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How I Design a Gallery Wall + a Secret Tool

There are so many details to consider with a gallery wall – frames, style, which photos, where to print, just to name a few! If you haven’t already, listening to episode 343 of the Sorta Awesome Podcast is a great place to start (gallery walls at 13:30). I talk about all those details, plus some budget considerations, my secret tool, and other questions to help you create a fantastic photo gallery wall of your own.

All these pieces can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to – you can do this!

Often the gallery walls I design are rather organic instead of symmetrical, which usually allows for a bit more of a creative process. This can be equally rewarding and challenging, but it’s also fun! Whether you prefer a classic grid or a more eclectic look, this process can provide some helpful and timesaving tips, which you can see with the two galleries showcased.

Let's get started!

I start by measuring the wall space where the gallery will hang – both the width and height, also considering any furniture placement so enough room is left around the photos.

Now it’s time to get creative! First, I measure out the wall dimensions on the floor, usually just marking the corners with masking tape. Then I spread all the frames out on the floor, moving them around in different layouts, trying various combinations. When I like something, even a small grouping, I design around that – adding to and taking away. This process often takes time, but once I get to an entire grouping I like, I take a photo. Sometimes I make more changes, sometimes that’s the finished layout, sometimes I come back and tweak a few things or change it entirely a few days later!

Typically I start with the frames, then add photos. Knowing the frame sizes and gallery layout allows me to select the right photos for the design and make sure I don’t waste money on printing the wrong size photos.

With the design finalized and photos selected, printed, and framed, it’s time to use my secret tool – wrapping paper! It’s actually about the printed grid on the back, so grab some on clearance this year, no matter the wrapping paper design.

I cut a length the full width of the gallery wall (and sometimes tape a second length to the top to double the height), then use the grid to precisely place the frames in the finished design, perfecting the spacing and alignment. Then I trace each frame, mark the center at the top, and measure from the top of the frame to the hanger, marking the exact placement of the nail on the grid.

Typically I start with the frames, then add photos. Knowing the frame sizes and gallery layout allows me to select the right photos for the design and make sure I don’t waste money on printing the wrong size photos.

It’s important that the paper grid is level when hung on the wall, which I secure with masking or painter’s tape. (Also, this is where my Enneagram 1-ness comes into play, making sure everything is just right!) You may not have a laser level handy as we used here, but taking measurements from the ceiling to the grid or even using a phone app can also be effective. Then I easily hammer in nails or other picture hangers using the marks already on the grid and hang all the frames to make sure everything is correct. Then it all comes down, the grid is removed, and the frames go back up to stay.

Voilà! A beautiful gallery wall is complete!

Here’s another great approach:

Select your frames, cut paper sized to match, position those individual sheets on the wall with tape to design your gallery. My friend Taylor sent me photos of this awesome gallery she just created last weekend! (And if you’re in need of a great professional organizer for your home, classroom, office, or any other space – check out her business!)

Yes, there can be a lot to a project like this, but hopefully these tips can help it feel more manageable! And you can always book a Digital Consult for a little coaching or to start a custom design if you’d rather have all the work done for you.

The goal is always the same – for you to ENJOY your photos!

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Hi, I'm Lisa

Photos have always brought me joy and are one of my favorite mediums for storytelling. But let’s be honest, the sheer volume of digital photos we all have can be overwhelming. It’s my goal through Scissortail Digital to help you enjoy, use, and organize your photos so you can go from jumbled to joyful!

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