DIY- How To Upcycle A Food Tray To A Chalkboard

upcycled food tray chalckboard diy

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Ugly dull plastic food trays have hope! You can turn them into lovely chalkboards with inspirational quotes. Perfect for any place in your house and makes for a great gift, too.

I have seen pretty plastic food trays but if you have more like a cafeteria food  tray that is old and very used, fret not my friend. This is another wonderful opportunity to upcycle. Ready to get on board?

Grab these then:

Plastic food tray
Chalkboard paint
Acrylic paint
Ruler or measuring tape
White chalk
White crayon
Mod Podge or any decoupage glue


I have this dull and old plastic food tray, well, I have 10 of them. The story is there were these food trays being given away that I would guess came from a cafeteria. Of course I got some because I knew I could upcycle them.

On a mission to upcycle an old and dull food tray to a chalkboard home decor.


This is the tray.

plastic food tray,diy, upcycle food tray, chalkboard


We are going to create a shapely chalkboard frame on the tray so to do that we need to prepare a cardboard template and mark measurements.

Make sure you are working on a food  tray free from dust or dirt. Wipe it clean. Then measure the width and length of the tray so you can find the center and then mark it with pencil.


measure length,upcycle food tray,diy

mark center,measure length,upcycle food tray, chalkboard diy


Place pencil marks on all sides of the food tray making quarter divisions on the tray.

measure tray,place mark,upcycle food tray,chalkboard diy



Get a used cardboard and cut up a section that will fit in one of your quarter measurements on the food tray. Draw a swirly shape on that cardboard piece with a pencil. You can copy how I drew the swirl.

used cardboard,cereal box,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy

cut cradboard,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy

draw shape,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy



Cut up the swirl outline and use that shape as a frame template. Trace the template on the food tray with a white crayon.

cut template,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy

trace template,upcycled food tray,chalkboard frame



Do the same on all the quarter sections of the food tray. Flip the frame template on the opposite side when you trace it on the section beside it.

trace template,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy

trace template,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy


Time to paint.

We are ready to paint the tray. Use acrylic paint and choose a color combination that you want. I chose robin egg blue and cashmere tan. Apply paint on the outer section of the frame.

paint tray,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy




Dry the first coat then apply one or two more coats until you get a solid look. I applied 3 coats for mine. First coat will look like this…

paint coat,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy



Next step is to paint chalkboard paint inside the frame. Apply 2-3 coats. Always make sure that the coat is thoroughly dry before painting on the next coat.

chalkboard paint,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy

chalkboard paint,upcycled food tray, chalkboard diy



With a pointed paintbrush, use your second color to paint a line following the shape of the frame.

paint outline,upcycled food tray, chalkboard

paint outline, upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy

painted tray,upcycled food tray, chalkboard diy



For extra protection on the acrylic paint, use any decoupage glue or Mod Podge. Remember the base which we used is plastic ( food tray) so it does not absorb acrylic paint. It would be good to seal it with the podge. DO NOT apply the podge on the black chalkboard paint inside the frame.

decoupage glue,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy

decoupage glue,upcycled food tray, chalkboard diy


Try your hand at lettering.

Find an inspirational quote or maybe you already have one that you know by heart. Use chalk stick to write that on the chalkboard frame. Do not be be intimidated with all these awesome hand drawn lettering we see around. Go to Pinterest and type in “chalkboard typography” to get inspiration from. Well, that was what I did. Oh sure you will have many times you will erase and re-do the lettering, that is totally fine. Just have a rag on hand for the erasures. Unless you are great at hand drawn lettering, I envy you!  I mean kudos to you! While the rest of us agonize on crafting letter A…

chalk sticks,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy

chalkboard lettering,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy



So I dreamed the lettering that moment and I did it! Just what the quote says …

inspirational quote, hand drawn lettering,upcycled food tray, chalkboard diy



Not quite done yet. I thought I was until I tried making the frame stand on the fireplace mantel but it kept sliding. So for some troubleshooting, here is what I did and what you will need :

Glue gun/ hot glue
Craft foam

Cut up the craft foam about 4 inches long. If your foam is thin then fold it a few times to bulk it up. That is what I did with mine then I used hot glue to attach it at the bottom center of the frame.

craft foam,uocycled food tray,chalkboard diy

craft foam,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy

craft foam,hot gue,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy



Then you would want to cover up the glue marks and the foam so simply get the acrylic paint that you used for the outer section of the frame, then paint over it.

craft foam,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy

paint foam,upcycled food tray,chalkboard diy



Problem solved. This upcycled food tray chalkboard is all set. I’m giving this as a house warming gift for a friend but before I wrap it, let me show you how it will look like a as home decor.

upcycled food tray chalkboard
You can totally rock this!


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6 Replies to “DIY- How To Upcycle A Food Tray To A Chalkboard

  1. Great idea! Love your color choices. Did you make your own chalk paint. Does anyone really ever make their own? I’m kind’ve scared to make my own, because it seems ok but, also really messy.

    1. Thanks Renee! I used a chalkboard paint that I bought from a craft store. There are different brands but they all work pretty much the same. I know that others have made DIY chalk paint but I haven’t encountered a DIY chalkboard paint. Chalkboard paint is a special paint so you can use a chalk stick to write or draw on it while chalk paint is a type of paint that gives a chalky appearance on a painted surface.I haven’t tried making my own chalk paint…yet.

  2. You idea is super, makes me think of all the trays at the thrift shops that would look so good if they had this makeover. Nothing wrong with your lettering, I am envious of you, I mean kudos to you. Have a great day B.J

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