From tools to tips, we're decoding the ultimate gallery wall. 

By Caylin Harris
Updated: July 01, 2019
Getty Images

Many, many things have been written about how to create the perfect gallery wall. But we’re going to let you in on a little secret: There’s no such thing as the perfect gallery wall. Sure, there are general guidelines you can follow to help with the process, but don’t get too strung up on the rules. Consider these gentle suggestions instead. At the end of the day, you should love what’s on your walls, but these guidelines can help you build a gallery wall that's beautiful, cohesive, and works well with your space. Here are all of the tools, tips, and advice you'll need to create your dream gallery wall. 

RELATED: The Mistake Everyone Makes When Hanging Art (And What to Do Instead)

What You’ll Need:

  • Tape measure 
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Hardware (such as picture hangers, nails, or wall anchors if the piece is particularly heavy)
  • Hammer

How to Mat Artwork in a Gallery Wall 

Choosing matting for the frames in your gallery wall is just as practical as it is aesthetic. To preserve your artwork, only add matting that's acid-free, and while you're at it, make sure you have a dust cover over the back of your art. Less is more when choosing a mat color—for most pieces, white will enhance the colors in a piece of artwork, or if you’d like some contrast, you can try a dark color like black. You always want to make sure that the matting complements rather than detracts from the artwork. 

For a cohesive look that's sure to work, choose the same color matting for every single piece in the gallery wall. Want to get more adventurous? Try matting in multiple colors, but stick to a limited palette (say, two coordinated colors) to keep the arrangement from looking too busy. 

How to Choose Frames

Set of Gallery Wall Frames

There are two directions you can go here: Either you find a set of matching frames or you can opt for the more eclectic look of mismatched frames. A matching set of frames, like this Pinnacle 7-Piece Wall Frame Set ($45, homedepot.com), helps to unify the look of your gallery wall. If the artwork you own doesn't necessarily stick to a theme, or you want to avoid the extra step of finding a variety of frames, a coordinated set is an effortless way to guarantee your gallery wall will work. 

If you choose to use mismatched frames, you'll want to make sure there is some sort of unifying factor in the art. Maybe you use different prints from the same source, or you choose colors or shapes that repeat throughout the pieces. The eye likes repetition, so if your frames all vary, try to find some unity in the art or the matting. 

At the end of the day, you need to love it, and the best way to be sure is trial and error. Before you hang anything on the wall, arrange all of the frames together in one spot, such as on the floor, so you'll be able to tell if they work together. If you’re going for a more organized, geometric feel, keeping the frames the same size and shape will help. If you want a more collected-over-time look, play with the shapes and sizes of the frames. 

How to Arrange a Gallery Wall

There are many schools of thought here. Some people trace the shape of their frames onto craft paper and arrange the paper cutouts on the walls, while others arrange on the floor and then put them up. It all depends on how much prep work you feel like doing. If you prefer to have technology work for you, you can try the Art.com app that lets you see different pieces of art on your wall before you even lift a hammer. Framebridge also offers similar design help through its site, and will even pair you with a designer who can make design suggestions.

For a freeform gallery wall: Start by hanging the most central or largest piece of artwork first, then build the gallery around it. As a general rule of thumb, you always want to keep the frames about two inches apart from one another. To make the overall display feel balanced, avoid placing some frames close together while others are more spread apart. The beauty of this design is that you can keep adding to it over time. 

For a grid gallery wall: Begin by measuring out the space you'll need for the entire display on your wall, being sure to factor in evenly spaced gaps between each frame. Trace the frame you're using on a piece of paper to make a template, then mark the top center point of the template. Use the template to plot out where each frame will go on the wall, making a small pencil mark at the top center of each frame's position. With each spot clearly marked, you can be confident when you go to pick up the hammer and nails. 

Trust your gut and you’re sure to love your finished gallery wall! 

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