How To Display Photographs On a Wall: Photo Wall Ideas
A large gallery display of photographs is an attractive way to infuse any room with warmth.
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.
Check out all the tips and display ideas below for how to hang your pictures and create your beautiful photo wall!
Photo Wall Display Ideas (see more below)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Basic Principals of Creating a Photo Wall Display
The concept of a photo wall is 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 principals that will help make your wall look especially beautiful.
- Frames should hang at eye level (around or 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 pictures come together by using similar picture styles (i.e. black and white or sepia), frames, or mat color. Don't be afraid to contrast too. For example, if you're going with 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 wall hanging and table top designs. Additionally, a great hanging kit can work wonders in helping to easily and efficiently complete your photo wall display!
How to Easily Make a Fab Gallery Wall
What You Need to Create a Beautiful Wall Display
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 or push pins and thread (for keeping the frames straight)
- Paper and scissors (optional)
How to Start Creating the Photo Wall of Your Dreams
Now that you have all the equipment you need, it's time to get started! Here are some simple steps.
1. Determine what kind of look you're going for: sleek, homey, whimsical, artsy, etc.
2. 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.
3. Before putting any nails in the wall, lay out 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.
4. Once you've found a shape you like, transfer it one by one to the wall.
5. Another way to determine 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 visualize alternative arrangements and decide how you want to proceed (see video above: How to Create a Fab Photo Wall).
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
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 Design WOW of Your Photo Wall
So you've got down the basics and want to know how to make your wall really beautiful. Here are some tips for taking your design to the next level.
- Going identical with the style and layout of your photos is a great way to make a powerful design statement. Matching frames, sizes, colors (of the pictures or frames), or textures are all ways 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 wall to add some 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 apart evenly and staggering frame heights to create some interesting visuals. You could even overlap a couple of the frames.
- Use frame risers to add depth to your display, bringing some photos forward from 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.
How To Create A Modern Frame Wall | Hanging Picture Frames | Room & Board
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.
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