How to Do a Chalky Look in Photoshop

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Simulating chalk on a chalkboard is easier than you think.
Image Credit: Sergey Nivens/iStock/Getty Images

When you create digital compositions in Adobe Photoshop for your company's design projects, you can simulate the look of a classic classroom blackboard or greenboard and then add drawing or writing to it using Photoshop's Brush tool. Using the program's stock brush tips to simulate the interaction of chalk with writing surface may not look convincing, but if you create your own custom brush, you can achieve a much more realistic look and reuse your preset whenever you need it.


Step 1

Open the "Window" menu and choose "Layers" to reveal the Layers panel. Press "U" to switch to the Paint Bucket tool.

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Step 2

Press "D" to set your foreground and background colors to the Photoshop defaults of black and white. Click on the "Background" layer to fill it with black.


Step 3

Click on the unlabeled "Create New Layer" button at the bottom of the Layers panel. The new layer you add becomes your writing and drawing surface. Press "X" to transpose the foreground and background colors, setting white as your painting color.

Step 4

Press "B" to switch to the Brush tool. Open the "Window" menu and choose "Brushes" to reveal the Brushes panel. Click on the "Brush Tip Shape" entry in the Brush Presets list.


Step 5

Select the "Chalk 44 pixels" entry in the matrix of choices shown by brush-tip icon and diameter; set spacing to 1 percent. By itself, this preset produces a stroke that's too bold and solid for the chalkboard effect you want, but it provides a workable starting point.

Step 6

Click on the "Shape Dynamics" entry in the Brushes panel and activate its check box. Set size jitter to 100 percent, count to 16 and count jitter to 100 percent. Set the "Control" drop-down menu for count jitter to "Fade," with a value of 25. Adding size jitter gives the brush a jumpier, more variable stroke.



Step 7

Click on the "Texture" entry in the Brushes panel and activate its check box. Open the pattern picker and select the "Canvas (128 by 128 pixels, RGB mode)" preset. Set the scale to 1,000 percent and activate the "Texture Each Tip" option. Use the "Mode" drop-down menu to set the interaction between brushes to "Linear Height." Set the depth and minimum depth to 100 percent. Incorporating texture roughens the stroke, making it look more like real chalk.


Step 8

Click on the "Dual Brush" entry. Tick its check box, select the "Spatter 14 pixels" preset as your second brush and set spacing to 5 percent. The dual-brush feature combines two brush tips and constrains the stroke to the area in which the two intersect.

Step 9

Click on the "Other Dynamics" entry and activate its check box. Set opacity jitter to 100 percent and flow jitter to 20 percent. These forms of jitter add more subtle flaws and variation to the brush output.


Step 10

Open the fly-out menu at the top right corner of the Brushes panel and choose "New Brush Preset." Name your custom brush and click on the "OK" button to create it. To view the brush in the Brushes panel, click on the "Brush Presets" item in the list.

Step 11

Click and drag the Brush tool across your document live area to paint chalky strokes on the second layer you added to the file. Because writing on a chalkboard places the hand at an awkward angle, you can break down text to printed letters created with individual downward strokes the way an experienced teacher would write them, eliminating the upward movements that cause chalk to chatter across the surface with a piercing shriek.

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