DIY: Gallery Photo Arrangement

For some reason, I’ve always seen the apartment I live in as a temporary space and so decorating the walls was the last thing on my mind. I got a couple of framed flower prints from my sister-in-law one birthday, and those went up in the dining area. A poster went up above one of the couches because I saw one of a favorite painting for three bucks. Six years in, that’s pretty much all that was decorated in the living room area. A huge, blank, white wall sat behind our couch, the focal point on entry. After using a Groupon on some fancy framing for one of our wedding photos, I decided that it was about time to correct this. I wanted to pull together pictures of our families and make a mixed frame arrangement (sometimes known as a Gallery Wall) for the large expanse of wall. I’d seen similar arrangements on design sites and in fancy magazines, so I knew just how I wanted it. I explained it to my husband, who couldn’t quite envision how it would come together, but indulged my plan.

The Inspiration

While the image below wasn’t my first inspiration, it’s a good representation of what I wanted to do.

A blue wall with framed art of varying sizes and colors, creating a sweetly mixed arrangement.
[Image: Our House (via Danielle Oakley Interiors)]

The Plan

I knew I wanted a variety of frame styles, and that I wanted it to represent our families. I wanted a mix of black and white and color as well as a mix of candid and more formal pictures. I had a few pictures on hand already and a few frames, so it was just a matter of figuring out what would go where. The focal point would be the fancily framed engagement picture. I thought that something that was fairly symmetrically balanced would work best in the space I had.

As I gathered together the pictures I already had, the holes in my picture needs became clear. I had a picture of my husband and his mum, but not one of my parents. To avoid using too many wedding pictures, I used a picture of them that my father had sent me for making their Christmas gift a couple years ago. My brother had given me a nice portrait of his family, which juxtaposed nicely with a great picture of my husband’s sister and her husband and new baby. I picked out a few pictures to get done as Fractures (a company that does digital photo printing onto glass, it’s very neat). The next challenge: frames.

Frames on a Budget

I had a pretty limited budget for this project (budget being: as little as you can possibly spend), but I also knew I wanted to get things framed and up and done, otherwise this project would take years at the pace I go. If you have a little more time and inclination, you can spice up your arrangement and lower your budget even more by thrifting or reusing old frames and painting them to coordinate with your decor. Our own Bobella has a great DIY article to guide you through that (super easy) process. Since I’m impatient (and my local goodwill never seems to have good frames), I turned to Michael’s, keeping an eye on when they had 60% off sales on their frame selection (which is quite often). I went with wood for most of my frames, and shied away from white to avoid blending into the wall. I also found a great set of three square 4×6 frames at Bed, Bath, and Beyond that were on clearance (granted, they came in a set that also had wood art that said “Grandkids,” but I just gave that to a friend who could use it). Other great places to look for cheap frames include other craft stores such as JoAnn’s and Hobby Lobby, the big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart, and discount retailers like Ross, TJ Maxx/Homegoods, and Big Lots.


Some things you should know about myself and my husband before you read this part: He is very logical, precise, and meticulous. One off-center picture would bother him endlessly. He likes to plan everything out and make sure everything’s covered before starting a project. Me… I’m kind of the exact opposite. I like to just jump into things and if they’re not perfect, I’ll either fix it or live with it. Since I knew this would be going up in our living room, I figured I should maybe let him help make sure it wasn’t completely crooked and misshapen. Before we started, I sketched out a plan of where everything would go:

Picture of a plan for hanging pictures on graph paper
The plan... how organized is this?

When we were at Target to pick up proper picture hangers (rather than regular nails like I used to hang pictures on), we found this neat Hang and Level, which for $15, was a great investment that made it super easy to place the hangers. Starting from the top down (in hindsight, using the Hang and Level would have been easier if we’d started from the bottom up), we started hanging.

A wall with five pictures hung on it.
We started with the left side...
A wall with eight assorted pictures hung on it.
... and moved to the right side.
A wall with ten pictures hung on it.
And all done. Kind of.

Since my Fractures hadn’t come in yet, the hole on the right side was for those. The hanging took about three hours with all the measuring and marking, but at the end of it, it was so lovely to come home or out of the bedroom in the morning and see all of these great pictures of friends and family.

When I got a couple of cute Bichon prints for Christmas and Valentine’s Day, I decided to make a more free-form arrangement of prints in our guest room. I purposefully left this one asymmetrical so that I could add to it as I get new prints. Since I only had two to start, I augmented the display with a few prints from Indie Fixx’s Feed Your Soul project.

A wall with four framed pictures
All frames from Target

Other Resources

After I already hung my arrangement, I found this awesome trick for easy hanging and post full of gallery arrangements at Roost Home.

Prints in art arrangement of last photo (clockwise from top): Bichon print from Tiny Confessions (etsy); “On the Cloud,” Watercolors by Yoju; “My heart is open” and untitled Rachel Austin print, both from Feed Your Soul.


Published by

Crystal Coleman

Florida girl living on the west coast. During the day, I consult in social media and community management. I have a really cute puppy (Elphaba) and a British husband (I keep him for his accent) as well as an unhealthy relationship with parentheses.

4 thoughts on “DIY: Gallery Photo Arrangement”

  1. When I hang up gallery walls, I usually start in the corners, then hang the middle ones, and end with the smaller frames in between the corners and middle. This way I can adjust the spaces in between as I hang, and I’m not left poking a million holes.

    Also, I love my Hang and Level, but you can make one yourself using a ruler and two nails. Pinterest has some great how-to’s.

  2. Nice work!  I know what you mean about not wanting to decorate a temporary space and said space becoming not so temporary.  I’ve been in my apt for 3.5 years and it is seriously lacking some wall decor.   This seems like a good solution.  :)


  3. This look awesome! You are so much more thorough than me- I grab a hammer, some nails, and just start hanging. I have done 4 walls in my house this way. I love the way this style looks. This tutorial will make my next undertaking much less frustrating, and leave MUCH fewer holes in my walls.

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