How to Display Framed Photographs on a Wall
A large gallery display of photographs is an attractive way to infuse any room with warmth and style.
Since I love taking pictures (especially of my daughters) and had a large unused wall, I wanted to create a striking photo display but wasn't sure exactly how to do it and achieve the effect I was looking for.
So... I did a whole bunch of research on the best ways to display photos on a wall and compiled what I learned here for the benefit of others, like me, who have lots of pictures just waiting to be hung on a big empty wall.
Basic Principles of Creating a Photo Wall Display
It sounds simple: Just place your favorite pictures in frames of different sizes and shapes and hang them in a mosaic pattern. There are, however, some general guidelines that will help make your wall look especially beautiful.
- Frames should hang at eye level (slightly above five feet from the floor). Hang them a little bit higher if you have high ceilings (or a very tall family - LOL).
- Help the display come together by using similar photo styles (i.e. black-and-white or sepia), frames, or mat color. Don't be afraid to contrast. For example, if you're using all black-and-white photos, use frames of varying textures and sizes to add some pizzazz.
- Some interesting but simple arrangements include diamond or rectangular shapes. You might want to choose one that will be easy to add to until you’ve formed an overall shape that works for you.
- If you’re short on space, consider collage or multi-picture frames. With this type of frame, you're able to artfully display many photos in a small amount of space. Many options exist in this category and you can easily find both hanging and tabletop designs.
- A great hanging kit can work wonders in helping to easily and efficiently complete your photo wall display!
What You'll Need
Before you start, you'll need the following:
- Hanging equipment (nails and a hammer, or hooks if you want to avoid marking up your wall)
- Laser level or push pins and thread (for keeping the frames straight)
- Paper and scissors (optional)
How to Start Creating the Photo Wall of Your Dreams
- Determine what kind of look you're going for: sleek, homey, whimsical, artsy, etc.
- Choose the pictures you want to feature. It might help to start out with more than you need and then narrow down based on space, mood, or fit.
- Before putting any nails in the wall, lay the frames on the ground and play with different arrangements to see how they'll look. Start at the center and work outwards. For example, if you' re going for a rectangular look, choose your wall, then place three identical size frames in the center to establish a focal point. Then add rows, grouping pictures about 1-2 inches apart, to form a square or rectangle.
- Once you've found a shape you like, transfer it frame by frame to the wall.
- Another way to find an arrangement that is pleasing to the eye is to use paper outlines of the pieces you wish to hang; tape them to the wall to help visualize alternative arrangements and decide how you want to proceed (see video above).
- To hang straight rows of frames – always a timeless and sophisticated option – use string stretched between two pushpins as a guide. You can also choose to use a laser level to accomplish this. Make sure to use a level after hanging each frame to be sure each frame is straight before moving on to the next.
- Remember, multiple frames look best when arranged in a diamond, rectangular, or square shape. Also, they should be spaced relatively tightly—1-2 inches apart. A looser grouping can work for a more casual display.
- For stairwell displays, make sure you follow the upward angle of the steps. This can be made easier by using string and pushpins or a laser level.
You might want to have a wall-decoration-hanging buddy who can give you feedback on the design as it takes shape! As a bonus, they can also help you make sure everything is level.
Creating a Dramatic Display: Hints for Heightening the WOW Factor of Your Photo Wall
Here are some tips for taking your design to the next level:
- Choosing identical frame styles is a great way to make a powerful design statement. Matching frames, sizes, colors (of the pictures or frames), or textures is a way to play with symmetry and bring your display together.
- Mix it up, using a combination of shadow boxes and framed works. A mixture of textures and patterns is always pleasing to the eye (when done in moderation).
- Have a focal point in your display. Its center should be at eye level (66'' off the ground is a good rule of thumb).
- Instead of one big arrangement of photos, you could also create several groupings of smaller framed pictures that will complement your furniture and floor coverings.
- Another option is producing the impression of a single dramatic image by framing similar pictures or pieces of art (like a series of abstract paintings) in similarly-sized frames and hanging them tightly together.
- Wall color plays a big part in how photographs look. Take a hint from museums and use a contrast color to add drama.
- Pictures and/or artwork don’t always have to be framed. You could hang unframed prints or pictures from a length of wire with clips for an unconventional display.
- If you can't or don't want to hang pictures, you could opt for placing pictures on a ledge, spacing them evenly and staggering frame heights. You could even overlap a couple of the frames.
- Use frame risers to add depth to your display, bringing some photos forward off the wall.
- People love stories. Line up framed pieces in chronological order to build a timeline of your growing child, a family vacation, or another important event, and let your visitors connect the dots.
- If you need some more inspiration, this article from Pottery Barn has some nice frame layouts for you to consider.
More Display Ideas for Your Wall!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Co-Design in Action
Carolyn (from the comments below) contacted me wanting some help creating a display of her daughter's wedding pictures for her stairwell. I gave her some tips and she created a draw-up, almost to scale, of the number and size of frames she wanted to use.
When she had trouble tweaking it, she emailed the drawings to me for help. I printed it out (it all fit on one page) and cut out all of the individual frames. Then I had some fun on my desk moving them around and creating several potential designs.
I photographed each one and emailed the pictures to her and she loved them. I repeated the process here so readers can see just how easy it is to play around with ideas until you figure out which one works for you.
You can see the pictures I sent to Carolyn below.
Four Different Collage Ideas for the Stairwell with the Same FramesClick thumbnail to view full-size
I hope this was helpful! If you have any other questions, tips or comments, say so below in the comments section.
Questions & Answers
My husband wants to hang 8x10 framed photos of each of our 3 daughter's school pictures going up our staircase. I am afraid it will look cluttered and overwhelming if I vary the frame styles. Do you have any suggestions for how to make this project look classic and composed? We have a very old house with a lot of golden brown oak woodwork, so a more formal look would be better.
8x10 isn’t very big so I don’t think it’ll be too cluttered. As for the frames, if you want them to be different, which I thing would be nice, I would stick with the same frame color. You could also do the opposite and choose different coordinating colors but I’d keep the frame style the same. Hope this helps!Helpful 2
I have a long wall that my sofa is centered on. Some art is centered above my sofa. On each side, I have three feet. How do I fill those bare spaces?
What typically works for your situation are a few things: you can hang a nice sconce on each side, or break up space with a tall bookcase or even a floor lamp. If you have side tables next to that sofa, you can place a couple of tall table lamps on them, or a nice pot with tall flowers or a plant to somewhat fill that space. Remember, open space is often good, it gives the eyes a rest, and it doesn’t have to be the exact same thing on each side (unless it’s sconces, of course, as they should match). My favorite option is sconces if you’re able to do that. I hope that I’ve answered it with a solution for you.Helpful 4
What would be the best way to display five framed 8x10's and two 4x6's on the wall?
It's hard to say without knowing things like what's around it and how large of a wall space is it; however, I feel like 4x6's are pretty small to be hanging on a wall so the best way to do so would be together with the larger frames on a floating shelf. There are a couple of examples above in the pictures with the blue background.Helpful 3
Do you have any easy ideas on how to display many of 8x10 sports photos?
Take a look at the third thumbnail picture under "More Display Ideas for Your Wall!" - those are 8"x10" frames. Also, slightly above that, there's are some arrangement ideas with a blue background. The very bottom left picture is almost the same but with some spacing in between the frames. For your sports pictures, which are all the same size, I think this kind of arrangement would work best.Helpful 1
I have a wall that measures 9'x9' and eight pictures that are 16"x20" each. How should I arrange my pictures on my wall?
For starters, I have to say that if there's a way to add another picture to your collection, it could be a much nicer composition. That being said, you should really check out the arrangements at the link provided in the article (https://www.potterybarn.com/tips-and-ideas/how-to-... If it must be eight pictures, take a look at the last arrangement example there, called "Centered." As all of the pictures are the same size, I would spread the outer three on each side evenly. You won't have a square, but if each side was a little higher and an equal amount lower than the center two, I believe you'd have a nice arrangement. Another option would be to do two rows of 4, evenly spaced.Helpful 1