Make a Giant Whiteboard for only $15

whiteboard diy cheap alternative

For a productive brainstorming session, whether as a team or solo, nothing beats a good old fashioned whiteboard. There have been online apps that try to fill this need, but I just haven't found anything that allows the same kind of non-linear think vomit. Draw arrows to empty corners of the board for an extra thought, sketch out a design layout, or create an easily modifiable list; the whiteboard is the tool to get the job done.

There's a problem, though. They're mad friggin expensive. I recently had an incredibly productive whiteboard brainstorm at the local library, and decided that it'd be worth putting one up at home. A quick Amazon search revealed a stumbling block: a 6'x4′ board like the one at the library was a whopping $109. “Ok, so don't get such big one, ya idiot,” I hear you saying, but even a tiny little 11×14 inch dorm room door whiteboard is $10.

The other issue I had, as usual, when you want to put something large on the wall and you live with your girlfriend, the gf wasn't super-keen on putting a giant whiteboard up for all to see.

There had to be a better, cheaper, solution. I initially started out looking for Dry Erase paint, thinking I could just paint a section of my wall with it. But reading several poor reviews for such an expensive paint dissuaded me.

Then I came across an interesting tidbit: the surface whiteboards are made out of is also sold as a cheap-o shower liner at places like Home Depot. For only $13. For 4 FEET by 8 FEET.

The board at my store was labeled "Thrifty White Panel Board," but may also come under the names of "solid white tileboard," "Melamine tile wall panel," or "showerboard."

To keep things groovy with my girlfriend, we agreed to put a split whiteboard on the back of the door, and on the wall right behind the door. When the door is shut, I've got a giant whiteboard to use, when the door is open, no one can see it. Win-win.

The best part is, Home Depot will do the cuts for you free of charge. So I measured the width and height of the door (minus room for the knob), and had the panel board cut to fit.

I used 4 screws with large fender washers (about $2) to hold the boards to the door and wall, and then used double-sided foam tape from 3M to prevent any board wobble. Other folks have used picture hanging hooks, or liquid nails to hold it in place, but I was looking for a less permanent solution. Others have also glued the panel to a piece of plywood to create a super-sturdy surface that they then hung up. My method works fine for my needs, but there may be better ways depending on what your location requires.

It only took me about 20 minutes to get set up once I had the board at home. It works perfectly, with no ink ghosting, and erases just like a normal dry erase whiteboard does. I would recommend using good dry erase markers for the best results. Happy brainstorming!


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Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.


  • Reply February 20, 2012


    Great idea, I will definitely try this. A question though is how much damage is done to the wall and door with this method? Would it be something to worry about impacting the security deposit on my apartment?
    Thanks again, now to get to Home Depot.

    • Reply February 21, 2012


      It just depends on how you hang it. I used four screws on each piece so that’s eight holes. 3m makes some heavy duty plastic Velcro that might work without drilling holes. Also if you patch the holes before you move out it might not be a problem. Check out our article on getting your security deposit back:

      Another option is to use liquid nails and glue it to a piece of wood, and just lean it against the wall, as another tutorial I read did.

    • Reply October 21, 2012


       You could just make a rig out of wood for the “whiteboard”. It would probably cost you a couple more bucks, but with enough effort you could make a mobile whiteboard!  (sorry, really late comment, but I had to say it :P)

    • Reply July 20, 2013


      I know this is late but for anyone else out there who’s curious. If you’re putting it on a door… Use hooks that go over the door (like towel hanger style) and have a hole for a screw on the side(s). Then screw the board into that. Or come up with a more easily removable way to mount the board to the hangers. Then you can move the board off your door and put it on another door with ease. Use some removable adhesive in a few areas on the back to keep it from wobbling…But the weight of it all will be taken care of so the adhesive won’t need to be strong enough to hold it up. Just hold it in place while you write on the surface. No holes. This would only work for a door though.

  • Reply February 21, 2012


    You can also use this

    • Reply February 21, 2012


      Eric, I had looked into it. At $200, it’s a bit expensive.

  • Reply February 21, 2012


    This is amazing. I have to try this for my kid. I have used the chalk board paint for her room and she loves it, but this will take it to a whole new level
    without any messy chalk dust…. Thanks for idea..

  • Reply February 21, 2012


    Very nice. Will use this in my garage for sure. Still contemplating where else it could be useful. The kids room is a good idea, but he’s too small to be let loose with dry erase markers.

    • Reply November 11, 2014


      Crayola makes Dry Erase Crayons – no ink mess ! Lots of fun colors ! Bonus – they don’t dry out !

  • Reply February 24, 2012

    A.J. Sullivan

    Thrifty White Tileboard is also a photography staple as it makes for a great studio tool.

  • Reply June 22, 2012


    I would love to have a magnetic white board for my son any thoughts how to pull that off?

    • Reply September 30, 2013


      There is magnetic paint (usually a little more spendy) usually available at the same places as the tile board. Painting the back of the tile board with a heavy coat would give you a magnetic white board that you can still write on.

  • Reply August 25, 2012


    Another use for the showerboard is to have someone cut it into 12″x12″ squares. It is a great tool for teachers to use. Especially is you have a class of very energetic and intelligent students. Many have a hard time waiting to show they know an answer to an problem or questions with their hand up. If you give each student their own personal white board, it really cuts down on disruptions in the class. For less than 50.00 and someone to cut it, I was able to make two class sets (34 kids in each class).

    I would advise any and all teachers to use this cheap alternative to traditional school suppliers.

    Good luck for the upcomming school year!

    • Reply March 18, 2014


      Even cheaper: Get some posterboard (white and black), cut to 8-1/2 x 11 size. Pair the white and the black sheets of posterboard and laminate these together (laminating machine is cheap at WalMart, etc.). Now you have individual reversible whiteboards/blackboards!!

  • Reply October 8, 2012

    Aaron Brewer

    Do you have a link to either Home Depot or Lowe’s for these products?

  • Reply October 21, 2012


    Thanks, I had mine up and ready to go within an hour of reading the article. Ran down to Home Depot, bought two for $28, had some screws and drywall anchors, stuck one to my wall and I have another that will go up, later. I do notice some ghosting, though, almost immediately. Could be the “new formula!” tag on the markers. Maybe the material is just not quality. Either way, Couldn’t be happier, as I’m one a pretty tight budget of late.

    • Reply October 21, 2012


      Try rubbing it with a dryer sheet. For some reason this helps with the ghosting.

  • Reply August 8, 2013


    Great idea my company is so cheap and I need a large board. Will be going to Home Depot !

  • Reply September 17, 2013


    Awesome article. I have been looking for ways to create a giant whiteboard and to not have to spend a small fortune.

  • Reply October 25, 2013



    • Reply November 15, 2013


      Thank you so so much
      I’m working on my three year olds room and she is very creative, I’m a college student and cant afford an actual white board.

  • Reply November 3, 2013


    does it matter if you use dry erase or wet erase markers?

  • Reply November 26, 2013

    David Christian-- Game Designy

    This article may have just changed my life for the next five or so years.

    You’ll be in my heart. Always.

  • Reply February 18, 2014


    I could use some help. Built a board exactly as described in the article, but when I write on the whiteboard with a marker, the ink doesn’t seem to want to stay on there. In other words, as soon as I’m done writing something, it starts to fade and disappear. Any suggestions?

    • Reply February 19, 2014


      I am researching this tonight and someone mentioned that some boards have a thin plastic film on them. They had to get that off first, but it helped a lot… Probably depends on the branch of board.

      • Reply October 29, 2014


        Vulgrin, this is interesting. I’m not a DIY person. I didn’t know that some boards have a plastic film that can be removed. Is it easy to remove such a film?

        • Reply November 1, 2014


          Yes, if there’s a plastic film, just pick it up from a corner and pull. Same idea as is on a new appliance or electronic device.

    • Reply March 18, 2014


      That’s interesting – and possibly even useful somehow. I must cogitate…

  • Reply March 18, 2014


    I’ve heard that applying a coat of car wax makes these easier to erase and minimizes ghosting. Have you tried this by any chance?

    • Reply October 29, 2014


      Have you tried coat wax, Battlespeed? How was it?

      • Reply September 7, 2018


        I applied car wax last night (to Home Depot White Tileboard), buffed it this morning, and then wrote something with an EXPO low-odor dry-erase marker. It ghosted immediately. It can still be used, but i’ll see how long it takes before the accumulated ghosting makes it unusable.

  • Reply September 3, 2014

    Stephen Lee

    Did anyone ever figure out the marker disappearing instantly issue or figure out how to fix it?

    • Reply November 1, 2014


      Is there a plastic film protecting the board? If so, just find a corner and peel. This is just a protective layer until it is installed. No harm to remove.

  • Reply November 6, 2014


    Dear Andrew & other readers,

    I bought melamine board and I liked how bright my Expo marker ink looks on it. But I noticed that when I erased with my fingertip, I could faintly see some ink on the board.

    When I was using our glass windows and bathroom mirrors as our whiteboards, everything was erased.

    How can I get the same erasability on my melamine board? Would there be some special coating I could apply to make erasure a 100% job? I mean, yes, I know I could use acetone (nail-polish remover), but I’d rather just use my fingertips or an unused sock to erase.


    • Reply June 30, 2015

      Kim Tollefsen

      Melamine is a porous surface, so staining and ghosting (which is what you describe in your post) is inevitable. To help maintain this type of surface, you need to clean it after every use. You can’t leave ink on this type of surface or else it will absorb into the pores and stain. You want to be careful about what you use to clean, so here are some whiteboard cleaning tips:

      There are a lot of whiteboard manufacturer’s who coat the surface of melamine boards to help elongate their life. This will add a few more dollars to your project, but something like whiteboard paint can be as inexpensive as $20-$30.

      Something that works quite well, and isn’t too much more expensive than the $15 melamine surface + $30 to coat, is tempered glass. You can get this for about $50 and hang it with mirror mounting clips. This surface is non-porous and will last a lot longer than the melamine. Glass isn’t ideal for every situation, but it sure holds up to a lot of use.

      • Reply August 14, 2015

        Kimberley Kallio

        could i be pointed in the right direction for this tempered glass? im finding it hard to find at that price for 4’x8′

  • […] wife found a cheap idea on some other blog, and we tried it out. The whiteboard failed on the fridge — we couldn’t get the board to […]

  • Reply February 12, 2015

    Mark Joyce

    To Create a Protected, Wipeable Surface

    1. Wipe the new board with a damp cloth and let dry or towel dry.
    2. Apply a coat of paste wax or car wax per product instructions.
    (If you have some leftover Rainex around, you might try that on
    a small piece and see how you like it.)

    My favorite eraser is a rolled-up, self-contained white sock.
    Washable and reuseable almost forever.

    I have also cut panels into a variety of smaller portable boards that also make good drawing or watercolor boards.

  • Reply November 23, 2015


    Both Home Depots I’ve been to have such poor quality boards. They are scraped and scuffed all throughout the board. All of them were like that. On to the next HD!

  • Reply November 25, 2015


    This while it does work, if you leave anything on it for an extended time it bleeds into the board and can not come out. Washing with a sponge or another Hard object makes the bleeding even worse in later writings. I would not recommend.

    • Reply November 25, 2015


      I haven’t had that problem, been using mine for several years.

  • Reply November 30, 2015


    Glad I found this! Been looking for a larger whiteboard solution!

  • Reply January 26, 2016

    Wade Dorrell

    Careful, that link may not be to the right material anymore. It’s sending me to Store SKU 179646 which is a 4’x8′ plastic panel, but the listing says it has “Cracked ice surface texture” which I assume is not what you used. Textured whiteboards are not for the faint of marker.

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