I love gallery walls. It’s a love that started when I decorated my first apartment in college and it’s only grown since then. Every home I’ve lived in since has featured at least one gallery wall in the design and it’s definitely the #1 feature I get the most compliments on when guests visit! And what do they almost always say?
“Wow, I love your gallery wall! I wish I could figure out how to do that in my house.”
I know- at first it can seem really overwhelming to put together something as large and multi-faceted as a gallery wall! How many frames do you use? What sizes do you choose? How do you pick photos to go in those frames? How do I arrange them on the wall? Every one of these is a valid question and they often stop people from taking action on creating a gallery wall of their own.
Looking for inspiration on how to create a gallery wall of your own? Well here’s my step-by-step process, just for you!
1- CHOOSE YOUR LOCATION
The first thing to do is pick where in your home you want to put your gallery wall! It could be your living room wall, above your bed, or even a nook in the dining room you want to add interest to.
One of my personal favorite places is to do gallery walls down hallways because it adds instant interest to a spot that’s normally so boring!
Just look for a spot that is large enough to fit several frames and is lacking in some visual interest in your home.
2- CHOOSE YOUR STYLE
Gallery walls can either be structured or eclectic. A structured gallery wall is very straightforward with clean lines, a balanced ratio layout, and typically uses the same frame sizes. An eclectic gallery wall has much less structure, the layout is meandering, and can use the same or a mix of different frames and objects. Structured gallery walls tend to be a little easier to create, but eclectic gallery walls hold a little more charm and allow you to really stretch your creativity.
3- CHOOSE YOUR FRAMES
Now that you’ve chosen a spot in your house and the style you’re going for, it’s time to pick out your frames!
If you are going with a structured style, just pick the layout that calls to you visually AND that will fit on your wall (don’t be afraid to get out the measuring tape!). Once chosen, all you have to do is buy frames in the sizes dictated by the layout and move onto step 5. You can go ahead and place photos in your frames now, or wait until a later step.
If you are going with an eclectic style, get ready to have some fun! You can combine frames in a variety of styles, finishes, sizes, and even incorporate miscellaneous objects or pieces of art into your design. I recommend scouring your home for frames and items you already have, then buying any additional frames you need to fill in the design.
*Tip: If you like the eclectic style, but don’t want things to look tooo crazy, consider doing only black frames. Not only are black frames classic, but no matter how many sizes or finishes you intermingle, the fact that they’re all the same color ensures that your gallery wall has a sense of cohesiveness. Black frames are also easy to find and typically very affordable!
4. AN EXTRA STEP FOR ECLECTIC STYLE GALLERY WALLS
Gather all your frames and objects that you might want to incorporate and take it to an open area like your living room floor. Start laying out all your items on the floor and play around until you get an arrangement that you like (this helps you figure out your layout in advance before you start nailing a bunch of holes in the wall). You can go ahead and place photos in your frames now, or wait until a later step.
A few tips:
-Use your larger frames and pieces and anchors. Set them first and arrange around them.
-Vary the size and orientation of your pieces to add visual interest
-Keep at least 2-4″ between each piece
-If you are hanging above a piece of furniture, allow at least 6″ of space between the top of the furniture and the bottom of your first frame
Next, grab your measuring tape and measure both the height and width of your arrangement to be sure it will actually FIT on your wall! Sometimes I even use painters tape on my floor to map out the exact area dimensions I want the gallery wall once I hang it, THEN start arranging all my frames and items within it.
Now, TAKE A PICTURE OF YOUR ENTIRE COMPLETED ARRANGEMENT so you’ll have it for reference in the next steps.
5-MY BEST KEPT GALLERY WALL SECRET (that only costs a dollar!!)
Alright friends, here we are- this step is the secret to my gallery wall success and it only costs a dollar!! While you’re out buying frames, swing by the dollar store and pick up a roll of plain brown kraft paper.
This roll of kraft paper is going to be the KEY to perfectly hanging up every piece of your gallery wall ON THE FIRST TRY! No unneeded nail holes in the wall, my friends!
Roll out your kraft paper, place your frame down on top of it, and trace around the edges with a pencil until you have the exact shape mapped out.
Cut the piece out with a pair of scissors and write on the paper a description of the frame you just traced (this is most important if you are using frames of multiple sizes and finishes).
6. FINDING YOUR PICTURE HANGING POINT
Flip your frame over so it is face down on the ground, and lay your newly cut piece of kraft paper on top, perfectly lining up the edges with the frame.
Using your fingers, feel along the frame through the paper until you find the spot where the frame’s hanging apparatus is. Press down gently on the hanger, trace the shape of it with your finger until it leaves an indent in the paper.
Using this indent, you can mark the exact spot with a pencil where a nail would need go to hang this frame!
Repeat steps 5 and 6 for every item that is going to be hung as part of your gallery wall.
7. HANG YOUR TEMPLATES ON THE WALL
Once you have all your items traced out, labeled, and marked for hangers, it’s time to grab some painters tape (or something similar that won’t leave any marks) and head over to your chosen wall.
Using the photo you took of your gallery arrangement OR the layout you chose for your structured gallery, begin taping up your kraft paper templates in the exact places and arrangement you’d like to hang them! Use this as your opportunity to get the perfect spacing between all your frames/objects, especially if you are doing a Structured Gallery wall where it’s important to have exact spacing consistent throughout your gallery wall.
8. PLACE YOUR NAILS
Once you have all your templates taped up and you are completely happy with how everything is fitting/arranged, we can begin setting our nails! Because you were so diligent in tracing earlier, this step is as simple as hammering your nail straight through the kraft paper in the right spot! Repeat this for each template until all your nails are in the wall and ready for you.
9. CHOOSE YOUR PHOTOS
Now it’s time to fill those precious frames with the memories you love the most! If you didn’t already during step 3 or 4, place a photo in each frame you have chosen.
10. HANG YOUR GALLERY WALL
And now we get to see it all come together!! One at a time, remove a kraft paper template from the wall (you can peel it straight off over the nails!) and replace it with the corresponding frame or item it was a placemaker for. In a few minutes, your gallery wall will be complete!
11. YOU DID IT!
Step back, admire your work, and enjoy your new showstopping gallery wall!
So there you have it- an easy step-by-step for how to create a gallery wall! I hope this helps cut through the overwhelm and even offer a few secret tricks to getting the perfect gallery wall without all the stress and frustration.
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Lindsey LaRue is a Georgia Wedding Photographer for Heirloom Couples Who Love Timeless, Romantic, and Legacy-filled Imagery. Serving the Southeastern US and Beyond, Traveling Often.