Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jack's Chalkboard Christmas Equation: Nightmare Before Christmas DIY Prop Tutorial

 This is a tutorial on how to make a "chalkboard" prop. You can use this tutorial to make any faux chalkboard.

   I decided to make Jack Skellington's chalkboard from Nightmare Before Christmas. Its from the scene where Jack is trying to figure out what Christmas is. He draws out a long elaborate formula / equation as he tries to find the meaning of Christmas.


Supplies Needed:

-2 black foam-core poster boards (Dollar Tree)
-Exacto blade
-Hot glue
-Acrylic paint
-Fake floral items (Dollar Tree or craft store)

Approx Cost: $5+

(Detailed tutorial corresponds with picture tutorial above)

1. Buy 2 black foam-core poster boards at dollar tree. $1 each :)

2a. Take one of the boards and trim some of the edges off with an exacto blade to make the board more "off kilter". There are no straight lines or right angles in the world of Tim Burton. (Example: If you look at the finished product photos, you can see that the left side of the chalkboard is a few inches taller than the right side).

2b. Take the second foam-core board and cut approx. 1" strips from it to make the "wooden" frame. I found out by accident that when you start cutting the foam-core into small pieces, the black paper actually peels off from the white foam center (thats why in the pictures it appears I used white material). When this happened, at first I thought, "awww crap"...but then it actually worked out better in the end. It ended up being easier to blend the paint on the foam vs the paper. 

3. Fashion the strips into a frame that fits the shape of your "chalkboard". Measure, cut mitered corners and tape the pieces together on the backside of the frame . 

4*. Paint : Prime the entire frame with an off white or cream color base. Next paint a thin, watered down coat of a "woodish" brown, let it dry. Next layer on a thick coat of liquidy dark brownish-black paint. With the dark top coat still wet, drag a wood graining tool across the surface to achieve a faux wood look. (They sell different types of wood graining tools, but for this project I made my own out of the same foam-core we have been using. Cut a small rectangle of foam-core, peel the paper off, and cut "v" shaped notches out of the edges with your exacto blade). With a continuous downward pulling motion twist the wood graining tool side to side . Repeat if necessary.

5. Hot glue the frame to the "chalkboard". You can also reinforce the mitered corners of the frame with hot glue .

6. I found an exact photo copy of Jack's Christmas formula put out by Disney/Touchstone:
I wanted my graphics to be EXACT. So...I saved this file to my computer, opened it in Adobe PhotoShop, and re sized the image to be the same measurements as my chalkboard (17"x 29"). Then I opened the re sized image in Windows: Paint. I printed the image from Paint at 100% size . It printed the image out exactly 17"x 29" on multiple pieces of paper. I cut and pasted the pages together. There may be a way easier way to do this but, I'm not aware of it. Sorry... Then I laid the image on the chalkboard and traced all of it with a pen. This ensured all of the graphics would have the exact size and placement.
(If you just want to wing it, and free hand all of the graphics, disregard the ramblings above)

7. Impressions/guide left behind from pen 

8. Paint : Follow along the impressions you made (or didn't make) using white acrylic paint.

9. The swirly top accent pieces were measured and drawn onto the excess of the second foam-core board. Then cut out with an exacto blade . The black paper peeled off again... Dry fit your swirlies to the top of the chalkboard.

10. Paint the swirlies. I did a base coat of black acrylic, then did some passes with watered down browns and golds to make it look like rusty metal.

11. Hot glue the swirlies to the back/top of the chalkboard frame .

12. Arrange and hot glue floral garland and holly leaves & berries to frame . Use the movie still photo for reference . You can also hot glue a hook to the back for hanging on the wall.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment.   Good luck...


  1. Looks awesome! Love all your Haunted Mansion stuff! Looks like you took that right off the Haunted Mansion during Christmas time! Really nice!

  2. Hello I love all of your projects!!! My little boys and I love NBC and disneyland!!! I was wanting to know if you will be posting instructions soon? If you don't mind I would like to attempt to make your projects. Thank you :)

  3. Hey! thank you for your interest. I will start working on the chalkboard instructions now. Please let me know if you have any questions about this, or any of the other projects :)

    1. Thank you for answering back. :) I love all of your creative and inexpensive ideas. I want to make the holidays special for my kids and these would be great!!! I am excited to get started. I hope they turn out. I am new to pinterest and love it!!! I also saw somewhere someone that sent you a message where they made print outs of the HM stretching pictures and I would like to attempt to make them but not sure how? Thank you again for sharing your talent. Tonia :)

    2. Thank you so much!!! You are so creative!!! Now I have to get busy to finish these projects while there is still time before Halloween. Lol Thank you for sharing your amazing ideas. I will email you about the other project. Tonia :)

  4. Ok you are my new hero thank god I found you on Pinterest. We are doing a nightmare before Christmas kitchen and haunted mansion living room please keep the tutorials coming I love them!!! And we are making the clock this weekend!!

  5. can you post the 17"x 29" file please. I have been trying to resize and I'm getting nowhere...any help would be greatly appreciated.

    1. I cannot post the 17x29 size because it is too big to load. The best thing to do is click the image to view a larger image. Save the larger image to your computer, then follow the enlarging instructions posted above. Worst case senario, bring it to a print shop and have them print it for you poster size. It may be slightly blurry but it will be able to serve its purpose as a template. Hope that helps


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