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  • Writer's pictureKeith Tribe

Barn board and chalk, hand in hand

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

This month I thought it might be nice to walk through the other side of Rustic Works, which focuses on custom and retail chalkboard signs! To do this, I’ve had my other two team members step in to help with this post. My son Matt and his wife Amy are the behind the scenes chalkboard producers that create the beautiful signs you see posted as well as various signs I supply retailers with.

One thing to point out is that true chalkboard artists use a variety of paint pens and chalk to basically free hand some incredible work. Someone like Elise Goodhoofd ( is a great example of someone who is very different from us. I always like to highlight other artists and their work especially when it’s someone I’ve collaborated with. I supply frames and painted chalkboard blanks to Elise for her custom chalkboard work, and she does an incredible job with it! Her stuff is well worth checking out!

For our end of things, we use a combination of graphic design, vinyl stenciling and paint to create what you see. The process starts much like any other Rustic Works project; someone looking for a design or an idea contacts me and we begin looking at how we can create it. Amy is our design guru, where she will take an idea and transform it into the final on screen masterpiece that we send as a proof to the client.

 Whether it's Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape, we work with all kinds of file types to get the job done!

Once we have approval, Matt steps in with the vinyl work. The printer is loaded with the correct size of vinyl for the job, and then the file is cut. Once the design is cut, Matt goes to work prepping the vinyl to be put on the chalkboard (that I have previously painted with high quality chalk paint).

The first step is weeding the vinyl. Weeding is the term used for removing the parts of the stencil that will be filled with paint on the surface. Once this is complete, Matt cuts a sheet of transfer paper, which has an adhesive on one side that will “transfer the vinyl” to the chalkboard.

 At this point, Matt and Amy will often cut and prep many different stencils depending on the order I’ve sent to them. Once it’s time to put the stencil on the chalkboard, they remove the transfer paper along with the vinyl from the vinyl backing. Next up is sticking the vinyl to the board, re-positioning if needed, and then rolling the vinyl out to ensure it sticks well. Once the vinyl is down, the transfer paper is carefully removed and the stencil is all that’s left!

Now that the stencil is all prepped, Amy and Matt get to work painting. They use a variety of different paints, and depending on the needs of the client we choose the appropriate paint. We use professional grade acrylic, as well as weatherproof paint. When a sign needs to be weatherproof, we have metal signs that are powder coated. These will obviously not work with chalk like a chalkboard but give the same dramatic look of the black board against the barn board.

We haven’t included any pictures of the painting since we like to consider the painting methods a Rustic Works trade secret! You’ll just have to use your imagination!

Once the painting is done, we carefully peel away the stencil, and use very fine tip tweezers to remove the bits left over (inside of O’s and A’s etc). Once this is done, the sign is left to cure and voila! Ready to be framed!

 (Making sure to get all the little bits out with the tweezers!)

You’ll see a bunch of finished signs as well as some finished products below! Amy has a great eye for design detail. As you can see, each sign, even if it’s part of a large order of the same design (various drinks and cocktail signs) or a fully custom job go through the same process one by one. It’s time consuming and very detailed work.

I call these two my dynamic duo since they both have full time jobs, and do all of this after work into the evenings. I’ve picked up chalkboards from them mid order and their cozy living room will be a vinyl, design, painting production room, and back to a cozy living room the next day!  Rustic Works is myself, Keith, with the frames, but as a company we are a family both literally and figuratively, and you know...I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Do you have an idea for a chalkboard sign? Maybe a family name for the cottage, or a fun saying you share with friends? Wedding signs, anniversary signs, gifts, and fun home decor can all be designed, cut and painted! You send us the details, we create it, paint it, frame it. Email me today at to get started!  

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