How to Put Together a Gallery Wall

Peter Sundin
6 Min Read

A gallery wall can be a striking and attractive way to showcase original art, prints, wall hangings, and even family photos and personal art. But putting together your own gallery wall can be an intimidating process. How do you ensure that your gallery wall looks interesting and dynamic, rather than just cluttered?

Don’t just start hammering nails into your biggest bare wall and hanging stuff up. You need to do some planning to make sure your gallery wall looks good when you’re done with it. Follow these tips to put together your own stunning gallery wall.

Map It Out First

Before you start hanging things up, you need to make a template for your wall, showing where everything will go. Grab some bulletin board art paper and tape pieces together to make a large paper template the size of the area on the wall where you want to hang your gallery. Spread it out on the floor and lay out your pieces on it. When you decide on a final arrangement, you can mark where the nails need to go on the paper, then tape the paper to the wall and hammer in nails right through it.

When mapping your layout, make sure you leave enough room between pieces so that they don’t feel crowded. For most gallery wall arrangements, this will mean leaving three to six inches between pieces so they don’t appear crowded. Place your smaller pieces around the edges of your layout and your larger pieces toward the center.

Start with One or Two Big Pieces

Every gallery wall should have at least one big piece, although two big pieces can bring a kind of symmetry and balance to the arrangement. Choose a large, arresting piece and build your gallery wall around that. You can place your largest piece in the center, arranging smaller pieces around it in a grid like pattern; this works well if you have a smaller collection. If you have a larger number of pieces, you can place your large piece slightly off-center so that the eye travels more readily throughout the composition. If you have more than one large piece to incorporate, place them on either side of the gallery and add smaller pieces in and around them.

Choose a Subject and Color Scheme

So, you don’t have to choose a subject and color scheme, especially not if you’re after a more eclectic look. If you want a more curated, cohesive look, then a color scheme and/or a cohesive subject would be the way to go. For example, you could go with a collection of vintage paintings of the sea, a collection of vintage portraits, even a collection of family photos – it’s up to you.

Mix and Match Mediums and Frames

When you think of a gallery wall, you probably think of framed photos and prints, but you can add a lot of interest with some different mediums, textures, and frames. You could mix pieces in minimal frames with pieces in no frames, or even mix pieces in more ornate, old-fashioned rococo frames with pieces in sleek, simple modern frames. Choose a variety of frames, like canvas floater picture frames or pieces float mounted in shadow box frames.

You definitely shouldn’t feel restricted to framed art and photos, either. Add a wall hanging, a string of photos on clips, a piece of embroidery still in its hoop, or a shadow box filled with mementos. Adding a third dimension will add interest to your wall. You can even add a mirror or two.

Hang It High

Most people don’t realize just how high off the floor a gallery wall should hang. When you’re hanging a gallery wall, think of the entire wall composition as one piece. Find the center of that piece using the template you prepared, and hang your gallery wall so that the center of the entire composition is about six feet off the floor.

Level Your Frames

Make sure you level all your picture frames so they look straight, and then fasten them in place by adding some art gallery putty under the bottom two corners of each frame. This will keep them in place so you don’t have to go around straightening them all the time. Keep in mind, though, that if your ceiling isn’t quite level, your pictures will have to be tilted to match or they’ll look crooked.

A gallery wall can help you showcase all your favorite pieces of art, and it’s not hard to put one together. Give your guests something to talk about – put up a gallery wall.

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Peter Sundin was born and raised in New Jersey. He has contributed to Buzz Feed, Details and TODAY and served as a commentator for NPR, MSNBC and HuffPost Live. As a journalist for Morning News Ledger, Peter mostly covers national news. Aside from earning a living as a freelance journalist, Peter also works as a dog walker.