How to Hang a Gallery Wall Perfectly Every Time

Gallery wall DIY tricks to get your wall decor right like a professional interior designer every time + simplified gallery wall layout ideas.

how to hang a gallery wall

For the past decade, Robert and I have hung quite a few gallery walls. And I have figured out a few tricks that work every single time (without resulting in Swiss cheese walls with a million “oopsie” nail holes).

Whether you want to display a collection of family photos, a selection of your favorite artwork, a mix of both, or even a display of items not in picture frames at all, creating a gallery wall adds tons of personality.

While the prospect of hanging multiple pieces of art may seem daunting, fear not! In this step-by-step guide, I’ll walk you through the process of hanging a gallery wall like a pro.

hanging picture frames in a grid

Supplies

  • Picture frames and artwork: Collect the pieces you want to hang. Make sure they complement each other in terms of style, color, and theme. (See further down this blog post for more ideas.)
  • Measuring tape: A must-have for precise measurements.
  • Pencil: For marking on the wall and tracing frames for templates.
  • Level: To ensure your gallery wall is perfectly straight.
  • Hammer and nails or wall anchors: Choose the appropriate hanging hardware based on the weight of your frames and the type of wall.
  • Transparent tape: Helpful for planning and arranging your gallery wall layout.
  • Wrapping paper or kraft paper and scissors: For making frame templates.

Step 1 – Make Frame Templates

Before I knew better, I used to make a gallery wall at first by just trying to eyeball it. Big mistake, HUGE. (Said in a Julia Roberts a la Pretty Woman voice.)

Our wall started to look like Swiss cheese thanks to all of my nail hole mistakes. So here’s the old faithful trick I always use (and should have used all along).

Make paper templates by tracing your picture frames or gallery wall objects onto wrapping paper or kraft paper. Be sure to mark on the paper where the hangers are on the back of the frames as well.

picture frame templates for DIY wall decor

Picture Frames With Templates for Hanging

These are my favorite gallery wall picture frames from Walmart because they have the templates already supplied with them! Such a time saver.

Nowadays, you can even buy pre-designed gallery wall system with templates provided from companies like PictureWall and Framebridge.

But if I’m using thrifted picture frames (which is usually the case), tracing the frames on paper does the trick.

Related: Where to Buy Vintage Art and Picture Frames Online and How to Print Digital Art

taping paper templates to a wall to try different layouts

This is where I definitely recommend using transparent tape rather than painters tape, if you can help it.

When planning our staircase gallery wall, I used painters tape on wrapping paper templates, which was a little distracting.

Tip: When planning a staircase gallery wall though, taping up a long diagonal line along the base of your layout does help as a guide for placing the corners of picture frames.

wrapping paper templates to make a gallery wall on stairs
gallery wall on stairs in an entryway with accent chest, mirror, and lamp

But when I made a mirror gallery wall in our dining room, I used transparent tape on kraft paper templates to test different configurations.

It was much easier to focus on the picture frame layouts using transparent tape rather than be distracted by the bright green or blue painters tape.

using paper templates to make a gallery wall
mirror gallery wall above buffet

Start Bigger

There’s a fine line between a well placed gallery wall and one that just looks cluttered. If you stick to hanging a bunch of 5×7 frames and smaller, the gallery wall is going to look chaotic and messy.

Larger pieces ground the layout, especially if you have tall ceilings. 11×14, 16×20, and 20×24 frames are the best to start with, depending on the size of your wall.

traditional gallery wall in office

Fill In With Smaller Frames

Place where you want your large frames first, and then fill in with smaller sizes.

So for our stairway, I started by placing a cutout of this larger 16×20 frame at the top of our landing.

gallery wall on staircase wall

Especially when hanging art in kids’ rooms, it’s so much fun to add items that aren’t your typical framed art to add some personality. Use those as the finishing touch.

In this gallery wall we did for two teen girls, I hung up a hat and basket of flowers to soften the rigid rectangular frames.

gallery wall above a bed

In this beachy bunk room we did for three girls, I hung up a ukelele, pennants, and ribbon for extra whimsy. Using unframed objects in gallery walls is a great way to add an eclectic style to a room.

kids gallery wall above a dresser

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Focus on a Color Scheme

Stick to monochromatic or a consistent color scheme.

The more frames you have, the more cluttered it will look if you use lots of colors in your gallery wall. So I try to stick to a “theme” of colors.

I love black and white because it’s simple and classic. But you can stick to a pastel color palette or primary colors or a scheme of different shades of blue, whatever your style.

Consistency helps make the collection intentional.

thrifted gallery wall with coastal art

Consider Matting

Mat your art/photos if you want it to look more high-end.

A photo or a piece of art just feels more important if you stick it in a crisp, white mat. Couple them with black frames and you have an instant classic. So if you want your wall decor to feel more upscale, mat what you display. (For a more traditional look, choose ornate frame styles instead.)

I like to buy frames already matted from IKEA, Target, or Walmart, but if you want to mat any thrift store frames you stumble upon, you can usually get pre-cut frame mats for around $5 with a coupon at Michael’s

Some of my frames were originally silver and gold, but I spray painted them matte black to look like nearly identical Pottery Barn frames. (Mine were a quarter of the price though. Ha!)

staircase gallery wall with black frames

Here are a few gallery wall decorating ideas for arranging layouts that could help.

gallery wall layout ideas

When in doubt, a simple grid is always a great way to get a clean, minimalist gallery wall. This Audubon gallery wall in our living room is a classic.

Related: 20 Creative DIY Wall Decor Ideas for Your Blank Walls

grid gallery wall with bird art audobon prints

Step 3 – Measure and Level

The general rule is keep your frames between 2-6 inches of each other so they look like an intentional grouping.

It’s best to keep the center of the gallery wall about eye-level (approximately 60″ from floor to center for most people).

Related: Mistakes Most People Make When Hanging Picture Frames

measurements for hanging picture frames on a wall

Right before putting any nails in the wall, check your layout with a level to make any final adjustments.

checking picture frame templates to make sure they are level

Step 4 – Hang Your Frames

Here’s where having paper templates really comes in handy! Use the hanger markings on the paper to hammer nails right through into the wall. Then, just rip the paper and tape right off the wall.

Your nail will be in the exact place you need it to be to hang the frame.

Related: How to Install a Picture Light Without Hardwiring

nailing into a picture frame template

This is what the Walmart picture frame template looks like, but you can replicate the same concept on your own DIY gallery wall templates made from wrapping paper / kraft paper.

ripping off a paper picture frame template

Every time I walk up our stairs, I find myself lingering around all of the sweet photos on our staircase wall from my and Robert’s past 12 years together. Snapshots from our engagement, our wedding day, Olivia and Regan’s firsts as babies, all of their little changes and growth spurts.

It’s amazing how a space can be completely transformed and some of life’s favorite moments can be captured in a gallery wall.

staircase gallery wall with black and white family photos

I never ever want to take a single memory for granted, and I love that this stairway keeps what’s most important at the very center of our home. It’s a reminder I need sometimes in the busy day-to-day hustle.

Do you have any tricks of your own to hang a gallery wall? Or do you have a gallery wall space with some of your favorite art pieces already hanging in your house?

Once you start, it’s hard to stop.

You can get more DIY design help with a free Style Finder Binder guide and access to more resources here:

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30 Comments

  1. I love love love the entire look! Perfect blend of clean and sophisticated gray/white/black…with the warmth of the wood! Then that beautiful pop of blue through the open door! Thank you for sharing!

    We are looking to buy a new home in Texas in a few months… and your design ideas have inspired my house search!

  2. GALLERY ALL THE WALLS. Ok, not really, but I feel you there 100% sister. Gallery walls are like Pringles. Once you pop, the fun don’t stop. On a serious note: our stairwells are so similar. I have a mix of weathered wood frames, matte black, and 2-3 antique gold ones. The bigger the better (14’ ceilings on our main floor). I love the classic lines, all b&w photos (#twinning), and simple layout you chose. That field of wildflowers picture on the landing is *everything*. So cute, Lauren!

  3. Your foyer looks so elegant, Lauren! Excellent work!! I’m planning to hang a gallery wall going up our basement stairs soon. Thank you for sharing the angled tape trick! That will make things easier. 🙂 I enjoy your blog so much! Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us! Blessings to you and yours!

  4. Looks absolutely amazing! Love the transformation. I would love to do a gallery wall up my staircase but it is a curved staircase. Not sure if I can get large frames to hang!