Upcycle Jars with a Stenciled Chalkboard Label

Some products come in the cutest jars and bottles so I hate to discard them. When it comes to labeling I often write directly on the jar with a sharpie.  It's convenient and easy to remove but, depending on the contents, can be hard to see (not to mention less than attractive) so I decided to create a label stencil.  The stencil includes eight silhouettes in a variety of shapes and sizes (some with trims!) so you should be able to find the right fit for your jar of choice; you can also mask or repeat a section to create additional sizes.  All eight labels can be used both vertically and horizontally.

Prepare the Jar(s)

Begin by thoroughly cleaning the jar and removing all labels and residue.  To do this soak the jar in hot water to soften the paper.  Most labels will remove easily when soaked.  For stubborn labels I use a flat razor blade to scrape the label off the jar.  Residual adhesive comes of easily with a touch of mineral spirits on a paper towel.  Once the jar has been stripped wash it in hot, soapy water, rinse and allow it  to dry.

I usually just "eyeball" the placement for the label.  This works fine for onesies but if you are creating several matching jars you may want to measure and mark the placement so that it is consistent.

Square Jars Find the center of the jar and mark a vertical center line on the glass with a water-soluble pencil. "Square" jars typically have rounded corners, which can make finding the center difficult because you have no hard edge from which to measure. To overcome this obstacle set the jar on a cutting mat with a printed grid. Visually center the jar on the grid and use the printed lines to help find the center of the jar.

You can make sure your line is perfectly vertical by placing the jar on your work surface then stand a triangle on the work surface and hold it against the jar to draw the center line with the water-soluble pencil.

Cylindrical Jars
Cylindrical jars do not need to be measured because the label can be placed anywhere on the jar. Check the jar for manufacturing seams (ridges in the glass) and position these at the sides so your label remains smooth. Draw a vertical line using a triangle and water-soluble pencil as described above.

Stenciling the Jar(s)

Select the label shape that best suits the jar and position it on the surface.  Align the stencil with the vertical center line marked on the glass. You can use a stencil adhesive to keep it in place or secure it with tape.  I prefer tape--less mess. To facilitate removal create a tab on the tape by folding over the end.

In order for the chalk paint to bond with the glass you need to start with a layer of primer. Tip: Avoid wasting your time and materials using the chalkboard paint without the primer as the chalkboard paint used alone will scratch off the glass.  Primer will also allow you to create an opaque undercoat for the chalkboard paint, which is fairly transparent. 

If you want the traditional black chalkboard look then use black.  If you prefer a chalkboard in a lighter color then use white.  Use a dry sponge wedge to pounce the Primerover the opening in the stencil.  To do this, touch the sponge into the 
Primer.  Tap the sponge on your palette to remove excess.  It is important that the sponge be mostly dry so the Primer does not bleed under the stencil. Begin in the center of the opening so there is less paint when you approach the edge of the stencil. Use your fingers to press the stencil firmly against the glass to seal the edges as you pounce over the stencil.  Primer bonds securely with a variety of surfaces including stencils.  Do not allow it to cure on the stencil or you may not be able remove it.  As soon as you have finished with the Primer clean the stencil with hot water before continuing.  

Tip: The primer can be removed more easily if you have a barrier coat of regular acrylic paint already on the stencil.  This is a fancy way of saying "use a dirty stencil".  The layer of paint keeps the Primer from coming in contact with the stencil.

Realign the stencil over the Primer and, in the same manner, paint the label with chalkboard paint (for black chalkboards) or the desired color followed by clear chalkboard coating for any other color.  Allow the paint to cure 24 hours before writing on your labels. Lightly sand the label (if necessary) so that it is smooth and wipe away any sanding dust.  Condition the chalkboard surface (to eliminate ghosting and facilitate cleaning) by rubbing the entire label with the side of a piece of chalk.  Wipe away the chalk dust with a dry cloth or chalkboard eraser.

Writing on the Labels

The Creative Method Layout the label design on tracing paper. Transfer the layout using white graphite paper and a ball-tipped stylus. Dampen the label with water. 
Then trace over the layout using the chalk pencil. Functional, takes a few minutes but is pretty too! Worthwhile for jars where the contents remain the same.

For more precise writing I use a chalk pencil, which can be sharpened to a point. Regular chalk is much too bulky for use on small labels but is fine in a larger space. 
The Quick & Easy Method Dampen the label with water. Then write as desired using the chalk pencil. Functional and done in seconds. Convenient for jars where the contents are frequently changing.

To create the label shown I traced inside of the label template to establish the boundary on my tracing paper.  I then sketched the focal word "Flour" and added a few flourishes.
I use two flour jars, one for all purpose and the other for high gluten, aka bread flour.  So at the top of the label I added a section for this information.  I used "high gluten" rather than "bread" on the jar because it uses about the same space as "all purpose" and created a more consistent look between the labels.  I then wrote "all natural" at the bottom to add a hand-script font for interest.  Lastly, I filled in the negative space with lines and tapped dots at each end of the lines.  If you are not comfortable sketching your label fonts you can find myriad choices on font sites like fontbundles.com. 

This sure beats my previous method of identifying my flour, which was cotton string with colored tips--red for AP and blue for bread.  It worked for me but only I knew the code.  This is much better.    


This tutorial includes links for the items needed throughout the text.  I also grouped the linked supply list below for your convenience.

  • ST-125 Label Silhouettes stencil
  • 1 water-soluble pencil
  • 1 chalk pencil
  • 1 sharpener 
  • white graphite paper 
  • ball-tipped stylus
  • 2 sponge wedges
  • Primer - Black if available
  • Black chalkboard paint