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how to make a first day of school sign 1


Lunches are made, bags are packed and hairstyles are ready. Your little one is ready for that all too important photo on your doorstep, before starting his/her first day at big school. 

Butterflies are fluttering in tummies and all mom can think about is getting everyone ready, leaving enough time to get “that” special photo that will form part of those iconic memories to treasure in years to come.

Looking back at my own childhood photos of me starting school and moving up through the years, I wish I had held up back to school signs that had dates on or names of my teachers, or any interesting facts that were once part of my daily life but now distant memories. 

If you’re reading this it must mean that you’re on the hunt to make your own first day of school sign, and like me, are super sentimental and love to capture every important milestone.

So let’s get to it! There are a number of ways you can make your own back to school sign, I am going to discuss three methods here. (I’ve used all three over the years)

  1. DIY – create your own DIY first day of school sign from scratch!
  2. Free printable first day of school signs
  3. Premium printable first day of school boards
How to creat your own handpainted school sign

DIY – How to make your own back to school sign – A first day of school chalkboard.

What you will need:

  1. Cardboard
  2. Chalkboard paint & brush
  3. Tools – scissors or craft knife, pencil & ruler
Tools to make chalkboard back to school sign

If you have never used chalkboard paint before, you’re going to love this little DIY project. Chalkboard paint is one of the most satisfying paints to use as you often don’t need a second coat and it dries very quickly. I have shown you two different options, just so you can see how easy it is to create a different shape if you wish.

Classic rectangle chalkboard sign

I always have a tin of chalk paint in my craft cupboard as it makes a regular appearance in our household! (Quick DIY chalk birthday card, gift tags… or paint directly onto jars for labels) If you don’t have any, you can get chalk paint in the tiniest pot size! Which is handy if you don’t want to get too much or spend a small fortune on supplies.

If I told you it took me five minutes to make this chalkboard sign, would you believe me? OK, so maybe more like seven minutes, especially if you count the drying time too. Each layer of paint dries relatively quickly, especially in warmer weather and for this project I only did a single coat of paint.

Steps to make first day of school sign

Step 1 – Draw a shape:

Using a pencil and ruler draw a rectangle shape, or any shape you wish, see option 2 for an alternative suggestion. 

Step 2 – Cut out the shape:

Using a craft knife or scissors, cut along the pencil lines you drew in step 1. I have created two variations to show you how easy it is to create different shapes. 

TIP – if you have any old frames you don’t want anymore – the backing makes a great surface for your sign. You could even paint it and put it back in the frame and remove the glass for a first day at school frame sign. (which can double up for any special event – birthdays, parties etc!)

Step 3 – Create chalkboard flag sign:

If you’re making option 2 – you will need to do this extra step. If you’re doing a standard rectangle shape you can move to step 4. 

Cut one corner and using the corner you cut off as a stencil, flip it and place it on the opposite side, face down and draw a line with a pencil. This will create a perfectly symmetrical flag. 

Once you’ve cut the bottom corners you will need to punch out 2 top holes which is where you will thread the string through.

Further steps to make first day of school sign

Step 4 – Paint the first day of school board with chalk paint:

The fun part! 

Place your newly cut cardboard on a sheet of newspaper and paint one coat of chalk paint. If you’ve used a cereal box and you can still see the packaging design after you’ve painted, apply a second coat.

Look on the tin for drying time; if you’re in a rush you could speed up the process by either putting it outside to dry quicker or getting your hairdryer out! Just make sure you use it on a cold setting and try not to blow your sign away!

Step 5 – Write your own text for first day of school:

Once the chalkboard is dry you’re ready to start writing! 

You could let your little one do this part if they’re old enough, seeing their handwriting will add character to the sign.

how to make a first day of school sign 7

Step 6 – for option 2 only – flag shape chalkboard

Once your paint is dry it’s time to thread some string through the holes. Ensure you tie a double knot at the back to secure the string, the knot will stop it from coming out the hole. 

Once complete you are ready to write your sign!

Don’t forget, if you’re not happy with your writing, you can wipe and start again! Just make sure you’ve waited for the sign to dry after wiping before you write again. I keep my DIY chalkboard signs in my useful drawer to re-use for many occasions… Quick, it’s granny’s birthday – write a personal message and take a snap, use it as part of your party decor for your next birthday! You get the idea!

create your own back to scool sign using printables

Now that I’ve shown you how you can whip up your very own DIY school sign super quick, I will now take you through some printable options, less mess and you don’t have to clean a brush afterwards! 

Some back to school printable signs may still require a little bit of DIY depending on what style you choose to use, but the majority of them will need a little trim at the most. Once you’ve chosen your design, download it instantly and within a matter of minutes you will have your sign!

How to create your own back to school sign using FREE printables

What you will need:

  1. computer/laptop
  2. printer
  3. Printable template
  4. Scissors or craft knife 

Printables are amazing and I use them everyday! 

I have a folder of handy templates I use throughout the year for all occasions, and an editable school sign is definitely part of my collection! If your little one is about to start school or is moving up a year you may want to find a printable school sign that you love, keep it and reuse every year. 

Free back to school printable templates are all over the internet, but the majority of them are… how can I say this in a nice way… not so pretty!! Also, many that say they are free are actually not free at all! I have had a good look online and found these fabulous free school sign printables that you will love AND I have downloaded them all successfully, so I can confirm they are indeed free printables! 

link out to other back to school printables

Hostess with the Mostess has 4 super cute options. To edit and download the free school signs you need to become a member. Here’s the link:

That’s what she said have this sweet simple freebie which covers all grades. Not editable but still a cute option!

I love these school signs from hip2save, sweetest illustrations make them stand out from the freebie selection available out there:

Last but not least, I like this clean classic design from Chicfetti:

I almost forgot to mention my Free Editable School signs!!! Grab them, Here you go!! 

collette and co freebies back to school

Step 1 – Find printable online: 

Find your perfect free school sign printable – hopefully I have helped you there with some good options!!

Step 2 – Edit in Adobe Reader: 

Open your new printable school sign template in Adobe Acrobat reader and edit the editable fields.

Step 3 – Save out your personalized sign: 

Save your new customized back to school sign.

Step 4 – Print onto card: 

Print onto card. If you don’t have a thicker card to use in your printer, simply glue onto a thicker board after printing or you can just use it as is.

Step 5 – Trim white edges: 

You might want to trim the white edges if your printer doesn’t print full bleed. This will make it look much better in the photos. If your design is white then you won’t notice the edge!

Step 6 – Clean faces:

Make sure you’ve wipe toast crumbs off your little ones mouth and their hair looks amazing before you grab a quick snap of them holding their freshly printed new first day of school sign.

create your own back to school sign using premium printables

How to create your own back to school sign using premium printables, in other words, not free!

What you will need:

  1. computer/laptop
  2. printer
  3. Printable template
  4. Scissors or craft knife 

As I’ve mentioned already, there are many free printable options online, but between you and me the free options aren’t always the best and if you are possibly going to use this template for a number of years… then maybe a small investment isn’t a bad idea. For less than the price of a coffee you could purchase a beautifully designed printable that brings you joy and support someone’s small online business at the same time. Win win!!

I have found the following printable school signs online which I love and are totally worth the small cost. Take a look here. (Unfortunately I can’t show you what they look like as I haven’t downloaded them! BUT take a look yourself, links below)

Now it would be odd to share printables I love and not show you ones I created for my very own children! I’ve created two different bundles, one in a chalkboard style and the other in a more traditional style.

last day of third grade school sign

I also adapted the below traditional design to include a variety of traditional school colours; all included in the same bundle, no extra cost. 

back to school printable pack

When I created these back to school printable packs I wanted to cover everything I could possibly need to capture those special school memories, not just the first and last day of each school year (which are super important!!) but also all the mini milestones that happen throughout the year. So I’ve included little editable school milestone cards that do that perfectly.

My kids love getting involved with making printable goodies so I included a little flag which they love making! It is also a fun little element to take with on the first walk into school or attach to a scooter or a bike to make the big day seem extra special.

The instructions on how to use a printable are the same as shown above under free printables. Scroll up to read or you can click here to see a blog post with diagrams.

Here are some time-lapses showing you how to assemble elements included in my back to school printable pack. 

I hope this has helped you decide how you’re going to make your very own first day of school sign and I would LOVE to see what you’ve done! Please tag me on instagram @collettenco.

Over to you gorgeous mamma and good luck to those about to start big school!


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