Gallery walls seem to be all the rage at the moment (#bandwagon!) but, I have to admit there is a certain charm to having different pieces of art in one spot. It’s a nice creative outlet too; with options to design your own, find beautiful printables from small businesses, or check the blogosphere and Pinterest for stunning, free downloads that you can switch up whenever the mood takes you. So, to help you get your own gallery wall looking amazing – here’s a step by step for how to do it on the cheap!
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Steps 1 & 2: Decide and Draw
Firstly, you need to know exactly where your feature/gallery wall is going to go. This is important because you need to know:
- How much space you have to work with
- What colour scheme/design theme it needs to match
- What inspiration you can take from the rest of the room
- If there are any existing frames that you’d like to incorporate into the design
- If there are existing features that you need to consider (light switches for example)
Once you have that straight in your mind, make a note of the answers to all of the above questions. Dimensions are key, so be sure to measure the space you have and any existing features (like a fireplace or light switch) that you need to take into account. Make yourself a little diagram. It doesn’t have to be beautiful – it’s only for your reference!
Step 3: Decide and Design
This step, and the next, can be done hand in hand, to ensure it’s as budget friendly as possible. By this I mean, that your design could be dictated by the existing frames you have, or vice versa. The best way of completing this little project on a budget is to ensure that you work with what you already have; why? Because it’s free of course!
I took to Pinterest to find some ideas for layout and how to go about creating the look I wanted. The articles that helped me most were:
There are so many different styles and designs that you can choose from! Whether it’s a sleek and sophisticated look or a rustic and farmhouse feel, there is something out there for every taste. You can also choose whether you would like to use a picture ledge instead of directly hanging to the wall. This is a nice way to add another layer of adaptability to the design, as not only can you change the prints inside the frames, but you can change the way they’re displayed too!
Step 4: Find Your Frames
This may seem a very backwards way of going about this process, but trust me when I tell you it’s much cheaper to find prints to fit your existing frames, or frugally acquired ones, than to do it the other way around! I don’t know about you, but I usually have frames hanging around the house (hahaha!) that aren’t actually mounted on the wall. I have a box full of them in the attic and a shelf in my office with some pretty nice ones, so that is where I started this time. Gather the ones that you know will suite the design you have chosen. If you have some that don’t quite fit the bill, because of colour for example, don’t be afraid to invest in some spray paint and get your upcycle on!
Next, look at the available space again, and seek out the final few frames you need for the job. The best places to look are:
- Charity shops – again, you can find some real corkers in charity stores which only need some TLC or a lick of paint
- Pound shops and bargain spots – my favourite thing to do is to nosey around (both physically and digitally!) shops like Home Bargains, The Range, Wilko’s, Poundland and the likes. They often have an array of gorgeous home accessories that just require a little imagination to elevate their potential
- eBay– my next favourite go-to spot for all things interior!
- Amazon– also awesome, budget-friendly and super fast!
Step 5: Plan your Masterpiece
Your next step needs to be what the wall will look like. Taking your original drawing and dimensions from step 3, lay your frames out on the floor. Play with them, see what starts to take shape. Follow some of the ideas in the articles I gave you above. The possibilities are endless so have a play! Take some time to see what your frames will look like on the wall in their own right; only then can you decide what you’re going to fill them with. Once you’re happy with the layout ensure you snap a picture of draw it out, including all dimensions (that means gaps between the frames and everything!) so that it will translate to the wall in exactly the same way as you envisaged.
You could also consider other art pieces to mount in and amongst the frames to add an additional dimension to the design. I went for some wooden arrows (made out of recycled wood so, again with the free!) but if you aren’t so keen on the crafty side of things, you can acquire these from places like those listed above. Have a hunt around and see what you can find. It all depends on your budget. Whatever your choice, some popular ideas include:
- Unique clocks
- Lamps or lights
- Unusual Coat hooks
- Ampersands, Letters or initials
- Plaques or novelty signs
- A Large Key
- Decorative Mirrors
- Mounted animals and busts
Step 6: Prints, Pics and Photographs
The reason for deciding on your layout first is an important one, and it’s a hurdle that you might come across if you go about the process in a different way. Simply put, you have gone about creating your gallery wall backwards for cost efficiency. Now, to ensure that your idea translates to the wall, it’s important that the prints you chose go together AND fit the frames. As you already know what frames you’ll have it’s important to ensure that your prints will fit not only the frames, but the design idea. Let me show you what I mean –
If I’d chosen to have 6 frames on my wall, made up of:
- 1 photograph
- 3 quotes
- 2 prints
I wouldn’t want those three quotes to be next to each other. I’d want to spread them out across the wall space and to have them mingled with the rest. This makes it flow and look well designed. Does that make sense? It’s all about it being aesthetically pleasing, or easy on the eye. The last thing you want is to rush this part and have your wall look lopsided because you didn’t slow down and think about which image was going in which frame.
So, your thought process now:
- not only do you now need to consider what images you want to acquire for your frames but also,
- which frame each image will go in and,
- what background paper it will need (no issue if you’re sticking to all white or all brown paper but does become an issue if you’re mixing it up!)
The way to resolve this dilemma is to go back to the drawing board; literally. Take that bit of paper and sketch out your design. Include where your frames are and write the picture size in each one. This will help you I promise! I’m not one for encouraging extra work where it isn’t necessary! Do this a couple of times and play with where things might go. Cross out and start again!
TOP TIP: Always start with any existing pictures you have. For example, a wedding picture that is already framed. Ensure that is listed so you can work around that and ensure that any other prints or pictures don’t clash or that your design is too “photo heavy”.
Step 7: Find your Prints
There are so many beautiful prints out there to choose from, it would be impossible for me to list them all! You will find a selection of free printables on my Pinterest Board here.
You can create your own in Canva, which is free, or buy printable or pre-printed designs from amazing artists on Etsy (my favourite place!) Consider using a variety of quotes, images and colouring pages (so you can colour it to match your room’s décor). The ideas are endless! Ensure to print them in the correct size according to the frame you have allocated. Then simply add them to the frames!
Step 8: Let’s Hang!
Hanging the wall was the easiest bit for me: Handing my hubby a diagram and strict instructions along with a pile of frames was fairly simple! But in honesty, my reasoning for not completing the task myself is just poor health, so we’ll leave it at “not lazy!” for now! Anywho……. There are two methods you can use to complete this which merely depends on your preference and how you work:
- use large scrap or brown paper to draw the design out on the floor including tracing the frames. Cut the shapes out and blue-tak them to the wall, following your original diagram or photo. You can then pop your nail over the paper and hang the pic, tearing the paper away from under the frame after you’re done.
- Measure, measure and measure again! Take a pencil and mark the design onto the wall before you take a nail to it.
Step 9: Change is good!
Take the opportunity to use the huge array of free and paid art available on the internet and change your gallery wall with your mood. There is everything to choose from including weather, seasons, festivals, celebrations and much more! Swap summer for Santa, and Easter for Eid! There is so much choice! And once you’ve hung it, you’ve done the hard part! Now it’s time to play and let your imagination run free! Most importantly, ensure that you enjoy the creativity of it. You can make a gallery wall, feature wall or art collection out of anything you want; it just has to reflect you! Enjoy!
I’d love to hear your wall art stories and see snaps of your designs; Shout out in the comments if you would do things differently! What would your thrifty tip be for wall art on a shoestring?