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How to Create Your Own Photo Gallery Wall ... Step by Step

Creating Your Own Photo Gallery Wall Is Simple, If You Have the Time...

Before starting, you want to identify the perfect space in your home for a photo gallery wall. It could be an entrance hall, hallway, family room or even a stairway. If it's a space in your home that everyone in the family pass by several times a day or use often, all will get to enjoy the collage. Friends and guests are drawn to a photo collage like bees to honey so don't for one moment think your photo wall needs to be in private family space. Although more of a challenge, stairways are an ideal area for a collage because of the large amount of open wall space available.

Make sure the space you have in mind has sufficient natural light (no direct sun) during the day and adequate lighting at night. 

We begin with the assumption that you have an array of different frames bought over many years which you'll combine to create a visually striking family gallery wall. Photos from different eras, in various sizes, and in various frames work well together when combined within a visual theme. This theme may be image related or could simply be a matter of printing all your photos in black 'n white or sepia. 

If you have an eclectic selection of frames and would like to keep it more contemporary and unified ensure that the mounts are a similar colour, preferably white or off-white. It would also help if the frames fall within the same colour range e.g. all wood, black, silver, gold, etc...

STEP 1 - Start planning your display by measuring the area of the wall you want to use for your photo gallery. Decide which frames you would like to combine and what the orientation of each framed photo will be, whether landscape, portrait or square. It may be that you don't yet have all the photos for each frame but would like to plan a layout regardless. No problem. The most flexible part of a photo wall are the photographs as you can get any photo lab to reprint or scan and reduce/enlarge or even crop any image in order to fit your planned layout.

STEP 2 - In order to avoid confusion, mark the front of each frame with a number. Use 'sticky notes' for this purpose. Trace the outline of each frame onto a piece of white paper and cut out these size shapes, numbering them as per the frames. The more accurate you are at this point the better you will do as you start hanging. You will use these to help position your layout on the wall before installation.

Use printer paper as it's readily available and much better than inky newspaper. If the frames are larger than the paper, tape a few pieces together to get the right size dimension. Position each paper template on the back of its frame and use your fingernail to score or rub the paper where the hanging device is attached. This will help you to pinpoint exactly where the wallscrew or hanger should go for each frame. If the frame has string at the back hook your tape measure onto the string, pull it tight, and measure to the top of the frame. 

STEP 3 - Lay your frames out on a suitably sized floor space in order to start playing with the possible configurations. Balance larger frames with several smaller ones and experiment with the positions of the frames/photos until you are satisfied with the arrangement.

Tip: Ensure the wallspace you have in mind is suitably sized for the frames you intend to combine and that there will be adequate negative space to the left & right, top & bottom of your layout (nothing is cast in stone, yet, as a general rule leave at least a 20-30cm space left & right of the layout. Depending on the wallspace and whether there is any furniture against the wall you should start between 70- 90cm from the floor, leaving at least a 30-40 cm gap between the ceiling and your topmost frame).

STEP 4 - Adjust the layout until the frames have consistent spacing around them. A gap of 5-10cm apart will give an ample amount of breathing space between each frame in the collage, depending on your frame sizes. 

Layout Tip:
 Remember you are trying to create visual balance, so allow for ample negative space to the left and right of the collage. The aim is not to cover every square inch of the wall with frames, unless of course that is the look you want to achieve. In order to give your collage a visual foundation start your bottom row of frames on the same horizontal line and build it up from there. Allow your frames to naturally stagger or step inwards or outwards without it looking too contrived. If you have a collection of different frames aim to create a natural composition that is more flowing than rigid.

STEP 5 -
Make a numbered thumbnail sketch of the layout once you are happy with your efforts. Write down the overall dimensions of the collage. If you want your collage to be centered on the wall mark the horizontal centre of the wall. Divide your collage width in two and measure this distance to the left and right of the walls centre. You now have a starting point.

STEP 6 - Position your numbered paper templates on the wall as per your thumbnail sketch using some Prestik. Be as accurate as possible with the placement of these templates. Use a tape measure to establish the correct gap between each template. When done step back and make sure you are completely satisfied with your composition and its position on the wall. It's not too late to make a change.

STEP 7 - Having marked the position of the frame hangers on each individual frame template as discussed in Step 2, you are now within striking distance. Knock the hooks in through the paper at the position indicated and remove the templates once completed. Naturally, you can also install plug and screw hooks by drilling holes. 

Caution: If drilling be mindful of plug points and water pipes within the wall. 

STEP 8 - Hang your frame collage using a small spirit level to ensure the frames hang straight. To avoid movement of the collage during dusting use Prestik behind each frame to hold it steady and in place.

Creating a beautiful display may take a bit of time and effort, but the results will be enjoyed by your family and friends for years to come.

Things You'll Need:

  • Tape measure & pencil
  • Self-stick notes, printer paper, sellotape and scissors
  • Prestik
  • Ladder 
  • Knock-in hooks & hammer. Alternatively wallplugs & screws + drill & drill bit
  • Vacuum cleaner 
  • Spirit level


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