Category Archives: Foolish Files

HiRes Chalkboard Background Files in PSD format


Bigger, more customizable chalkboard backgrounds for designers

Challenge: Lately I’ve had several requests for backgrounds that have particular features, like more “chalk” blur, or fewer scratches and specks, etc.

I’ve also been asked to provide backgrounds at larger sizes for posters and signs, especially for weddings, menus, etc. So…

Solution: Rather than reinventing the wheel and creating multiple versions of the chalkboard background files, you get to do all the work! Brilliant! Thank you.

So have at it, you uber-picky chalkboarders. Here are my original .PSD files for your edification.

  • 300 dpi so they’ll print with quality
  • RGB color space so you can add color tints if you’re so inclined. Change mode to CMYK of Grayscale for print projects.
  • Layers are clearly marked so you know what you’re altering.
  • Create more layers and/or add text according to the formula outlined here.

8.5x11 PSD files for 3.99

16x20 PSD files for 5.99


High Resolution Chalkboard Backgrounds

NEW! Now get the original .PSD files in high-res

In response to multiple inquiries about a customized version of the background, I’m making the original .PSD files used to create the files available in 8.5×11 and 16×20 sizes, both high res. A little more pricey but still a lot less than on stock sites. Check ’em out here.

High-Res Chalkboard Background

Who knew that a Saturday afternoon inspiration would translate into over 100K Pinterest repins?

A little back story…

Last September I joined a group board on Pinterest called Hand Lettering Practice. It was just the excuse I needed to do more hand lettering, a passion of mine since childhood. Along with a good part of the lettering community, I also became quickly addicted to the chalkboard technique, and after some experimenting in Photoshop, came up with a pretty easy way to “fake” the effect without actually using “chalk” and a “board”. Yeehaw!!

So I created some Free Photoshop Background Files, a tutorial on how to do the layering, scanning, etc. and another Tutorial called A Beginners Guide to Spiffing Up Your Hand Lettering.

These three posts have been surprisingly popular and I’ve received lots of comments and questions, especially on the topic of how they can be used for specific projects and whether it’s okay to use them for commercial uses.

response to both questions has been:

”Of course, you can use them commercially. Have a ball! They’re my gift to the world. But, know that if you want to use them for a print application, like an invitation, printed menu, etc., they may get a little “crunchy” since the original files were created for screen display only, in other words low resolution.”

In other words, if you stay under 8.5×11, they’ll look “okay”, but they’ll print out pretty much like something downloaded from the internet, which can be disappointing. So it occurred to me that maybe folks might appreciate being able to use these same backgrounds at a higher quality/resolution for use in print applications, scrapbooking, signs, invitations, etc. and so here they are. Three high-quality .jpg files in black, blue and green at 300 dpi.

1.99-buttonI am asking $1.99 for the download, however. Only because similar chalkboard background files on stock photo sites can cost as much as $20.00 (and since Foolish Fire is not my day job, all this stuff does take some time away). So, if you can make the lo-res versions work for your project, have at it. But if you need better quality, I invite you to purchase these 300 dpi, 8.5×11 versions.

The same techniques apply when using the hi-res backgrounds with scanned artwork or chalkboard fonts or your own machine set text. You’ll just be working with bigger files, thus anything you scan or layer over these base files should also be at least 300 dpi to get a 1:1 ratio.

You may also note the color is a little less saturated on the higher res versions. Since these are intended for print eventually, I’ve created them in CMYK color space, instead of the RGB for the lo-res versions, which are intended for screen use. RGB color is a bit brighter on the screen.

As always, I hope you enjoy these files and they become a helpful addition to your artistic tool box. Please contact me if you have any trouble with the download process.

Note: Once PayPal verifies your payment, you’ll receive an email containing the download link. Thank you for your patience as this may take several few minutes. Please contact me if more than an hour has passed and you’ll still haven’t received the download email.

James :: Foolish Fire

How to fake a chalkboard effect in Photoshop


How to Spiff Up Your Hand Lettering in Photoshop
Free Downloadable Chalkboard Backgrounds

Hey look…a new Foolish file!


Hi-Res Chalkboard backgrounds in 3 flavors!
By popular demand we’ve added a set of high-res backgrounds for just a buck ninety-nine. These will work a lot better for anything you intend to print at 8.5×11 and smaller.

[paiddownloads id=”1″]

The Tutorial

Every once in a while it’s fun to go off the reservation and display your work with a different look and feel. I’m partial to the nostalgic chalkboard effect but that could also be because I’m old enough to remember actual chalkboards. There I said it. The good news is it’s not brain surgery as long as you have a scanner and a copy of Photoshop.

TIP: To really get that “chalky” effect, I do my original lettering in pencil as opposed to ink.

  1. Save some time and grief by either downloading the free chalkboard background file in the previous post or obtain one of seventeen gagillion stock photos of a chalkboard from, or the stock photo source of your choice. If you do download a stock image, make sure it’s at least 600px wide so you’re not upsizing it to make your final post file.
  2. Create a New file in Photoshop at 612px by 792px (8.5×11 aspect ratio). Set the resolution at 72 dpi, use Grayscale format. Save as a .psd file. I like to name these files something like “chalkboard-base.psd” as I can generate several pieces from this one layered file.

NOTE: Starting with a 72 dpi file just gives you a more manageable file for posting your artwork quickly, but the final product will look pretty bad if you try to print it. If one of your goals is to print your work, start with a .psd file at 300 dpi, and set your scanner to scan at 300 dpi as well.

  1. Open your chalkboard background stock file, Select All, copy the image.

  1. Paste the stock photo onto the chalkboard-base file. Size to fit using Free Transform (Command-T). Try to avoid upsizing, only downsize if necessary. Name the new layer “chalkboard”.
  2. Scan your lettering artwork using a flatbed scanner set at 150dpi, (300 dpi if you intend to print the final product) black and white mode, no image correction and use .jpg file format.

  1. Open your scanned artwork file. You should now have your chalkboard-base file open along with your artwork file. On the artwork file, open the Levels menu (Image > Adjustments > Levels) and adjust the contrast if needed. The Auto Levels button in the dialog box can sometimes do the trick, but make sure you don’t exaggerate the contrast so much it obscures your beautiful, spontaneous line work. You want detail in the darkest and lightest parts of the image.
  2. Clean up smudges and “oogies” (trademarked…thank you) with a cloning tool, brush or healing brush. Need help? See A Beginner’s Guide to Spiffing Up Your Hand Lettering in Photoshop
  3. Use the marquee tool to crop around the work if necessary. Copy the selection.
  4. Open your base file and paste the artwork file. You’ll notice a new layer has just been created. Save As your file as a .psd (layered Photoshop) file.
  5. In your new chalkboard-base.psd file Select the artwork layer and invert the colors by either using Command-I or going to Image > Adjustments > Invert. Your file will now be reversed but you notice a distinct, rectangular border where you made the marquee selection, so with the layer selected change the Blending Mode to Screen. It should look like your work has just plopped itself right on top of a chalkboard.
  6. TIP: If your chalkboard background layer is too “busy” i.e. to many white, distinct scratch marks, they may show through the lettering. To remedy that, try blurring the base file a bit. Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and adjust the angle and distance settings until the artwork and base merge convincingly.
  7. When everything looks exactly like you wrote it by hand in a classroom in 1965, go to File > Save for Web & Devices and save your .jpg for posting.TIP:If you’ve created your piece at 300 dpi, you may want to “Save As” a 72 dpi version first to expedite the optimizing process.

Free Downloadable Chalkboard Backgrounds

Free downloadable chalkboard background

A few fellow letterers have asked about the chalk backgrounds I’ve been using for some recent Pinterest posts. Actually those were created using a stock photo of a chalkboard as the base file and while that’s always an option, I thought I’d try creating a convincing chalkboard image myself (sorry iStock) and make it available here on Foolish Fire.

Download the .zip file here

The folder includes a gray, blue and green version in .jpg format.

I’ll be posting another tutorial soon on how to work with these files to create a reversed chalkboard look out of a sketchbook lettering project.

Hey look…a new Foolish file!


Hi-Res Chalkboard backgrounds in 3 flavors!
By popular demand we’ve added a set of high-res backgrounds for just a buck ninety-nine. These will work a lot better for anything you intend to print at 8.5×11 and smaller.