4 Quick Tips for Installing a Picture Frame Gallery

Creating a collage-style wall of photographs and prints in your home is easy to do and a design look that can be refreshing and ever-changing. A classic gallery wall interjects a bit of your personality into an otherwise blank space, and it can set the tone for the rest of the decor in your room.

A gallery-style display can come together anywhere – on a blank wall, in an open staircase, over your couch, you name it – and it is especially easy to do if you already have an assortment of unused picture frames in your arsenal. Some designers favor using the same style and color of frame throughout the installation for uniformity, while others like a hodge-podge of colors and frame materials to create added interest. Furthermore, you could decide to leave the art itself out of the mix, and design a cool wall installation using only the frames. Basically, you can do what you want, and it’s hard to go wrong.

A frame gallery hanging in a staircase.

I’ve been scheming up a new gallery wall for my daughter’s nursery, a blend of youthful illustrations and fun colors, and I have a few tips to share from the experience.

Use templates to plan your design. Before you start putting holes in the walls, it’s smart to have a plan. Cut pieces of newsprint to match the sizes of the frames, and tape them to the wall until they all fit together like a puzzle. This real-scale way of visualizing the end result helps to eliminate issues with spacing, and helps you achieve a desirable mix and balance.

Use scrap paper to create a template for your picture hanging plan.

Having the newsprint taped to the wall helps in another way as well – it enables you to measure out where the nails and hooks will need to be installed. For example, if your frame’s wire sits 6.25″ beneath the top of the frame, you can measure and install the hook perfectly on the first try.

How to install picture frames at a specific height.

Be familiar with the variety of wall anchors available, and know which products will work best for your walls. Are you installing on drywall? Plaster? Wood paneling? Into concrete blocks? Knowing what anchor options are suitable for your personal situation will make for a safe, solid installation.

Remember that heavier frames require extra attention. If you’re hanging a 30-pound mirror or an impacting paned-glass window frame, it’s ideal if you can land your anchor into a wall stud, but if you can’t, invest in toggle bolts, cleat style hooks, or heavy-duty OOK hooks, all of which get a big thumbs up from me for being able to carry a heavy load.

Use a cleat to install heavy mirrors and picture frames.

Take your family into account. Are you installing your frames in a location that they’re likely to get knocked or curiously touched by little hands? Use extra wall adhesives to affix the frames to the wall themselves. I like the Command products from 3M because they won’t cause any damage to your wall long-term, and can be removed cleanly from the paint when you’re ready to change things up again.

No-damage adhesive strips are preferable for hanging frames.

My newest revelation is that it’s easy to integrate a little magnetic feature into a gallery wall using zinc-coated mending plates, which create an instant magnetic surface. They make a gallery wall easy to keep fresh, but would be a great trick for unframed art anywhere in your home (psst, I also want to add them to the inside of a kitchen shelf for a handy place to post a recipe while cooking).

Hang art on the walls using a magnetic installation.

DIY Network shares more tips for hanging photos in this article. Other ideas to share from your own experiences? Tell us in the comments!

10 Responses

  1. Maggie says:

    Command took the paint right off my walls also, will never buy them again!! False advertising!!

  2. @TipPatt says:

    I too went through the Command Crash after following their hanging instructions. My problem was mainly with the picture hooks. Luckily I love to fill screw and nail holes. Yes, I reverted to screws and am simply fine with the whole 'old school' rendition of my very own gallery wall. Cheers.

  3. Bob says:

    I just finished hanging a large picture (4 foot by 7 foot) using the z-bar system. They are two metal strips, 2 foot long, that are fastened one on the wall with a small disposable level and the other strip on the picture frame. Both strips have a 45 degree flare that interconnect to support the picture. It took me about five minutes to install the picture and make sure it was level

  4. Collleen says:

    I have used them for years, even outdoors and have only had one that let go.

  5. elwnyc says:

    Warning about Command strips. I hung all my pictures (none heavy) with them, and had two of them come crashing down, peeling the paint from the walls with them. I was very disappointed since I'd seen so many designers using them. Just glad that no one was hurt when they fell. I immediately took down the rest and used nails to hang my pictures.

    • Janine says:

      me too, just in the last 6 months.

    • Barnegat Pollyanna says:

      Did you recently paint the wall? The paint needs to cure for several days – I usually give it a week – before using Command striips.

      • elwnyc says:

        No – I procrastinate a lot. The wall was painted two years before I got around to hanging pictures.

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About Emily Fazio 

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I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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