A photo gallery wall is a great way to add strong visual interest in a room without taking up any floor space. As a bonus, it can repurpose items you have sitting around or showcase some favorite sentimental items. Giving these items a purpose and incorporating them into an art installation reduces clutter and highlights their significance. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to create a gallery wall, but feel intimidated by the process or worried about “getting it right”, I’m here to give you confidence. Follow these 5 steps to create an unbelievable gallery wall in your space!
5 Steps to a Gorgeous Photo Gallery Wall
1. Determine the look you’re after
When it comes to photo gallery walls, there are two general types: grid/linear and salon.
A grid or linear style is a more formal approach. The lines are crisp and the organization gives the feel of a larger piece of artwork
A salon style is more of an eclectic grouping that has a relaxed, personal style. This format often mixes media. You might find pictures, artwork, and 3-D objects mixed together.
When brainstorming your gallery wall, consider the following questions:
- What color scheme will you incorporate?
- Will you incorporate a theme or mix it up?
- Possible themes could include travel, family, child artwork, or sentimental collections
- If your photo gallery will not have a theme, tie the elements together through frames with similar colors, matting, styles, or design to unify the mismatched elements. Without unifying elements, your pieces will not speak to each other; it will be too random to make sense to the viewer
- What feeling do you want to create?
2. Gathering your items
Your photo gallery wall should be filled with things you love. It’s likely you already have some great pieces in storage or dispersed around your house that could become part of your new installation. If you’re looking for particular things to match a theme, check out antique malls or thrift stores for budget-friendly options.
Since we had already minimized a lot of frames and extra elements, I had to do some shopping for my gallery wall. I purchased our gallery wall frames at Hobby Lobby because their frames are always 50% off. They also had half off wall decor that week- score! (That’s how I snagged the beautiful frames for above the bed in our minimalist bedroom oasis) If online shopping is your jam, Amazon has a great selection of gallery wall frames.
3. Determine the gallery wall layout
Designing a template
To help facilitate easy installation, I recommend you create a gallery wall template. This template will make installation exponentially easier!
For our photo gallery wall, I decided to cut up brown paper bags and tape them together to create a template that covered the size of the area we wanted to take up with the gallery wall frames. Using a ruler or level, trim the edges to ensure they are straight on your template. Using a template makes it easy to see the size of the final area as pieces are arranged on it. As a bonus, paper bags, tape, and scissors are likely all things you have on hand.
Another strategy is to use painter’s tape and kraft paper. “Frame” the area you want to take up on the wall with painter’s tape to ensure you keep elements within the border. Then, trace all the gallery wall elements onto kraft paper and cut them out. Hang each paper element on the wall with painter’s tape. Since we were creating our photo gallery wall on grasscloth, we didn’t want to use tape on the delicate grass, so we opted to create a gallery wall template instead.
If you are techy at heart, Andrea over at Design Morsels has an amazing approach to building a digital gallery wall to preview your installation before you hang a single print.
Try out layouts
Lay the template on the floor, a bed, or on a large table and arrange elements on the template. When designing a photo gallery wall, know that you will likely have to move elements around several times before you achieve a design you are ultimately satisfied with. Have some patience and enjoy the process! Continue to arrange the elements until you find a layout that you like. Then, grab your phone and snap a picture! You’ll want to continue to rearrange and test additional layouts to be certain your final arrangement is the one you like best. Taking pictures of your favorite layouts makes it significantly easier to compare final designs. When you have a few top choices, flip through your photos and select the arrangement that speaks the most to you.
If you’re struggling with the layout, here are some tips and tricks you can try:
- Start by arranging in the middle with your largest piece; work out from there with additional items to promote balance
- Place your center element between 57-59 inches from the floor for an aesthetically pleasing viewing level
- For a salon style, avoid arranging elements in strict horizontal or verticle lines, as this will make your wall look like a grid style gone wrong
- If you have mixed media in your arrangement, try to place it throughout to draw the eye around
- Try placing medium size frames or items toward the corners to “hold down” the arrangement visually
- Ensure there is good, consistent spacing between the elements if you’re creating a grid gallery wall (3-6 inches is recommended)
- For a grid installation, consider arranging your collection along a horizontal line, hanging half the items 2 inches above and half the items 2 inches below the line
- A sample ratio of elements could be one extra large, two large, two medium, and three small gallery wall frames or elements
4. Trace the final design onto the template
Once you have selected your final arrangement (and have a picture of it for reference!!), grab a pencil and trace around each element so you will know where to place it on the wall. Then, take your template and tape it onto the wall with painter’s tape. The edges of the template should line up with the edges of the space you are wanting to fill.
To ensure a straight arrangement, be sure to level the template on the wall.
5. Hang your elements
There are several options for hanging photo gallery wall elements. For our gallery wall, we used straight pins tapped in at a downward angle to hang our elements. We chose this method because it wouldn’t damage the grasscloth and the holes wouldn’t be visible later if we moved elements around.
At my mom’s house, my sister and I used Command Picture Hanging Strips since mom is paranoid about holes in her plaster walls. This was the first time I had used them and I was highly impressed with them. A year and a half later and everything is still in place!
You can also use nails or screws to fasten elements. If they are heavy, consider using anchors.
Steps to install each element
(we worked right to left since we are right-handed):
- Measure the distance from the exterior of the frame to the hanger (both from the sides in and the top down)
- Mark that spot on your template
- Roll the template back a little at a time until you expose where the pin should go.
- Hammer the pin into the wall at a downward angle.
- Hang element on pin
After all the elements are installed, use a level to do a quick pass through to ensure they are straight.
Now go create your photo gallery wall!
And that’s it! There’s nothing left to do but sit back and stare at the beautiful photo gallery wall you’ve created. Well, nothing other than planning the next one, because creating gorgeous gallery walls is addicting!
Shows us your photo gallery walls! Drop your pictures and tell us your story over on our Slow Motion Mama Facebook Page!