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How to Hang a Gallery Wall (without tools!)

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Learn how to hang a gallery wall in 3 simple steps without a tape measure or level! This simple method for hanging a gallery wall will get your frames up and on the wall in just 20 minutes!

This post was originally published on March 26, 2017 but has since been updated to include printable instructions and more detailed tips.

I don’t know about you, but I love wall galleries…

There’s just something about the way they bring a wall to life!

I remember the first time I tried to hang a gallery – when I was done (or rather, gave up) there were a million holes in the wall and I wasn’t even that satisfied with how it looked! Talk about discouraging!  

I knew there had to be a better way, so I looked up some tricks from other DIY’ers and discovered the following method.

I hope you can use these three steps to easily hang a photo gallery that you love!

Before you get going on hanging your gallery wall, here are my best tips and tricks for designing it and prepping for it.

The first thing you’ll have to decide is which style of gallery wall you want to hang.

This is basically asking the questions – what “vibe” do you want your gallery to give off when someone looks at it?

Here are some popular designs to consider:

  • Modern: Matching, high-contrast frames in a symmetrical pattern with muted colored photos
  • Farmhouse: Rustic frames mixed with a few signs and/or décor items
  • Traditional: Matching frames with color photos
  • Eclectic: Mis-matched frames with signs and/or décor items

Of course, there are lots more “styles” but the true thing you have to consider is the look you want your gallery to take.

Here are a few questions to consider – and decide based on your preference:

  1. Where are you planning to hang your gallery? How large do you want it to be? Will it take up just a small space above a piece of furniture or a fill an entire large empty wall?
  2. Do you like symmetrical galleries?
  3. Do you like when all the frames are exactly the same? Or maybe just the same color? Or maybe just the same size but different colors?
  4. Do you like when the gallery includes signs, mirrors or other décor items? Or do you prefer just picture frames?

Let’s talk through each of these questions in more depth.

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Room and Wall Placement

Where are you planning to hang your gallery? How large do you want it to be? Will it take up just a small space above a piece of furniture or a fill and entire large empty wall?

A lot of what you’ll consider when designing your gallery wall is dependent on WHERE you plan to hang your gallery.

The place where it will be hung will determine the size, type and style you end up going with.

So the first thing you want to decide is where are you hanging it and then note the following things:

What are the total dimensions I have to work with?

If over a piece of furniture, my rule of thumb is to make the width slightly smaller than the width of the furniture. The height can be whatever you like, but try to hang the gallery so the bottom of your arrangement is just 6-8″ from the furniture top.

If on a blank wall, consider the traffic flow in that area and try not to hang anything too low on the wall where it might get bumped or knocked off the wall. I tend to lean towards having the center of the entire gallery at about eye-level.

One thing I do when trying to decide this part is use painter’s tape to tape off the section where I want to hang my gallery wall.

Then I live with it for a few days and make sure I like the size and placement of it! If I don’t, I adjust it a bit then try again. Keep doing this until you like it!

Take note of the dimensions you have to work with and use them to help you determine what size/quantity of frames and/or art you can include in your gallery wall!

What is the style of the space I’m hanging it in?

Before you go onto the next few design tips, it’s important to consider where you’re planning to hang your gallery wall and what style of décor is already in the space.

Most likely, you don’t want to hang a boho-style basket gallery in a very modernly decorated room…

So look around and take note of what your room looks like – mark down a few style features that may help you decide some of the following design concepts as you go.

Arrangement Type

Do you like symmetrical galleries?

Most gallery walls that are comprised of just frames naturally take on some form of symmetry.

This could mean it’s symmetrical from side-to-side or even from top to bottom.

But there are lots of options or asymmetrical designs that have other things that appeal to the eye.

If you choose not to make it symmetrical, try to give it something consistent to ground the design – that could be a straight line between all the frames, a similar gap between all the items or even one items perfectly centered.

Frame Style

Do you like when all the frames are exactly the same? Or maybe just the same color? Or maybe just the same size but different colors?

The type of frames you choose will greatly impact the style of your gallery wall.

Not only do you get to choose size, width and color of frames, but you can also change the look by doing different sized mats inside of the frames.

This is purely a preference – so look through some photos and see if you like the galleries with matching, consistent frames or if you enjoy the ones with a bit more eclectic personality.

I find I prefer the frames to match in color but don’t mind if they are different shapes and sizes.

I also like to throw in some different sized mats within the matching colored frames to give it a bit more visual interest.

Frames, Décor or Both?

Do you like when the gallery includes signs, mirrors or other décor items? Or do you prefer just picture frames?

Gallery walls can be a compilation of all sorts of things, like the one I’ve created in the tutorial below.

Take some time to look over some inspiration pictures to decide which style you prefer.

The all-frame galleries are much more traditional or modern, and if filled with family photos give off a more personalized vibe.

The mixed galleries tend to be more rustic and eclectic and can be depersonalized if you’re placing them in a spot where you don’t want family photos on display all the time.

Which brings us to another thing you should consider – where are you planning to hang your gallery and what type of décor do you want in that space?

You can make gallery walls without any frames – out of purely signs and décor – and if this is a style you like, then go for it! One popular idea for this style is the trendy basket wall gallery.

Other ideas for displaying photos without frames include: hanging photos from things like string lights, a ladder leaned against the wall or even a branch, and washi taping photos to the wall.

Don’t be afraid to be creative!

Ok, now that we’ve discussed how to design and plan for your gallery wall, let’s get to actually installing it!

For a printable copy of the materials and instructions, scroll down.

Materials Needed

Step 1: Create Templates

Begin by gathering all the items you think you want in your gallery.

I’d suggest using a grouping of matching items (like 9 of the same frame in a 3×3 grid) or a group of similar styled items (like mine are all black, wood or metal.)

Also, keep in mind other things you have on hand that you could include, just in case you need to fill a specific spot as you go.

I always end up putting something in my gallery that I wasn’t originally planning on.

Flexibility is important when decorating – especially gallery walls!

Once you have an idea of what you want to hang – trace each item onto your paper.

I used some basic crate paper from IKEA, but you could use any paper that is large enough for your items.

Even opened up brown paper bags could work!

Be sure to label each item (even when I do a gallery of just photos I’ll label which photo is in each frame so I can visualize when they will be on the wall) and cut out each template.

Gallery

After you’ve cut everything out, you’ll want to mark where the nails go.

To do this, turn your item over so you’re looking at its back, lay your traced paper version on the back, and use a pen to mark where the nail goes to hang it (as shown below.)

Gallery

We’ll use this in the third step and it’s the best trick ever!!

Step 2: Hang Paper Templates

Now it’s time to arrange the gallery with your paper cut-outs.

I use rolls of blue painter’s tape in each corner to stick them to the wall.

The great thing about this step is that you can rearrange the items as many times as you want without damaging your wall.

It’s also important to be sure your paper gallery looks level.

If it isn’t, when you go to install the real thing, your gaps and spacing will be different. (I learned this the hard way!)

This step usually takes me about 15 minutes of manipulation before I’m happy with how it looks.

Gallery

Step 3: Install

Pretty easy so far, ya?

The best part is that hanging your actual gallery is the easiest of it all!

Thanks to the prep work you’ve done up to now, you should be able to have your gallery hung and finished in just a few minutes.

Doing one item at a time, put a nail in the wall where you marked them in the first step, take down the paper template, and hang your real item.

Marking where the nails go to make hanging a breeze is my favorite trick out of this whole process! 

I am a huge fan of using my eye to determine when things are even and straight, because I can’t stand when I hang things with a level but they still look so uneven!

For this method of hanging a gallery wall without tools, we’re depending on our eye to determine what looks good (and even and straight) NOT what the tools tell us is!

After everything is hung, be sure to observe whether everything is level, and you’re done!

Now step back and admire your creativity. 🙂

Here is how mine turned out!

Gallery

The top-left sign, with the verse on it, is from Hobby Lobby.

I love it so much!!

I had been looking for one for quite a while but just hadn’t found one with the right verse…

When I saw this one, and the fact that it expresses my heart to bless the people that come into my home, I couldn’t resist!

Gallery

As you can see from my “paper version” gallery, I added the chair after the gallery was hung.

I like that it gives a spot to sit or drop stuff since this wall is in the entryway.

Can you believe this chair was only $5 at an estate sale?!

Here’s the view from the front door when you enter our home:

Gallery

This gallery is also at the entrance to our hallway, so I didn’t want big, bulky furniture here.

I was so excited to find a home for my new faux fiddle leaf tree!

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Gallery

The captain’s mirror was a Dollar Store DIY from Katie over at Little House of Four – check her out, she’s awesome!

Gallery

I hope these simple steps will help you hang a beautiful wall gallery in your own home with ease!

Gallery

As promised, here are your printable instructions:

How to Hang Gallery Wall

How to Hang Gallery Wall

The easiest way to hang a gallery wall without tools in just 20 minutes!

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Instructions

  1. Gather the frames/items you want in your gallery wall and trace them onto crate paper.
  2. Cut out the paper templates, place them on the backs of each item and mark where the nails go to hang them.
  3. Hang the templates on your wall with painter's tape and rearrange until you're happy with it.
  4. Place nails in the hole marks on the templates, remove the paper templates and hang your original frames/art!

As always, feel free to contact me with questions or feedback!

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2 thoughts on “How to Hang a Gallery Wall (without tools!)”

  1. This is brilliant! We just moved from WA to AZ and I haven’t been able to figure out how to do my feature wall until now! I love this!

    Reply

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