If you have children, you probably have several pictures of your kids at various ages hidden away in a box (or on your phone) begging to see the light of day. If you don’t want to have your counters cluttered with pictures, what do you do? A gallery wall is the perfect way to display an array of photos—and you don’t have to spend a bunch of money to put it together. Here are some tips and tricks for building a gallery wall on a budget.
Step 1: Find your wall
You may already know exactly where you want to hang your pictures or you may need to scout around your home for a wall that you think would be right. For our house, I’ve chosen the bedroom hallway upstairs to liven it up.
Step 2: Dig Deep & Order Prints
If you’re like me, you have had several photo shoots happen (hello, annual Christmas card) but I’ve never taken the time to print out all of the pictures. When I built my gallery wall, I realized that I never framed pictures from my daughter’s newborn shoot (for reference, she’s now 6), so I began there and started uploading pictures I loved to a print site.
I prefer sites where you upload your pictures and the prints are sent to you in the mail because they are typically less expensive and higher quality. I really like Mpix, and sometimes you can catch them on a print sale that makes them extra budget-friendly.
Once you have chosen all of the pictures that you want, it’s time to choose photo sizes. When building my gallery wall, I chose which images I liked best and made those 8×10 (you only want a few of those depending on your wall size), and then diversified with others in sizes 4×6 or 5×7.
Don’t be afraid to include your favorite picture that your kiddo has drawn, school pictures, or non-professional pictures from your phone. A gallery wall can be whatever you want it to be.
Step 3: Find Your Frames
Now that you know what size picture frames you need, it’s time to shop. You can find great, inexpensive frames at places like Ikea, Home Goods and Target. Large frames (such as 8×10) shouldn’t be more than $20 at inexpensive places, which will make your budget go further.
Pick frames that go with your style. For example, I like the look of mixed media and colors so I chose a variety of frame materials from metal to ceramic. I also looked at the picture when choosing the frame to decide whether I thought the picture would look best with something sleek (like a black and white picture in a silver frame) or a something with a color pop (such as a red wood frame). There are no wrong answers here, so have some fun.
Step 4: Clean your frames
This step may seem redundant, but if you’re buying inexpensive frames they have probably been sitting on a shelf and the glass is grimy. Why would you spend the money on beautiful prints to put them behind dirty glass? So pull out your glass cleaner, as well as something to get the price tag residue off the glass (we love a drop of Goo Gone and a paint scraper to make this a quick process) and put in some elbow grease to clean the frame glass on both sides.
Make sure that the glass is completely dry before putting the prints in the picture frames, otherwise you could damage the prints.
Pro Tip: You may want to wear gloves when holding the glass as the edges can be sharp.
Step 5: Plan your Wall
With multiple pieces of art, you will want to have a plan for where you want to hang them before you start putting holes in the wall. The easiest approach that we’ve found is playing with spacing on the floor with a big piece of butcher paper. When it’s time to start hanging, just tape it on the wall. You can also cut pieces of paper the size of your frames and tape them up on the wall to see how spacing looks.
One thing I recommend, when tracing the frames on paper, is to mark where the frame hook is so that you’ll know exactly where you need to put the nail.
Step 6: It’s time to hang
With your template in place, find a spot for each of your nails and start hammering. Hang each picture after you put the nail in the wall so that you can see how the frame looks and fix any issues. If there is a mistake, you’ll only have to change one nail versus the whole wall.
Step 7: Pull out your level
After you have spent all this time creating your beautiful gallery wall, the last thing you want is crooked pictures. So grab a level and make sure that each frame is, well, level. That way viewers can easily focus on the sweet pictures of your family.
Step 8: Enjoy!
Enjoy your new gallery wall! And if there’s a picture that you want to update down the road or even just a day or so after you’ve completed your project, it’ll be easy to switch out a print with everything in place.