding Text

The first item I always start out with is the kiddo’s name, and I like to make it HUGE and centered at the top.

To do this, I just select the Text Tool on the left and click on my chalkboard background, which allows me to start typing.  In the menu that pops up on the bottom, there are lots of options available to customize this text box:

  • Change the font, size, and/or color
  • Add emphasis by bolding, italicizing, underlining, and/or striking through it
  • Change alignment (centered or right-/left-aligned)
  • Change leading (if you have two or more lines of text within the same text box by hitting enter for a line break, this changes the amount of space between the lines.  You can see examples of this in the Favorites section of my son’s poster above.)
  • Make the text vertical instead of horizontal or warped (more on how to warp text below)

I usually don’t mess with any of the options to the left of these (you see all those little green and outlined T’s?).  You certainly can though if you want to get extra fancy!

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

KEEP Adding Text….Over and Over!

After I get the name up top, I usually then add a banner underneath, then I’ll start working my way down and around the chalkboard.  (Also, normally I leave everything white then change colors at the end, but for this tutorial I’ll go ahead and leave the final colors in to make everything easier to distinguish).

Using Dingbat Fonts: Like I mentioned above, I prefer using dingbat fonts as opposed to solely the Shape Tool.  You can see that the banner I’m using below is actually a font, too.  It’s what’s called a dingbat font, which uses special characters in place of the standard alphabetical/numeric set.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE using dingbat fonts, especially for these types of posters because they make embellishing the poster and adding non-text elements a breeze!  Once again, here are some of my favorite dingbats for chalkboards.  You could of course hand-draw all these elements in though if you have that kind of talent….I do not, so I take the Lazy Girl route! #noshame

Oh, and just to be clear: EVERYTHING on my son’s poster above is a font.  All the doodles, frames, brackets, dividers, banners….all of them are dingbats.  Pretty cool, huh?

Ok, back to this poster!  The font that I used to create this particular banner is called KG Flavor and Frames Five, and it is created by typing a “j.”  See, I type a regular keyboard character (a “j”), but since it’s a dingbat, that font’s assigned character (banner) is displayed instead.  Clear as mud??  Don’t worry, dingbats are not hard to use.

You’ll also notice that with each new piece of text/information you add, it creates a new layer off to the right.  You will end up with dozens and dozens of layers by the time you’re finished!

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Renaming Layers: The layers are named and will show whatever respective text you typed….this can be confusing when using a bunch of dingbat fonts and dozens of layers.  I usually end up renaming them with whatever they look like or represent, so in this case, I renamed it from “j” to “Birthday Banner.”  This is easily done by either double-/right-clicking on the layer’s name, typing in your new name, then hitting OK.

This step is not necessary, but it makes things MUCH simpler when moving and/or editing the layers down the line!

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

A Helpful Hint When Using Dingbats: When using a dingbat font, it can sometimes be rather time-consuming finding the character you’re looking for.

So, instead of just manually typing through all the keys on my keyboard trying to find the perfect item, I either use one of my favorite design tools to preview the fonts (I use this for non-dingbats too!), or I’ll check the character map that can usually be found on the font’s download page or in the .zip file it was downloaded in.  It just makes it much easier and faster to find what I’m looking for.

Preview All Fonts

 

Warping Text to Add Effects:

One of the cool abilities in Photoshop that you don’t have in Preview on a Mac is that you can warp the text in a variety of ways.  This allows for all kinds of neat effects instead of just having your text being horizontal or vertical all the time….how boring is that?!

In the example below, I warped the text “My First Birthday!” to match the shape of the birthday banner dingbat I just added.  To do this, I clicked on my text layer, selected the Warp Text Tool at the center bottom, chose the Flag style from the drop-down menu, adjusted the bend slider bar until the text matched the banner’s shape, then clicked OK.  BOOM!  Instant interest.

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Other Ways to Edit Layers

To Rotate an Element: If you don’t want to warp an element but still don’t want it to be horizontal or vertical, you can rotate or spin it to create a cool angle.

Just click on it so a box appears around it, then click on and hold one of the small corner boxes (your mouse will turn into a little semi-circle line with two arrowheads on either end….it doesn’t appear in the animation below, but it’s there….I also don’t know why this animation is looking all wonky….), and while holding your mouse down, rotate the element to the angle you want.  Then just click and drag it to its final position.

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Use the Effects Menu: I don’t use this one too often with these projects, but there are tons of easy effects you can add with the Effects Menu, which is located in the lower right corner next to the Layers Menu.  Select Styles at the top and you’ll see there’s a dropdown menu with all the different kinds of effects.  For this type of project, I usually stick with the Strokes options, which are outlines (you can see them there as the squares with the black outlines around them).

It’s sometimes fun to add a colored outline to a shape or font, like I did for the corner Alice in Wonderland pictures on my niece’s poster.

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

And That’s How You Design a Birthday Chalkboard Poster!

Soooo, those are the basics!  Yep, that’s basically all you need to do to make one of these bad boys.  Told ya it was easy! :)

It’s really only finding fonts and a chalkboard, then adding in a whole bunch of text and just filling in the chalkboard with any and all the information you want to include about your little lad or lady.  That’s it.  No special Graphic Designer education needed.

From there, I just start adding in all my info with lots (and LOTS!) of different layers.  Along the way, layers get moved and resized (using the Move Tool), warped, recolored, etc.

 

***UPDATE: How to Make a Birthday Banner***

I’ve since added a new post on how to make a birthday banner for a chalkboard poster as part of my All Things Chalkboard series.  Be sure and check that out too!

How to Make a Birthday Banner for a Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Cropping Your Poster for Printing

Now that my final poster design is complete, I’ll then go in and crop it to its required printing dimensions.  Here’s a handy guide for determining ideal and minimum sizes for printing.

If I need to move the information so it doesn’t get chopped off from the cropping, but I still want to keep its proportions and spacing, I’ll select all the layers at once then resize them as one element (by using the same method described in the part above talking about how to rotate an element….but instead of spinning it, I’ll drag a corner box to resize it).

Then I’ll select the Crop Tool, and either choose a pre-sized option, or use the Custom option and type in my own width and height numbers.  You can also plug in a resolution size here, too (usually you want at least 300 for printing).  Depending on the final size, some elements may need to be moved a bit after the background is cropped.

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Saving Your Poster

I always like to save my file as two different versions.  The first is as a Photoshop .psd file (with ‘Save Layers’ checked), which keeps all your layers separate so you can go back in and make edits if needed (or if you’re constantly changing your mind like me!).

I’ll save my file as a .psd version at the start and then keep saving throughout the design process.  Then once I’m ready to print, I’ll save it as a .jpeg.

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Printing Your Poster

You can of course print your poster at pretty much any size, using a home printer or sending it off to a store.  Normal letter-sized or smaller prints would be nice as keepsakes in a baby book, and I think BIG poster prints are great for parties or photoshoots.

 

Tips for Making Birthday Chalkboard Posters Look AWESOME!

Here are a few more tips I’ve got for making these babies.  It’s all really personal preference though, so make something you’re happy with!:

  • More is MORE!  Unlike regular, non-chalkboard prints, these guys look great when filled in and covered with information.  Don’t worry about having a lot of negative or blank space (*cue Taylor Swift*).  Instead, cover that puppy up with tidbits about your little one!
  • Go Font Crazy!  Same premise here…. You don’t need to stick with just a handful of fonts like you would want to with a regular print.  Add a bunch, mix them up, change their colors, and get wild with your designing self!
  • Use Dingbat Fonts!  Like I talked about above, they are such an easy way to embellish your print.
  • To Color or Not to Color?  These posters look great as a classic black board with white chalk, or you can add some color to match your child’s party.  I’ve done both!
  • Photos & Clip Art are Cool Too! You don’t have to stop with just fonts/dingbats.  Feel free to add clipart or other pictures (i.e. if your child LOVES Mickey Mouse, add an image of him too).  I did this with my niece’s Alice in Wonderland poster.  You can even include a real photo of your tiny tot!
  • Not Just for BIRTHDAYS! Nope, some of these same concepts can be applied for other occasions too in a variety of ways, including posters, signs, invitations, announcements, thank you cards, etc.
    • First Day of School
    • Graduation
    • Wedding
    • Bridal/Baby Shower
    • Pregnancy/Adoption Announcement
    • Christmas Cards
    • “We’ve Moved” Cards
    • Home Decor/Holiday Prints
    • Classroom Posters

How to Make a Birthday Chalkboard Poster | Where The Smiles Have Been

Phew, that was a DOOZY!!  Thanks for sticking with me. ;)  I hope it all makes sense.  If not, please let me know and I’ll do my best to provide more detail!

 

All Things Chalkboard: The Series!

All The Chalkboard: The Series | Where The Smiles Have Been

If I tried to include every. single. detail. here, this tutorial would be a mile long!  And since I seem to really like writing posts about making chalkboard posters, I’ve started a series called All Things Chalkboard!

 

More Chalkboard Fun!

Here are some other fun (non-birthday) chalkboard goodies I’ve shared, and be sure to check out my Project Gallery for everything else!

Sibling Pregnancy Announcement Chalkboard Sign | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

DIY Thankful Chalkboard | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

DIY First Day of School Chalkboard Sign Photo Prop | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

How To Make Your Own Chalkboard Poster on a Mac

 

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