Home And Decoration Tips: Practical Tips for Hanging a Gallery Wall

Practical Tips for Hanging a Gallery Wall

I was catching up on the latest interior design articles on social media the other day and read an article about hanging gallery walls, which was good in terms of what to hang but for me lacked somewhat on the practicalities of actually getting it on the wall, so I thought I would write my own version of how to do it which is hopefully a bit more user-friendly if you decide to take it from aspirational to actual.

Many people have lots of small pieces of framed artwork and not so many have big statement pieces. Gallery walls are a great way of displaying lots of smaller artwork together to give a big impact; hung as a gallery wall they do the same job as hanging one large piece, bringing visual interest to one wall rather than having lots of small pieces dotted around the room. A small picture on a large wall can look lost on its own and proportion is an important aspect to consider when hanging artwork rather than just the subject matter and colours. Grouping several pieces together that you already own can be a good, cost-effective alternative to buying one larger piece for the space.

Gallery walls work well when there is a consistency to them, so choose pieces that are related to each other in some way (so family, nature, ships - maybe even your children's artwork for a quirky alternative in the right space - whatever appeals to you) and also try to ensure that there is similarity in the framing (so maybe all black frames, or two types of frames - again, it's up to you but try to maintain some uniformity). Good frames and mounts will really enhance your artwork and by using pieces that relate to each other and keeping your framing simple your overall look will be cohesive.

So to the practicalities. It's bad enough trying to hang one picture in just the right place so how on earth do you get it right for a gallery wall? Here is my easy method to make sure you get it right first time.

You will need:

  • Brown paper (for preference, but any paper will do, although not newspaper as this will mark your walls) 
  • Scissors 
  • Pen 
  • Tape measure (metal) or a ruler 
  • Masking tape 
  • Hammer 
  • Picture hooks 
  • A big space on the floor

Gather together all of the artwork and items you plan to hang and arrange them on the space you have made on the floor. Play about with it until you get to a layout you are happy with. Then either take a photo of it on your camera phone so that you can refer back to it or make a quick diagram of what is to go where.

Next up is the brown paper. Draw around the frame of each piece (be careful not to mark the frame if you are using a marker pen - best to use a biro). Mark the top, just in case it is just off square, and cut out the shape. Then, taking the cord at the back of the picture, pull it up as though it were hanging and measure down from the top of the frame to the point where the bottom of the picture hook will be. Go back to the brown paper, measure down from the top and midway across to indicate on the paper where the bottom of the hook needs to be.

Repeat this process until you have all of the pictures replicated in brown paper. It will also be helpful to write on them as you go what the picture is (eg, "Granny with ice cream" and "Tom playing football") to help you get them on the wall in the right place.

Next, go back to your plan or photo of the layout and using the masking tape, stick the paper templates to the wall where you intend to hang your pictures (don't press too hard on the masking tape - you don't want to mark your wall). This method gives you an opportunity to step back and ensure that the layout is even and pleasing to the eye and allows you to move things around a bit if need be to get it just right. In general, try to maintain a regular gap around each picture.

Once you are happy with the layout it's time to get out the hammer and picture hooks. Line up the bottom of each hook with the mark you have made on the paper and hammer through the paper. Leave each template in place until you finish - this way (because you have written on each one what the picture is) it is quick and easy to hang them in the right place. As you hang each picture you can tear off the paper template. If anything needs a minor adjustment, tighten or loosen the string or wire rather than hammering more holes into your wall.