Design a Realistic Chalkboard in Photoshop


Overview of the Tutorial

It’s impressive how quick and simple it is to create realistic drawings in Photoshop through the use of textures, layers and gradients. This tutorial explores some of these techniques while designing a realistic chalkboard.

The Files



Step 1

Fire up Photoshop and create a new document (I sized mine at 1000×609). Now we need to a background for the chalkboard. Create a dark-green to mid-green radial gradient and fill the background layer with it.



Step 2

Now let’s dirty up the board a bit by adding some noise. Click ‘Filter->Noise->Add Noise’. Change the amount to 1.6%, the distribution to uniform, and make sure monochromatic is checked.



Step 3

In the next few steps we’re going to work on the wooden frame for the chalkboard. In an effort to create it in only a few steps, I decided to use the Fibers filter. I couldn’t find a setting within the filter to change the direction of the fibers, so I created each part of the frame in a separate document, and then placed them into the original chalkboard image.

First off, we’ll make the top part of the frame. Create a new document that’s the same height as the original chalkboard document’s width. Set the width for what you’d like the width of the frame to be. For my tutorial, my original document was 1000×609 so my new document for the top part of the frame is 45×1000. Change your foreground color to a very light gray and your background color to a dark gray. Then click ‘Filter->Render->Fibers’. Change the Variance to something around 3 and the Strength to around 21. Then rotate the document by clicking ‘Image->Image Rotation->90 Degrees CW’.



Step 4

We then need to add some color into our wood grain so click ‘Image->Adjustments->Hue/Saturation. Check on colorize, then change the settings to something around: Hue to 19, Saturation to 33 and Brightness to -20.


Step 5

Add some noise to the wood by clicking ‘Filter->Noise->Add Noise’. Make the amount 1%. Then with the move tool selected, click and drag the top frame to the original chalkboard drawing to place it there. Move it into the correct position. You should have something like what is pictured below.


Step 6

Repeat these steps for the other 3 borders, until you have a simple wood frame. Place the frame layers in an order so that the left and right sides are at the top.


Step 7

Highlight all the wood frame layers, then right click and choose ‘Merge Layers’. Double click on your newly merged layer to bring up the Layer Style window. Add a drop shadow and an inner glow with the following settings.




Step 8

Now that we have a frame, let’s bring our focus back to the chalkboard; it needs to be a little more grungy and textured. I used the Grunge Corner Brush Pack to help me accomplish that. Download that set or use a favorite that you already have. Add a new layer between the background layer and wooden frame layer. Use the eye dropper tool to sample the darkest green color, then paint the four corners with a little grunge in that color. Lower your opacity on this layer to something around 40%.



Step 9

Let’s add a little more color variance to the chalkboard background. Add a new layer above the grunge corners. Change your foreground color to black and your background color to white. Then click ‘Filter->Render->Clouds’. Now blur those clouds by clicking ‘Filter->Blur->Motion Blur’. Change the Angle to 18 and the Distance to 100. Lastly, change that layer’s blend mode to ‘Multiply’ and the opacity to around 30%.



Step 10

In the next two steps I wanted to add the feel of old eraser marks on the board. So create a new layer above the cloud grunge you made in the previous step. Grab the brush tool and set it to the ‘Watercolor Loaded Wet Flat Tip’ brush. Change the brush color to black and the brush opacity to around 30%. Make a bunch of strokes as if you were erasing the board. Release the brush periodically then go over areas again, to darken some areas more than others. Lastly, lower the opacity on the layer itself to around 10%.




Step 11

Add another layer and repeat the same techniques as the last step, but this time make the brush color white and the layer opacity around 5%. You will end up with a result like the one below.


Step 12

Grab a cool hand-written font for the writing. I’m using a font called Christopher Hand. Write a couple of large words on the board. These will serve as some old writings on the board that weren’t quite erased fully. Drop the opacity of your text layers to around 2%.


Step 13

Think of something clever to write on the board with a hand-written font. This time change the layer opacity to 70%. Then grab some of your favorite grunge brushes. I’m using Subtle Grunge Textures and Effects from Function for my design. Add a layer mask by clicking ‘Layer->Layer Mask->Reveal All’. Then, with a black grunge brush, paint on the mask layer to reveal some of the board underneath. This will help give the impression of the inconsistency that chalk creates. Be careful not to overdo the effect.



Step 14

I thought the chalkboard would benefit from a little depth and perspective so I added a couple of extra design elements. First off, design a bottom ledge where some chalk and an eraser could reside. Use the same wood techniques you learned before. Be sure to add a drop shadow and outer glow.


Step 15

To design the eraser, grab the rounded rectangle tool and draw a small rectangle with an edge radius of 1px. Now convert the object to a smart object by clicking ‘Layer->Smart Object->Convert To Smart Object’. This will give you the flexibility to alter the filters we are going to add. First off, add some variation of light and dark by changing your colors to black and white, and clicking ‘Filter->Render->Difference Clouds’.


Step 16

The eraser still needs some help with light and texture so I decided to add a couple more filters. First click ‘Filter->Brush Strokes->Sprayed Strokes’. Then click ‘Filter->Noise->Add Noise’. Refer to the images below for suggestions on the settings you can use. Remember the good thing about working with smart objects is you can always go back and alter your filter settings later.




Step 17

With the bottom of the eraser complete, it’s time to work on the top portion. Select the rounded rectangle tool again and draw a dark gray shape above the bottom of the eraser. Just like in the previous step, convert this shape to a smart object, then add a little noise.


Step 18

In an effort to keep the consistency of the light source be sure to add a slight drop shadow to both layers of the eraser. You should now have something similar to the image below.


Step 19

To polish of the chalkboard I added a couple of pieces of chalk by using very similar techniques to how I created the eraser. Here is my final result.


Final Thoughts

That’s a wrap for this tutorial. It’s awesome how simple it is to create a realistic drawing with just a couple of filters, brushes and gradients. I hope you learned a few tricks along the way. Drop me a comment below, and let me know what you thought of this tutorial.

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