Sidewalk chalk messages of gratitude and hope are showing up in neighborhoods everywhere. And that inspired our writers and artists to write and letter their own. Soon, their words started appearing in driveways and on sidewalks all over Kansas City…and we hope their ideas and tips will inspire you to try it, too.
How to create sidewalk chalk messages
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
For your drawing
Crayola Chalk: either Sidewalk Chalk (big pieces) or Drawing Chalk (little pieces)
Charcoal from the grill (Eric B. recommends it for a true, dark black)
Cheap hair spray (as a fixative to make it last a little longer)
For making grids and lines
Tape measure or yardstick
For touch-up and cleanup
Sponge or towels and a pail of water
Baby wipes (for your hands)
For your comfort
Knee pads or kneeling pad
Small chair or stool
To take pictures
Mobile phone or camera
Drone (expert level)
How to plan your chalk lettering design
All of our artists started with a list of sidewalk chalk messages from Hallmark’s Creative Writing Studio (this post features writing by Meghan C., Eric B., Lauren G., and Bill G.); they chose their favorites and started planning. Each one made some kind of sketch:
Cory S. (Kindness is magical): I sketched in an app called Procreate with the Apple Pencil. I kept my composition simple to make translating the drawing from the device to the ground a little easier. When I free-hand, I like to draw myself some guides—a line for the top and bottom of my lettering. They can be a semi-circle, a wavy line, or an angle going up or going down. The guides can help make the composition more dynamic and easier to draw. Drawing the line for top and bottom gives you a boundary to work within and shows you where to start and stop.
Chris R. (Look for grace everywhere): I measured out the mural area and created a Photoshop document proportional to it. Then I added a grid and printed out a copy to guide application using the grid method.
Josh S. (Apart but never alone): I sketched my design out on my iPad Pro using the Procreate app, then laid a grid over my design in Photoshop.
Allie S. (Hey, you! Yes, you. With the delivery. You’re amazing. Thank you!): I took a photo of the sidewalk leading up to my house and then did a quick sketch over it on my iPad. You could also print out a photo of your space and draw over with a marker or pencil and tracing paper. I kept my sketch pretty loose and in black and white and decided on color as I went with the chalk.
Eric B. (Do little things with big love and Wishing you, health, happiness and toilet paper): I planned my project by first gathering up my chalk and figuring out what colors I had the most of. Next, I made a half dozen roughs of my quotes.
Swipe some lettering tips and handwritten fonts from this free printable download.
Tips and ideas for creating a sidewalk chalk message
To scale their sidewalk chalk messages from the screen or print to the concrete, artists marked grids and guides with tape measures and chalk lines or masking tape, and sketched in their lettering box by box or line by line.
Lettering with Crayola’s sidewalk chalk was new for most, so they shared a few tips and ideas with us:
From Allie S.:
- I would look at my sketch before creating the outline of each word bubble—this helped me figure out the scale in the space. Next, I would roughly write in the outline of each word, one at a time, within the bubble. The final step was going over and adding weight and really filling in the lettering.
- I liked not having a color plan, it was nice to just choose another piece of chalk that I hadn’t used yet and then balance between the ones I was using for each word bubble. You don’t have to use one color for a whole word—try switching up the chalk within a word.
- Try layering your chalk. I added highlights in a few spots with a lighter color of chalk and it worked great.
From Cory S.:
- I keep my sketch on hand at all times and reference it throughout the drawing. It’s also good to step back and assess from a distance—especially when you’re working on something so large.
- When working on a concrete surface, wear some knee pads and gloves. Rubbing your fingers on the surface to shade is a must and can hurt if you don’t have gloves (trust me—I know).
From Eric B.:
- I made a quick pass over my driveway with a broom and began to lay out my drawing. I didn’t want to grid my drawing out or make it too precise—I thought it’d have more life to it if I were to just wing it.
- Even though I illustrate every day for my job, I can’t remember when or if I’ve ever created a chalk drawing on a driveway. I made a few rookie mistakes. First of all, I made my drawing way too large. As I began filling in the color, I immediately realized I was going to need every piece of pink and red chalk I had to fill in the heart.
- I chose to add a drop shadow to the lettering to help it pop off of the surface. Initially, I used a gray drop shadow, but it didn’t really have the pop I wanted. I improvised using some charcoal from my grill and it worked surprisingly well.
From Josh S.:
I laid a grid over my design in Photoshop and lightly drew grid lines on my driveway to get a rough idea for the placement of the lettering. If you want really solid colors, you may have to go over an area multiple times with short strokes to get into cracks and crevasses.
Something else to try: Cut paper letters for a window
Jordan W. used scissors, paper, pencils, glue, acrylic paint and brushes, and wall-safe tape to create cut-paper lettering for his front window. Here’s how she did it:
- I took a picture of my window on my iPad and planned out my lettering on there. Then I measured roughly how big my three different sizes of letters would be.
- From my iPad drawing, I calculated how many pieces of paper I would need of each color, then painted all the paper.
- The next day I sketched out my letters and cut them out.
- Then I laid out and taped my lettering to my window.
- The wall-safe tape was great—it didn’t leave any residue at all. I had my lettering up for a couple of days, and because we are in Kansas in the spring, the temperatures change a lot. So some of the bigger, heavier letters would fall overnight when it got cold but would re-stick pretty easily in the morning.
Something else to try: Paint a door
Kelsey D. used acrylic paint (mixed with a little dish detergent for easy removal), paint brushes and washi tape (to make guide lines on the other side of the glass) for her quote: Plant smiles. Grow Happy. Her steps:
- I thought about the color palette, then laid out a sketch in Procreate.
- Next, I lightly sketched out where the words would go, then just went for it.
- Considering I was making do with the supplies I had at home, I had to let go of perfectionism and accept that the paint was kind of going to do what it wanted…and that it would have some “artistic flair.”
Sometimes the only message you need is one word. See how our lettering artists interpreted the word LOVE.
Enjoying your sidewalk chalk message
Part of the fun for our artists was watching people react to their sidewalk chalk messages—sometimes as they were working. Writers, illustrators, and lettering artists for cards rarely get to see reactions to what they create, so seeing people get all the feels was a nice little bonus.
Eric B.: As a novice sidewalk chalk artist, I have to say my results were not exactly as I had expected—but nothing beats drawing outdoors on a beautiful spring day. I ended up having a really good chat—from six feet away—with my mail carrier and a kid riding by on his bike just gave me a thumbs up and said “cool.” I loved that.
Kelsey D.: Doing normal activities (e.g. painting) in abnormal ways (e.g. on your front door) can add some fun to everyday things.
Allie S.: I saw one delivery worker take a photo after dropping off a box at my front door, which was really cool.
Jordan W.: It was really lovely to take a break and work with my hands for a couple of days. I always enjoy working with cut paper too, because the style lends itself to imperfections. It takes the pressure off of creating something perfect and lets you just make.
Josh S.: It was really cool to look out my window and see people out on their walks stopping to take pictures. I hope it made someone’s day just a little bit brighter.