Tutorial: Homemade Sidewalk Chalk

homemade handmade chalk tutorial by modern handmade childby Michelle Vackar, Modern Handmade Child

One of our favorite outside activities at our home is drawing with chalk on the driveway. You can play hopscotch, four-square, and of course draw and create silly stories. My daughters and I were talking one day as we played hopscotch about how to make chalk and I thought to myself, let’s try it!  It ended up being quite a lot of fun.

What you will need:
•    Toilet paper or paper towel tubes
•    Scissors
•    Duct tape
•    Wax paper
•    Small bucket or disposable container to make the recipe
•    ¾ cup of warm water
•    1 ½ cups Plaster of Paris
•    2-3 tablespoons of tempera paint
•    Paper bag or a “mess mat”

** we made six tubes of chalk – we simply doubled the above recipe.**

homemade handmade chalk tutorial by modern handmade child

Step 1: If you are using paper towel tubes, cut each tube in half, so it is roughly the length of a toilet paper roll tube.

Step 2: Cover one end of each tube with duct table to hold the contents within.

Step 3: Cut as many pieces of wax paper as you have tubes. Roughly 6 inches X 6 inches. Roll the wax paper loosely and insert into the tubes so as to effectively line the tubes. The top of the wax paper will be higher than the tubes. The wax paper liner will keep the chalk mixture from sticking to the cardboard tubes and will eventually be peeled off.

Step 4: Pour the warm water into your bucket. Sprinkle the Plaster of Paris over the water and stir the mixture with a plastic spoon. The Plaster of Paris roughly starts hardening within 20-30 minutes, so you need to work fast so that it does not harden too quickly.

Step 5: Next you will want to pour the tempera paint into the Plaster of Paris mixture and stir so that it is mixed thoroughly. If you would like brighter colors  add more tempera paint into the mixture. We wanted to make a variety of colors of chalk, so we spooned about 1/2-3/4 cup of Plaster of Paris in each separate container and mixed in the different tempera paint colors into each bowl. We ended up making six different colors and next time might mix more.

homemade handmade chalk tutorial by modern handmade child

Step 6: Stand each tube with the tape side down on a cookie sheet/flat baking dish/box lid to make the project easier to transport to a drying location.  Pour or spoon the colored Plaster of Paris mixture into the wax paper lined tubes. Lightly tap the sides of the tubes to release the air bubbles (so you do not have holes in your chalk). After you have poured the mixture into the tubes start another color. When done trim the excess wax paper so that it is closer to the cardboard tube.

Step 7: It took 3 days for our chalk to dry. On the last day, we peeled off the duct tape so that the underside could dry. When the chalk dries, peel off the paper tubes and wax paper. Your chalk is ready!

homemade handmade chalk tutorial by modern handmade child

Modern Handmade Child is a seasonal online publication celebrating handmade living in a new way. Our mission is to provide a fun and valuable resource helping families to embrace the handmade way of life, by intertwining the skills and values of days gone by with the trends and technologies of today. Our editors and contributors come together from around the world, including Europe, Australia, Canada, and many parts of the United States. Modern Handmade Child is published quarterly, and available for free at modernhandmadechild.com.


162 comments

  1. susie says:

    Well, i would never have guessed, thats how its made after all these years of buying it. Thank you for the recipe, I will surely try this out at some point, problably in the christmas school hols, the boys love making stuff.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    Susie from
    I Just Love That Fabric

  2. Louise says:

    Beautiful tutorial! Love the sunny pictures! It might be a while before we can make it seeing as how the winter rain is setting in here in Seattle. I can’t wait to make it. I love to make homemade using things we already have, rather than buying new! Cool!

  3. Viv Williams says:

    Great! I will be making this at home and taking it to playcentre, I am sure this will be a hit with the kids there. Thought of making bi colour chalk by putting one colour in one end and one in the other, what do you reckon? Thanks so much for this post.

  4. Rhoda says:

    Please be careful when cleaning up Plaster of Paris–you DO NOT want to pour this down your drain. Either use throwable containers to mix up your “chalk” or let dry in container and then break out later to throw away the excess. Got that tip from someone who learned the hard way the first time I made chalk.

  5. Liz says:

    I’m really sorry to say this but I had tons of trouble with this recipe! 🙁 There was too much water and not enough plaster and it started soaking through the molds very quickly, which caused the molds to fall apart. I had to add extra plaster, and the waxed paper didn’t stay in place. Just wanted to let you know… love the idea though and love your blog… just wish this had worked out better! We might get usable chalk with what we managed, I’ll know in a few days! 🙁

    • Jessika says:

      Thank you so much for sharing! This post has sure been making the rounds lately-it really is a perfect summer project!
      We have lots of projects that would be great for your site & I would love to share them with you: ) My sidebar space is limited to contributors & advertisers but thanks for sharing the button

  6. Hilary says:

    Hi! I am a Day Camp Co-ordinator and we are going to be using your tutorial to make homemade chalk next week for upwards of 120 kids!
    I am just wondering if you used liquid or powder tempera paint.
    Thanks so much for the great idea!

  7. Liz says:

    Oh no! Look up safe handling for plaster of paris before letting kids anywhere near the wet stuff. It can cause severe chemical burns, I believe from alkalinity. Looks like fun but please do read, and post, the danger and safety precautions.

  8. drgsmrgc says:

    I’m not planing having kids too soon but I will definitely do this with them. I imagine this is something so great to do as it gets your kids closer to you. I don’t think there are too many family out there enjoying such activities and it’s such a pity.

  9. wendi says:

    I don’t have time to look at all the comments so sorry if this has been asked but want to make sure. You took 1/2-3/4 cup of plaster at a time with less water or do you mix them all together and then separate out and add the colors? Hope that question makes sense 🙂 Thanks!

  10. Jenny says:

    I made these in a daycamp with inner-city kids. Instead of TP tubes, we used disposable bathroom cups. With fewer kids, we might have gone with the 5 oz. kitchen cup size. It worked as a group craft because even though it had to be stored overnight, their names could be written on the cup, and the next day they could take their chalk out and use it in the parking lot during their outside time. We pre-measured the plaster into snack-bags, and assistants at each table helped them measure the water, and they chose their favorite color to mix in (using popsicle sticks). We found that the more tempera we added, the more extra water there was in the mixture, and I thought that might happen, but I couldn’t get powdered tempera color as well as pre-mixed, so I took a chance. After camp we just poured off extra water from each cup, because the plaster had settled by then.

    I wouldn’t use acrylic paint for color. Better food coloring than acrylic. It would tint the plaster just fine, but it could leave residue on the sidewalk, because acrylic is plastic-like.

  11. Nancy says:

    Plaster of Paris recipe:
    1 of 3
    In a mixing bowl combine one cup of warm water for every two cups of flour.
    2 of 3
    Mix the flour and water until there are no lumps remaining. The finished paste should be smooth and creamy.
    3 of 3
    Bring your Plaster of Paris to where you will be working immediately so it will not cool down.

  12. Stephanie says:

    When I made this the plaster paris measurement was way off. I sprinkled it little by little into the warm water. It was to the right consistency at around 3/4 cup and it set way faster. I had to make each chalk separate because it set so fast. My kids couldn’t even help. The first batch was a mess because it hardened so quick, and I did the measurements exactly.

  13. Melissa says:

    I would love to try this with my children but I am concerned, is this washable? Off of the sidewalk as well as their skin/on clothing?

    Basically, does it come off with just soap and water just like the stuff at the store?

  14. Cindy says:

    Melissa, since it’s just tempera paint & plaster of Paris, it should wash easily. Tempera paint is the same paint kids use in kindergarten, & anybody who has had an old-school cast can tell you what water does to plaster of Paris. Have fun with it. :O)

  15. Karen says:

    I did this with the kids today, the first 2 went good. The 2nd set we did were hardened before we got them in the toilet paper rolls! We couldn’t use them. The first two we did were ready to use with in 15 min. I made the kids let them sit for awhile longer, just to make sure. Thanks for the idea, I love it and will be playing around with this for a while!

  16. susan says:

    Any plaster in the bucket from the last batch will speed the hardening time, as will warmer water or more stirring. Use very cold water, sprinkle in the plaster until little peaks form and get wet at the water’s surface but do not stir until you get to that point. Plaster can burn with chemicals and the heat generated by setting. Take care.

  17. Natalia says:

    I know this is like a totally different recipe, but can I use food coloring instead of tempera paint, and flour instead of plaster of paris? lol and a cereal bag (the one that is inside the cereal box) instead of wax paper? I want to use things I have in my house.. THANK YOU!!

  18. preemiemommie002 says:

    This is wonderful! I can’t wait to try this with my boys. I have to wonder if I can’t make them bars instead of round by making partitions in a lined box. We buy about a box of chalk a week in the summer!

  19. Ms. T says:

    So I just tried this with my pre-school class and it was a complete and utter disaster. The plaster dried almost immediately and it was very, very messy. Mess is fine though, we are in pre-k after all! I think next time I might try it with metal cookie cutters on a wax paper sheet, because even with the wax paper, somehow the TP rolls were still crumbling. Obviously, I’m not as coordinated as you! Your girls are beautiful, by the way!

  20. Ellen says:

    Natalia asked if she could use food coloring – food coloring is often indelible. It will stain hands, clothing, and sidewalks. As they say on every cleaning product, you should try it in a very small batch first on an out of the way area.

  21. Susan says:

    My kids are now in their late teens, and I did this with them when they were in preschool (learned the hard way about using the waxed paper. If you forget it, the tube will stick, but if you are patient and have sturdy thumbs, you can rub it all off). another fun option is to use the jello molds that they (used to) give away free periodically at the grocery store. I have used egg shaped ones and hot-wheels car shaped ones. Great fun!

  22. This is VERY COOL, I can see my 2 year old grand daughter having a field day with this. Art is such an important part of kids lives they need a way to express them selves. Something home made like this also teaches kids (and the parent) they do not need to have something in a fancy box to have fun.

    Thank You for sharing- Harry Symonds – Dad & Grand Dad- 3 girls

  23. Veronica says:

    Is this more cost effective than Walmart’s 20 sticks for $2.50?

    I’m looking to save as much in as many ways as possible!

    My son could go through chalk in 3 weeks if we play outside everyday, weather permitting.

  24. Nancy says:

    Since some have said that it dries to quickly and getting into the tubes can be messy, how about putting each individual color into a zip lock bag, mix the color right in there (thus no air getting to the plaster) and then cutting a corner off to fill the tubes? I’m going to try it that way & will post the results. Wish me luck!

  25. Teresa says:

    We made this chalk today. Instead of using the toilet paper rolls, I went to my local hardware store and had them cut PVC pipe (1-1/2″ in diameter) into 7″ sections. (a 10 foot section of this pipe is only $5.50) Instead of lining them with wax paper I used disposable bottle liners for baby bottles. (the kind that are pre-formed and have the ring at the top) They fit perfect into the tube. All of this worked great until I tried testing one to get the liner out of the PVC tube. My husband had to tamp in on a brick outside to loosen it up and then push the end of the chalk with the handle of a tennis racket!!! But, they came out! I then sliced open the bottle liner so the chalk can cure for the next several days.

  26. juli says:

    I am a genealogist and I use white sidewalk chalk when taking pictures of old weathered gravestones so the engraving will show up. I have trouble finding just white and I was wondering how soft this chalk was. It needs to be pretty soft to not damage the stone, but this would be much better than buying tubs and only using the 1/5 of the chalk that is white and pitching the rest.

    • Ken says:

      You shouldn’t rub graves. It is illegal in some states because over time it always damages them. Thats why the graves in Salem are almost unreadable. It is far better to do a plaster mold and then rub the replica.

  27. brooke says:

    Not to be a bummer, but I think plaster of paris isn’t safe to inhale in its powdered state. That leaves me to think that using is as chalk would expose children to a lot of its dust in addition to the powdered form they mixed in the beginning. The warning label on a box of plaster of paris reads:
    WARNING! May cause eye, skin, nose and throat irritation. Do not get in eyes. Do not get on skin or clothing. Do not breathe dust. Harmful if inhaled. Handle with care. When mixed with water, this material hardens and then slowly becomes hot. DO NOT atempt to make a cast enclosing any part of the body using this material. Failure to follow these instructions may cause severe burns that may require surgical removal of affected tissues. When mixing or sanding, dust may cause irritation to eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Prolonged inhalation of excessive amounts of dust will have adverse pulmonary and respiratory effects. Over exposure may cause lung damage. Contains crystaline silica which can cause cancer.

    • Briony Marshall says:

      Plaster undergoes a chemical reaction when it sets, so unmixed plaster powder and the powder from broken up set plaster are 2 different things and will have different risks.

      That said, anything that creates a powder that can get into your lungs is dangerous – but I’m pretty sure set plaster IS chalk, so there is no greater risk from this than from chalk you would use anyway.

      The powder you create when writting with chalk is fairly fine, but it isn’t as fine and prone to go up in clouds as un-mixed plaster powder.

      I am a sculptor and I often work in plaster. If i am chipping or scraping back on a plaster sculpture with rasps, which creates some plaster dust, I don’t worry, however if I sand set plaster – which creates a very fine dust – I wear a face mask.

      I am not a health and safety expert, so please do your own research on this, but I hope this helps.

  28. Mia says:

    I was going to say pretty much the same thing as the other commenter brooke said. It’s my understanding that plaster of paris isn’t good to “play” with. This is a great idea, but would be cooler if something else could be used instead of plaster of paris.

  29. louisa emile says:

    this is a cool idea, i will certainly try this out with my children at school, never know it might save me a lot money which we can use for other resources.

    thank you for this and it’s always good to try out new things……

  30. Tabitha says:

    also with the plaster of paris many people use this to make casts including ones for their faces… There are many different types of plasters that can be purchased and some of them are strictly for construction type work and those are sure are very harmful but I’m sure the ones sold for crafts are not

  31. Briony Marshall says:

    Plaster doesn’t need air to set, it is an exothermic reaction (releases heat) and putting it in bags won’t slow the reaction. I am a sculptor and I use plaster a lot. Things that speed up the reaction are mixing in too much (creates kinetic energy) and sometimes the paint you ad, especially if you add lots will make the reaction go quicker. You can add things to plaster to slow down the reaction but I can’t remember what (alcohol speeds it up). I would suggest mixing smaller quantities and using as fast as possible.

  32. Andrea Moss says:

    CAUTION: DO NOT DO THIS! Plaster of Paris contains crystalline silica, which is a SERIOUS INHALATION HAZARD. It’s almost as bad as asbestos!

    Regular chalk is made from calcium carbonate, and will not affect your child’s lungs when he breathes the dust created while drawing.

Leave a Reply