Special dry-erase paint is fun and functional

You can make almost any wall or door a dry-erase board with a special paint. Great for home offices and kids’ rooms, this DIY project will keep your creative juices flowing long after the project is done.

Dry erase door

Fun ways to use dry-erase paint

Whether it’s in the office or your child’s bedroom, dry-erase paint can be used to spark creativity, keep track of tasks or to-dos or just be a bit silly. Here are just a few fun and functional ideas.

  • Turn a wall into a surface for workflow or brainstorming sessions in the office or a center for fun activities in a kid’s room.
  • Paint the doors to your kids’ bedrooms to post reminders, chores or loving notes of encouragement.
  • Make the toy chest just as fun as the things inside it.
  • If you have some extra paint left over, consider painting non-traditional objects, like chairs or picture frames.

Applying dry-erase paint

Using dry-erase paint isn’t quite the same as using regular paint. It isn’t hard, but you do have to follow some very specific steps. While you should always carefully read the directions for the brand you choose, these are the general steps.

Step 1: Set-up

Before you paint, make certain you have enough to cover the surface you’re planning to paint. Dry-erase paint can’t be “spread out” to cover a larger surface area. If you try, you’ll end up with streaks, spots or areas that either can’t hold ink or won’t allow it to easily erase. If you feel your area is in between the manufacturer’s specifications, you can always return any unopened cans (so long as it’s allowed by the retailer).

Make sure the area is well ventilated. Open as many doors and windows as you can. Any paint can make you a bit queasy in an enclosed area — but dry-erase paint is twice as stinky.

It’s also probably a good idea to get small children and pets out of the house during the painting process. Not only will the kids complain about the pungent odor, but the last thing you want is a dog-tail-level line of dry-erase paint down the living room wall (or across the couch — ouch!).

Step 2: Prepare the area

Tip: Purchase high-quality supplies. Dry-erase paint is expensive, so you don’t want to have to re-do it. Splurge on expensive tape, brushes and other supplies. It’s worth it.

You’ll want to start by making sure the area you want to paint is fully prepared. If your surface was previously a popcorn-painted wall, for example, you’ll want to smooth it out. You’ll also want to use high-quality painter’s tape to tape off any edges you don’t want painted, like window sills, adjacent walls or baseboards.

Learn how to use painter’s tape >>

You should also dust and clean any dirty areas and, if desired, sand it lightly. Remember, the smoothness of the surface you paint will be the same as the smoothness of the surface when it’s finished. Some brands of dry-erase paint recommend using a 120-grit sandpaper.

Step 3: Prime it

Before you begin painting, prime the surface using a high-quality primer. It’s best to use the primer recommended by your dry-erase paint’s manufacturer, as that’s probably the product they tested it with. In most cases, you’ll need two coats of primer. Allow it to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Feel free to let it sit over night.

After the primer is dry, sand it lightly again, then wipe it with a clean, dry cloth to remove any excess specks of dust.

Step 4: Mix and paint

When you purchase your dry-erase paint, it will come with two canisters, which you’ll have to mix before applying. Under no circumstances should you mix more than you’re ready to apply. Once the liquids combine, you’ve only got about an hour to apply the paint. If you’ve got a large surface-area to cover, plan accordingly. This is another good reason to clear the house of unnecessary “personnel” while you paint. You don’t have time to stop and cook something or attend to needy animals (or even answer your cell phone!).

You’ll want to work in about two-foot areas at a time, rolling the paint on liberally with the roller they provide. Don’t try to edge in the beginning or at the end. You’ll want to do it as you go so the paint dries evenly. Work meticulously in a grid pattern across the surface. Don’t paint over debris or fuzz, and if you screw up, fix it immediately. We said dry-erase painting was easy, not forgiving.

Step 5: Let it dry (for a long time)

It takes at least a week (seven days) for dry-erase paint to dry and cure (see the directions if you live in an unusually hot or cold environment). It’s best if you don’t remove any tape until it’s finished drying, as it can have some rather unexpected results depending on the state of the paint when you pull it.

Step 6: Write, draw, erase!

As with the other tools, you’ll want to purchase high-quality dry-erase markers. The reality is, cheap ones don’t write well on the white boards you purchase in the store. They’ll be a huge disappointment at home too.

Make a note

Teach younger children about the difference between dry-erase markers and regular markers (or writing utensils) up front. If they’re too young to read, consider putting special dots or marks on the markers they’re allowed to use on the white board surface.

Watch: How to make chalkboard paint

Learn how to make your own chalkboard paint.

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