How to hang a Gallery Wall
Hey there homeowners and renters! This has been one of my most requested posts and I FINALLY got around to creating it for you! As you all know, gallery walls can be quite intimidating. Heck, I convinced myself for two years that I didn’t like them just because they seemed so daunting. But when I moved into my current apartment, our large white walls were just BEGGING to have gallery walls. So I started small, and eventually learned the tips and tricks to create an amazingly curated and professional looking gallery wall! Read on to find out how.
The three key ingredients to a beautiful gallery wall
Balance is the most important thing you can do to create a cohesive and beautifully curated gallery wall. You don't want anything too jarring or popping out too much. You want the eye to start in the middle of the gallery wall, and bounce from piece to piece effortlessly. The goal is to create a unified collection, rather than individual pieces all thrown up on the wall.
Where to start
Starting with your largest piece first is a great rule of thumb for creating balance within your gallery wall. Depending on the size of your wall and the pieces you have, your largest piece/pieces should be centered, and get smaller as they trickle out. Having your larger pieces in the center visually grounds your gallery wall and provides a place for your eye to start. Once your larger center pieces are placed, start filtering in your smaller frames. I also feel like adding square frames really help to break up the monotony of your vertical and horizontal frames.
When laying out multiple large photos like I did, the easiest way to do it is to either lay it out on the floor, if space allows, or trace the size of the frame onto large kraft paper (I use this), cut them out and lay them out on the wall using blue tape. Then you can take the different sized papers and arrange and rearrange them as many times as you'd like until you have your ideal composition.
When arranging the frames, make sure the "rivers" or spaces in-between the frames are all relatively the same distance apart and are no less than 2" and no more than 5" apart. Also, try to make them follow some sort of grid. You see how I made a common grid line dividing up the top and bottom half? As well as four main vertical rivers in both the top and bottom halves? You want all the frames to feel unified and if you have some that are too close to each other and others that seem to be floating off in space, then your gallery wall won't feel intentional.
Of course, this layout method only works for the size/shape of the frames, not the colors or "heaviness" of the artwork within them. Which leads me to our next step: color, lightness and darkness.
Now here comes the tricky part. Color can be as simple as you'd like or as complicated as it needs to be. To be honest, I still like to keep it pretty easy by choosing one color pallet and sticking to it. But if you have art with multiple colors then following the 60-30-10 rule is the easiest way to make sure you have the proper color proportions. By spacing out your brighter/darker colors evenly throughout the collection, your eye moves easily around the gallery wall rather than constantly being drawn to the same few pieces or areas that are overpowering the rest of the artwork.
Tone is also very important when choosing images that flow together nicely. Do you remember in grade school when you learned about warm colors vs cool colors? Warm colors are reds, oranges, yellows and cool colors are greens, blues and purples. It is not recommended to mix warm and cool tones in a gallery wall because you want it to look a collection of art. But if you must use both tones, sprinkle in the lesser color at 10% (from the 60-30-10 rule) so it looks intentional and not like you just slapped up all of the artwork you own onto one wall.
Lightness & Darkness
Lightness and darkness in a photo are one of the most important factors for even spacing and placement of artwork. Dark (ie. more black in it) pictures are visually heavier than a light (more white in it) picture. Spacing out the darker/heavier pictures throughout just like your 10% color will help make your collection look more cohesive. Also, a good rule of thumb is the eye likes to see heavier photos toward the bottom and lighter photos on the top. Think of a pyramid - you'd rather be standing next to a right side up pyramid than an upside down pyramid because the top heavy nature of it would make you extremely uncomfortable! Just like the upside-down pyramid, a top heavy photo collection is also uncomfortable to the eye.
Ok! Now, last but not least, mix your media! Now, I know everyone has a completely unique and personal taste when it comes to art. Certain art evokes intense emotions for some people and that same piece of art may not even elicit a second glance from someone else. It is all very personal, so this last tip is more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule.
I personally think mixed mediums of art look more interesting than all abstract paintings or all oil paintings. I typically like to mix abstract art, traditional oil paintings, line art, patterns, photography and printed poems or text. I usually pick 3 or 4 within those categories and stick to those per gallery wall I do, but I find the mixed media gallery walls are the most interesting and pleasing to look at!
Just like the light/dark and pops of color - you want to balance out your placement of mixed media. Don't place two oil paintings right next to each other and don't place two patterns or photographs next to each other unless you are purposely making them look like a duo rather than a single piece.
The easiest way to plan out your art from your couch
When I am starting a gallery wall, I love grabbing the artwork I love or would want from the internet and pulling it all into a folder on my desktop. I start by laying them out in my Adobe InDesign, but you can just as easily do this in powerpoint or word. It is super easy to lay them out visually on my computer to make sure the colors work well together, there is enough mix of media types, and that the lightness vs darkness is balanced. Often times I'll be laying out the gallery wall and realize I need another light or dark piece of art to balance it out. If you are doing a large gallery wall, this easy method really helps to make sure you're purchasing as a collection rather than individual pieces. There have been so many times where there is a piece of art I am absolutely obsessed with that just doesn't work in the rest of the gallery - so I either nix it and use it as a stand alone somewhere else in my home, or decide to change the gallery wall completely so the piece looks like it belongs!
Hanging a gallery wall doesn't have to feel like rocket science! By starting small and following these simple tips you can create a beautiful gallery wall in no time, and your friends will be asking who you hired to help you create it!
Check out the link below to learn the proper height and spacing to hang a gallery wall!
Have other gallery wall or artwork questions? Ask me in the comments below!