A yawning empty wall space over a sofa, in a hallway, or over a dining room sideboard can be daunting. One large artwork is an easy option but often the ones we love the most are too expensive. The answer? A custom gallery wall that not only fills the space affordably, but does it with personality and diversity.
Begin your gallery wall plan by choosing a large piece of furniture—such as a sofa or media center—to create a baseline for your gallery wall. From there you can build up and out, using paper templates to create the perfect arrangement on the floor before taping them to the wall and pulling out your hammer. That way, you’ll save that precious wall from random nail holes—and you from spackling.
Round up these household staples so you’ll be ready to create a gallery wall worth gazing at every time you walk by.
Precision is key. Grab a ruler, yardstick, or measuring tape to measure the wall as well as the art objects themselves.
Choose a flat-head hammer to drive in nails. Ensure there’s a claw at the back to pull nails out if needed.
Trace around each piece of art with a pencil (not a pen) so you don’t damage the frame with ink or smear ink on the wall.
4. Painter’s Tape
Choose low-tack painter’s tape to mark straight lines and attach paper templates to the wall.
Use mixed-media scissors to trim the paper templates you’ll use to come up with a distinctive gallery wall arrangement.
First step: make the paper templates. Use a pencil to trace the outline of each object or piece of framed art on brown kraft paper. (Newspaper will work, too, depending on the size of the art.) The resulting template will serve as a placeholder when you create a temporary gallery-wall arrangement on the floor and for exact placement of your hangers on the wall.
Step two: Cut out templates. Trim each template with scissors, keeping the edges straight, the corners sharp, and any curved shapes as close as possible to the original. If you prefer, use a utility knife and straightedge atop a safe cutting surface to trim rectangular shapes. You may want to use a pencil to jot down the specific piece of art on the template surface.
Next step: measure the hanger placement. Identify the vertical center of each template and then mark it with a pencil line. Then, measure the distance between the outside edge of the artwork to the hanging hardware, such as a sawtooth hanger, on the back of the frame. If the artwork will be suspended by wire, pull the attached wire taut and measure the high point’s distance from the top edge. If using D-rings or hangers on each side of a frame, measure the inside top of those on your template.
Finally, mark the nail holes. Using the measurement from the previous step, place a mark on the center line drawn on the template or on the sides in the case of D-rings or hangers. Then, using a small nail, poke a hole in each paper template at the spot where the nail or hook should be driven into the wall.
Create your arrangement by taping paper templates to the wall; hammer a nail through each mark, and remove the templates to get perfect placement for each piece!
Tip: Include curved objects among the rectangular ones to boost interest.
When you’re done hanging the paper placeholders, stand back and squint your eyes to check for odd gaps and spacing.
Size matters. Using the right hardware for hanging a piece of art depends on its weight—and the hanging device already attached to the back. Here are some common options and their best uses, from left to right, top to bottom:
1. Toggle Bolts
Spring-action wings let these bolts support heavier artwork. A 1/8-inch-diameter screw can safely support up to 30 pounds.
2. Picture Hooks
Large picture hangers with nails can hold up to 20 pounds. Use on drywall and plaster.
3. Sawtooth Hangers
Nailing one of these to a lightweight frame makes it easy to straighten the artwork.
4. Clear Hooks
Command plastic hooks attach to walls with clear adhesive strips that remove cleanly.
5. Hanging Strips
Interlocking peel-and-stick stems support artwork hanging from a smooth surface.
6. D-Ring Hangers
Attach two hangers to the vertical sides of a wood frame. Connect the rings with hanging wire or picture cord.
7. Hanging Wire
Coated wire supports up to 100 pounds (depending on wire size) when connected to D-ring hangers.
8. French Cleat
Interlocking brackets (one for the artwork and one for the wall) secure heavy pieces safely and easily. An 18-inch-long hanger supports up to 200 pounds.
9. Plastic Wall Anchor
Ribbed plastic expansion anchors paired with screws will let you hang lightweight pieces of art.
10. Molly Bolts
A hammer drives these anchors into drywall. The larger the screw it holds, the stronger the anchor (the largest up to 50 pounds).
Composition options are endless. Get started with these options then, innovate. Snap the combos you like best on your cell phone.
Go Freehand. Create a laid-back vibe by tossing out your ruler before you even start arranging.
Opt For a Row or Grid. Create a striking focal point with this orderly approach. Use equal spaces between frames.
Highlight a Large or Unique Piece. Anchor the group with one item. Vary the sizes and shapes of the pieces around it.
Think of your gallery wall as a showcase that helps others figure out who you are—not just by displaying the art you collect, but by revealing your history and the things you really love.
Photography by Chris Hennessey
© Caruth Studio