We love a good gallery wall. It’s the perfect way to show off your art collection all at once—and give a room a big dose of personality. But putting together a wall gallery? Talk about intimidating. In fact, the logistics involved in figuring out how to make a gallery wall has stopped many-a-person before they even began.
If you need to fill a large, blank wall and want to do it with a gallery wall, we’ve got you covered. Through our own team’s trial and error with our own gallery walls, we’ve compiled some step-by-step instructions on how to make a gallery wall so that you can have the visual wow-factor you’ve been dreaming of.
Read on for our step-by-step guide, along with a few other considerations to make before nailing any holes in the wall!
Initial Considerations for Gallery Walls
Before you pull out your toolbox, there are a few things you should consider prior to starting your gallery wall installation. Ask yourself the following questions.
Modsy designer, Katherine’s dining room gallery wall
Where will you hang your gallery wall?
Start by deciding on where in your home you want your gallery wall. Almost any space can be used—from a living room gallery wall, to gallery walls up a stairwell, in an entryway or kitchen breakfast nook, in your guest room, or down a hallway.
As you land on the location, think through the size and shape of the space where the gallery will be installed. You’ll want to consider both the size of the wall itself, as well as the size of the overall room it’s in. This can help dictate how large of a gallery to create and how many pieces to include. With this, you’ll want to make sure the gallery wall is in the right space within the wall, vertically. Unless you’re doing a floor-to-ceiling gallery wall, you won’t want pieces going all the way up to the ceiling. And you also don’t want pieces hung too low. So, make sure the wall space you choose has enough space to keep your gallery wall centered and at average eye level.
Don’t have a ton of vertical space or feeling stressed about putting a bunch of nail holes in the wall? Hang a picture-ledge shelf and layer framed pieces onto the shelf. (This is also a great option for those who like to switch out their artwork on a regular basis!)
Check out our round-up of different types of gallery walls to get some ideas for your own space!
Modsy writer, Amy’s “shelfie” gallery wall
How many pieces do you want in your gallery wall?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question—unless the answer is less than 3, because then it’s not a gallery wall at all! You can make your gallery wall as large or small as you’d like. Four pieces? Great! 20? Go big or go home! Start by deciding what pieces of wall art you definitely want in your gallery wall arrangement and how big of a visual impact you want to make.
Some general rules to follow? If you’re installing a gallery wall in a large room, you’ll need more pieces and you can include some larger anchor pieces within the gallery. If you have a small wall or room, stick with fewer pieces that are smaller in size. Also: the more pieces you include, the larger the visual impact.
Modsy designer, Madeline’s bedroom gallery wall
What frame styles do you want to use?
Some people prefer the uniformity of a collection of matching frames. But you definitely don’t have to stick with the same frame style or color! Feel free to switch up the style, finish, thickness, and size of the frames themselves.
However, the general rule is: the larger the gallery wall collection (AKA, the more pieces you have on display), the greater variety of frame styles you can have. If you want to keep yourself from getting too overwhelmed—or going totally overboard—limit yourself to no more than three different frame styles.
And remember—not everything needs to be framed! In eclectic gallery walls, it’s ok to mix framed art together with pieces in poster hangers or stretched canvas prints. You could even include some fiber art pieces!
Modsy’s Step-by-step Guide to Create a Gallery Wall
Step 1: Curate the Pieces
Curating your collection is the most fun part of the process. It’s where you get to decide what to include and how you want it to look and feel.
Do you want a gallery wall that feels super cohesive or do you prefer one that leans more eclectic? Generally, for a more curated and cohesive look, you’ll want to keep all the pieces within a similar color palette. So, choose pieces with a similar feel, especially in color vibrancy and intensity. Or, for grid gallery walls, you’ll want pieces that are all the same size and in the same frames. However, you can also choose art that you’ve collected over time for an eclectic and collected gallery wall that feels more personal. With either approach, don’t be afraid to mix in personal pieces—like your family artwork, photographs, and travel mementos. Not sure what you want? Check out our gallery wall ideas and our guide on how to choose art for some inspiration.
Feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of curating a collection? You can actually buy a gallery wall set, filled with a curated collection of themed pieces that are already put together for you. (A Modsy designer could also help you pull together a custom collection when you start a design project!)
Step 2: Lay Out Your Pieces and Decide on Your Gallery Wall Configuration
This is the step where you’ll figure out which piece goes where and create the overall arrangement for your gallery wall. To do this, we like clearing a tabletop or floor space that’s roughly the same size as the wall where you’re going to hang the art. That way, you can visualize what it will look like all together and move things around easily before committing to a layout. If possible, roll out a length of butcher paper the size of the wall space you’re planning to use. This will come in handy for the next step.
As a starting point, use the largest piece of art in your collection. This will be the anchoring piece that you’ll want to keep very close to the center of the gallery wall. Keeping larger pieces toward the middle and bottom of the gallery makes the overall composition feel balanced!
From there, start puzzle-piecing in the smaller pieces around the large one, creating a visual balance between medium, large, and small pieces. You’ll also want to mix and match your vertical and horizontal art. To keep balance in artwork shapes, don’t group all like shapes/orientations all together but rather mix them throughout the arrangement.
Designer Tip: Keep the space consistent between each piece of art, throughout the whole gallery wall arrangement. You don’t want too much negative space in between prints but you don’t want them to look squished either! (A good rule of thumb is placing 2-4” of space in between frames.)
Don’t be afraid to move pieces around until the layout feels right. If you start feeling overwhelmed or your arrangement just starts to look odd, step away! Take a break for a few hours, or even a day, and come back to it. What visually isn’t working will jump out at you once you give your mind a break! Once you land on an arrangement you love, snap a photo for visual reference as you hang the art.
Step 3: Mark Where the Art Will Go on Your Wall
There are a couple of different ways you can go about actually hanging your gallery wall. The method you choose depends on your personality, patience level, and tolerance for imperfection!
If you’re patient, create paper templates of each piece. (This is the method akin to: “Measure twice, cut once.”) Using the roll of butcher paper we mentioned earlier, trace each piece of art, then mark on the piece of paper where the hanger is on the frame. Then, you can use painter’s tape to hang up the whole piece of paper onto the wall where you’ll hang everything. You can drive your nail directly into the wall, over the paper, then pull the piece of paper off the wall afterward.
Alternatively, you could just wing it, using the photo of your arrangement as reference, and measuring heights and distances as you go. (Or just eye-balling it!) This method is for the more risk-tolerant, as you’re more prone to making slight measurement errors along the way!
Step 4: Hang Your Gallery Wall
Now the intimidating part: putting nails into the wall to actually create a gallery wall. Just make sure you plan ahead and have the right nails and hooks you need for the weight and size of your artwork (and wall type) so you have minimal damage. Consider getting picture hanging wire for heavier pieces. Or, if some of your pieces are very light art and you’re in a rental, you could even use Command Strips on the frames or opt for Command Hooks instead of nails! It also helps to have a second set of hands (and eyes!) when hanging art.
But back to putting those holes in the walls. It can be daunting at first, but getting the largest piece of art up first will help take the stress away and it will be super satisfying once it’s up. From there, work your way out on either side. Your gallery will be up before you know it!
Designer Tip: Make sure you use a level on each piece of art as you hang it to make sure it’s level. This is important, because if one piece is off and you use it as a reference for the rest of the art, the whole gallery wall could be tilted! (This is especially important if you’re winging it rather than using a paper template!)
It’s worth remembering that when you’re hanging art, the actual hanger is usually ½-2” lower than the top of the frame. If you want to be super precise, measure the distance from the top of the frame to the hanger. Then, hold the frame up to the wall, use a pencil to lightly mark the top of the frame, then measure the distance down to where the hanger on that frame is. That’s where the nail will go! (There’s a surprising amount of math involved in hanging gallery walls—but fortunately it doesn’t need to be exact.)
Want a little more guidance? Check out our designer tips on how to hang art.
Modsy designer, Madeline shows off her finished gallery wall!
Step 5: Enjoy!
You did it! We’re sure your gallery wall looks amazing. Now that you’ve done so much hard work, stand back and enjoy it! And just remember, if you ever want to swap things out, you can! Simply swap out frames of the same size, or just replace the art within an existing frame when you want something fresh. (Changing seasons are a great time to switch up your look!)
Want some help to create a gallery wall?