Create a Picture Perfect Wall Gallery

Wall gallery paintings 7705 with paintings

A wall gallery or art groupings is quickly becoming one of the hottest decorating trends for living spaces. With a little planning you can create your own just like a professional decorator.

Whatever you want to collect and display; paintings, photographs, movie posters, digital art, memorabilia, dimensional objects–each of them can play a part in creating your own personal gallery. To get started there are several basic rules to follow–then the options are wide open.

Walk through any art gallery and you will notice most art is hung at eye level–where you can view it best for maximum impact. If there is a blank wall, hang your gallery grouping at eye level whenever possible. For most of people, that is at 60” up from the floor. That means a grouping should be centered vertically at 60”. If your grouping is four feet tall, two feet of that extends above the 60” eye level, and two feet below eye level.

If the gallery grouping is behind a piece of furniture, allow a minimum open space (or gap) of 6” above a sofa and 8” above any table or other piece of furniture before the bottom of your grouping.

1. Choose your wall

Stand back and visualize how the gallery grouping will fit on the wall. Does it need to center across the entire wall, or center over a furniture grouping, or between windows? How is the wall space divided? Where will your grouping fit best? Once you have made a decision it’s time to choose the individual pieces and lay them out to get an idea of the mass and space required.

Use the floor and find the arrangement that is most pleasing before nailing anything on the wall.

Art and collectables look best with some negative space (or air) between them. Depending on the size of the wall that means at least 3” between pieces, or more, depending on the scale and mass of the grouping. Similarly sized pieces may look best with equal space between them, or arranged within a rectangular outer shape. Experiment and try different arrangements before nailing. If your grouping features big and little pieces, start with the large ones first; these are your anchors. Then, plan the small pieces around the larger pieces.

2. Measure carefully

It is time to measure the height and width. Several yards of white butcher paper are a great help in marking where each of the corners fit for each element of the gallery grouping. Mark the outside corners of all pieces within your grouping. When finished; tape the butcher paper to the wall; making certain it is level, and centered. Now, you have a precise guide for the final hanging.

A roll of 3/4” blue masking tape (Scotch® 3M painter’s tape) is my favorite for this task. It doesn’t peel paint off the wall, and with a little care, won’t harm wall coverings either. Plus, it’s cheaper than most rolls of artist tape. Avoid clear tapes, unless they are clearly marked removable.

Find the top center of each piece within your gallery group by drawing a pencil line from the top left corner to the top right corner. Mark the center of this line. On each frame measure how far down the frame hanger or hanger wire is from the top edge of the frame and transfer this measurement to the butcher paper on your wall. This is where each nail fits. Do not place the nails at the top edge pencil line. This will be too high for the picture frame.

Different wall materials

Most new houses and apartments will have sheetrock walls. If you have plaster walls there are several better ways of hanging your art. You will need to pre-drill the nail holes. Plaster tends to be brittle and crack when nailed. If you pre-drill a small pilot hole it is much easier to avoid cracked plaster. To use “J” Hook style hanger, drill at the same 45-degree angle as your “J” Hook.

Brick and masonry are brittle surfaces. Use brick hangers that fit between the bricks for hanging frames. Or pre-drill a slightly larger nail hole in the grout and epoxy a nail in place. Again, if using a “J” Hook style hanger, drill at the same 45-degree angle as your “J” Hook.


12 ft. tape measure
roll of blue 3/4” painter’s tape Scotch #2090
small bullet level
white butcher paper
drill motor; for hanging on plaster or brick walls
picture frame hardware
stud finder
wire cutters

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