Home > art, diy > how to hang a gallery wall

how to hang a gallery wall

Back in January I did a post on my love for gallery walls (you can read that here).  I subsequently received an email from a reader asking me how to go about hanging a gallery wall, so I thought I’d share my response with you.

I really enjoyed your post on gallery walls and I have a couple of questions on the do’s and don’ts  of a putting together a gallery wall.   We recently received a sketch of our baby boy, which we will have framed.  I was thinking of putting together a gallery wall around the sketch.  Can you do a gallery wall with family pictures or is it better with more abstract art?  Should there be a theme to the pictures/art pieces or does anything go?  I noticed you lined up your frames so that the whole thing is symmetrical.  Are there any “rules” around how to put the pieces together? Thanks in advance for your advice. – S.

Well, the short answer is – there are no rules.  Sorry!  Can you use family photographs?  Yes. Should you use abstract art? Sure. Can you mix family photographs and art? Of course. There are so many different styles gallery walls, it really boils down to your own personal style, what you are working with, and where you are hanging your gallery.

A traditional approach to the gallery wall is a collection of family photos. Classic. Here are a few examples:

Notice in the example above, the grouping is centered along two horizontal parallel lines. These act as guidelines for hanging the pictures above and below.  The frames are all different sizes but the common colour (black) gives it a unified look. The example below follows similar guidelines, but since all the frames are the same width and the resulting look is a little more grid-like.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the gallery wall where anything goes – mixed media, mixed frames, mixed sizes.  This also works.  To hang this type of gallery wall, I would suggest you start by deciding where you want your largest pieces to hang, then work around them (remember, the largest piece does not have to go in the centre!)

A great alternative to the gallery wall is a photo ledge (or multiple ledges).  A photo ledge is less committal since you can switch up your art any time and you won’t make multiple holes in your wall.  Space-wise, a ledge or two can be a great addition in a small space, such as a nook in the kitchen or in an entryway.

A few additional tips on gallery walls:

  • A quick way to plot out your gallery on the wall: trace your frames onto paper then tape these silhouettes up on your wall with masking tape; move them around until you are happy with the layout, then get hanging
  • For a step-by-step to hanging a gallery wall, check out the instructions over at Brooklyn Limestone
  • Ikea is a great place to purchase frames for a gallery wall. Multiple sizes in each collection, inexpensive and you can switch out your art whenever you feel like a change
  • If you have old frames hanging around the house, consider freshening them up with a new coat of paint
  • Don’t stick to photographs and art, you can also frame sentimental objects in a shadow box
  • If you need a punch of colour or pattern, consider framing a swatch of fabric or a decorative piece of paper (scrapbook paper works great)
  • If you need to supplement your current collection, Etsy is an amazing source for unique, handmade, or personalized artwork. And much of it is inexpensive!

(images: 1-made by girl, 2- pure style home, 3-house to home, 4-martha stewart, 5-decor8 , 6-hgtv, 7-ivillage, 8-design crisis, 9-the creative mama , 10-west elm, 11-me)

  1. March 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Thank you so much, Dayna, for featuring our article and photo on your blog! We’re glad you enjoyed the article and ideas. ~Stacey at The Creative Mama

  2. March 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I absolutely love this idea. I HATE empty walls, so I have all kinds of artwork and photos hanging up, but I’m starting to run out of places to put everything. I love the idea of clustering it all together…defintitely going to try it when I move and have a fresh start with my walls!

  3. Stephanie
    March 1, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Thanks for all of the fantastic tips! Putting together a gallery wall seems less daunting now that I know anything goes!

  4. Kathleen Simpson
    March 1, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    I really liked your traditional wall contrasted with the artful selections. I can see that a child’s room looks more whimsical with the bright colours and uniquely shaped art within the frame. I wonder how graphic patterns would look framed.

  5. March 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    I recently was called upon to hang a small cooperative gallery with members varied art forms.

    We have ledges along the floors but 6 inches up…and I wanted to lean two very large acrylics against the wall (under the windows. There was a black sculpture on a stand in between. I was told that I HAD to HANG the art works and not lean them as I had done. I thought the abstracts looked fabulous and I was sure I had read that a new way of displaying was leaning against walls ie. on a ledge. You nailed the answer to my question! Thanks. My ledge was different than yours but still a great place for art. sally

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