Whiteboards are as useful as they are overpriced. I built one using tileboard (the thing they use in bathrooms), and I highly recommend making/buying one. It took me awhile to find tileboard in my area. In case anyone has the same problem, here are 4 alternatives I considered:
They are not in any specific order.
Glass or Plexiglas
Anything Expo markers can write on may be used as a board surface. This means a piece of glass, or acrylic glass (Plexiglas), placed over a bright white surface it (i.e., a wall or table). Glass actually works pretty well in terms of eligibility and clean up, but it’s heavy, has sharp edges and cannot be drilled into (easily). It’s also not cheap.
Plexiglas works well, but I heard some dry erase Expo markers have problems coming off. Research this before trying Plexiglas. Never use Acetone to clean Plexiglas (or any plastic).
Plexiglas might be a hassle to cut. Sawing at a high speed, be it power or manual, might cause the edge to melt and stick back together between each cut. It’s usually cut underwater ( don’t try putting a power saw in your bathtub).
What I did was use a regular hack saw, and had my friend shoot the area I was sawing with a water gun to cool it between each cut. A water gun.
Both glass and plexiglass have the advantage of letting you make overlays (assuming they are translucent). You can put anything behind this board, as opposed to having an all white surface. Some examples I’ve seen are adding templates like a blank calendar or checklist behind the glass.
If you put some work into it, this can be a nice, cheap setup.
Chalkboard or Chalkpaper
Chalkboards are cheaper than whiteboards, and even cheaper if you go the DIY route and make one using chalk paper. Chalk paper is basically a rough surface you can buy in rolls, which can be written on using standard chalk. Which means.. hopscotch in the office!
Chalkboards have great contrast, and chalk is dirt cheap compared to dry/wet erase markers (unless you steal those from your local college). The problem, and it’s a big one, is chalk dust. Chalk dust in a small room or office make this route unacceptable for most people. There is “anti-dust” / dust-free chalk, but dust can still be a problem if you don’t have good ventilation.
Paper Whiteboard, or Just Paper
Paper. Big paper. There exists huge books of pages that you hang up on the wall, meant to act as a huge Post-It book. I’ve seen these sold at Michael’s. An alternative is to just hang up a big sketch book, but that might get expensive. Paper has plenty of advantages…
You can write on a page using a pen, pencil, markers, crayons, blood etc. It’s flexible and mobile; You can detach papers for storage or to just generally move around, tear in two, etc. Clean up is as easy as curling up a huge piece of paper and shooting a basket.
The cons? Erasing is a nuisance (and only possible if you use a pencil or erasable pen), and the entire thing is meant to be disposable, making this a a recurring expense. This might mean you will end up squeezing as much content on each page as you can to save money.
I’ve seen “paper whiteboards” at IKEA – but with a short stand, designed for children. You get far less cool points hanging up paper than you would having a real (looking) whiteboard in your house.
DIY Digital / Touch Whiteboard
Expensive from scratch, but you might be able to use what you have around the house to hack up a nice digital whiteboard; One great example is the Wiimote Whiteboard:
If you can find tileboard, I suggest using that instead. It’s cheap and it works well. You can probably cover an entire wall for $20. These alternative methods are OK, and in some cases might even be great, but they’re no match for a ‘real’ whiteboard, or one made of tileboard.