Whiteboards are very useful devices for many reasons. I have used them for fleshing out ideas, planning crafts, keeping track of lists, and using them as maps for D&D (the land, encounters, etc). Downstairs, in my "general purpose" room, I have a large 4' x 8' sheet of plywood that was turned into a crude craft table. I wanted a whiteboard on top. I also used to do a lot of sketching on my bedroom wall and my wife thinks that a whiteboard used to be very useful there.
This page is a chronicle of what we researched and tried in order to make and maintain a large whiteboard. I hope it helps other people out.
Making the Board
Basically, you need to pick out the best surface for your particular application. The surfaces page has suggestions for different surfaces ranging from do-it-yourself to specialized materials. Take some time and research possibilities. What you need may not be the same as what I wanted.
For instance, a teacher getting a class of 3rd graders each their own personal "whiteboard" could just be 30 laminated pieces of tagboard. If you want to coat the walls of your house and still have colors, you would want a coating of some sort. If you needed it on a table surface or if you wanted to refurbish an existing whiteboard, you may need yet another type of product.
I have tried to rate as many types of surfaces as what I could get my hands on in the hopes to save you frustration, time and expense. For any that showed promise, there are helpful instructions and tips for making these materials into whiteboards.
Cleaning the Board
I have found numerous methods that people have used for cleaning a whiteboard, and then website visitors have submitted others. I have tested them all on a commercial whiteboard with numerous non-whiteboard things added in, such as crayons and ink. Check out the results on the cleaners page.
Once you find a nice cleaner, you can stick it in a spray bottle to have it convenient for when you need to wipe off the board.
My readers have submitted many ideas and tips to me that relate to whiteboards. This is a list of the most useful ones.
One can just use a sock to erase stuff because it tends to scratch less than paper towels or miscellaneous things you find. I just use small hand towels that were sold as "work rags" that were quite cheap and very fluffy, plus you can wash and reuse them.
You can use Vis-A-Vis overhead markers or wet erase markers on whiteboards, if you want a slightly more permanent type of mark. For D&D, you could draw walls with Vis-A-Vis markers, and people with dry erase markers. Move people by just erasing them. Redo the walls with a damp cloth and dry the board before drawing more walls.
Always test first! When you get a new dry erase board, try marking it in a corner. If that comes off, use several colors in that corner and see if they all come off. Try Vis-A-Vis. When all done with those tests, try a long-term test by marking the corner with each marker and waiting a day or maybe a week. Wipe and see if the markers stained the board. Many types of boards will stain or only erase easily when the marker is somewhat fresh. After a week, wiping off dry erase might be significantly harder (depends on the surface and the marker).
If you do want to permanently mark your board, Sharpie permanent markers may not do the trick. The dry erase marker will act like a solvent and you might end up wiping away your lines or smearing them. You can damage the board with a tiny scratch from a knife point, and that will turn black because the whiteboard marker flecks will get stuck in there and your eraser won't be able to clean inside. A deep enough scratch will expose the cardboard backing, and that will get black in a hurry. Also, you can use paint, but make the line as thin as possible. Paint won't let markers wipe off, so the lines will eventually turn black. Be careful if you decide to scratch the board because if you go too deep then the whiteboard coating may start to flake off.
Because dry erase markers act as a solvent, you are able to remove stubborn dry erase marks by drawing over them and erasing. You can sometimes remove even permanent marker marks this way too. I sometimes needed to do the procedure a couple times but the permanent marker nearly always comes off.
Here is a hand-selected list of web sites that have something to do with whiteboards. Let me know if I should include a link that you know about, but there is no guarantee that I will add it here. I'm extremely selective when it comes to linking to other sites.
Dry Erase Boards - Look at their "skins" for inexpensive, yet professional-looking dry erase boards.
Shower Board Whiteboards - Some problems and possible solutions when using tileboard as a whiteboard.
Solutions MB - They sell a very nice whiteboard coating that can turn a wall or other painted/smooth surfaces into a whiteboard. I've reviewed their products in the make a whiteboard section.