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Tips and tricks for creating a cheap gallery wall.
Since moving into our craftsman home four years ago, we’ve tackled many home projects around here.
We also completed a 6-month+ major renovation of our main floor. Needless to say, we’ve been busy.
But there was one project that my husband and I never got around to completing – or even starting.
It was …
figuring was out what to do with this blank wall, which stared at us every time we came home.
It taunted us.
It felt sterile. Void of any character or personality.
It made our living room feel incomplete. No matter how many pillows I added to the couch.
Questions swirled in our heads on and off for months:
- Should we do a major statement piece of art? too heavy for the room.
- What about a collection of family photos? doesn’t feel like our style.
- Or hanging a large mirror? Boring.
- Macrame wall hanging? Does it fit in?
- A gallery wall?
We considered a gallery wall from very early on, but for whatever reason, we couldn’t figure out or agree on any art. We even went so far as to purchase a piece of art, only to return it after way too many second thoughts.
For almost half a decade, this wall had us stumped.
And then, I don’t know if it was just timing or what but we finally figured it all out.
In one weekend.
And for surprisingly not a lot of money.
And we owe it all to these gallery wall photos. Scroll through until you get to the banquet gallery wall in the kitchen.
We both saw the photos and immediately, we said: “yes, that’s what we want.” We found our inspiration! After that, the process went quickly.
I’m sharing all the tips we learned to keep our gallery wall cheap and doable. So let’s dive right in.
Cheap Gallery Wall Ideas
And by cheap, I mean inexpensive.
But still really, really ridiculously cool.
We only had a few pieces of art already at home. So we began with the inspiration, then got the frames, then chose the art, and then hung everything up.
Decide on your Aesthetic First
Before purchasing anything, decide the overall aesthetic first. Keep these design basics in mind:
- Go eclectic or monochromatic – choose either all black frames or go with a variety of frame finishes.
- Check out Pinterest, Instagram, Home Magazines and the like to find what you are most drawn to. The gallery wall photos you pin over and over again are telling you something.
- Mix your mats – some with and some without mats for a more artistic look
- Don’t freak out. There I said it. 🙂
- Choose your art style. You can be very eclectic but any piece that doesn’t feel “right” should be put somewhere else. You can also choose to stay in one art vibe: such as all black and white, all vintage oil paintings, all geometric, etc.
For our new house, we decided to go with a grid-style gallery wall of fern prints. It’s easy to put up since you know exactly where each frame will go – they are all the same!
How to Frame Cheaply
Buying picture frames can quickly eat away at your budget. Unless…
Unless you know where to buy good, cheap frames.
If you can, try to find one anchor frame. This will be the star frame, that you can center and build your gallery wall off of. It’s not totally necessary but it does make the process easier.
Michael’s is a great source for good, quality frames that also look vintage. We wanted that chunky, textured look to our frames. And we found the best options at Michaels. Plus, they seem to always be running a sale of some sort. And you can usually find a 40% off coupon online as well.
Target also has a fantastic selection of frames, although most of the frames are your typical black, white and wood frames. You are not going to find many, if any, vintage looking frames.
Amazon. Oh, Amazon. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Amazon. A quick search for vintage frames on the Amazon website brings up a slew of good, affordable options.
Don’t forget about hitting up your local thrift stores.
You should also consider using what you have and antique them yourself. If you already have frames that you like, but the color/style/feel is off, consider revamping them. I took a few basic Target frames and made them look more antique with this simple DIY project.
Dollar Stores can also be a good source for smaller sized frames. When I go, I always make it a point to peruse the framing aisle to see what’s in stock. I’ve scored multiple sets of copper and gold frames in 8×10. You cannot beat that price!
If you have a Homegoods near you, it’s worth a look there too. My only advice would be to make sure you can take out and remove any existing artwork from the frame before you buy it.
A quick glance at the back of the frame should give you a hint. Otherwise, you might be stuck with artwork you are not in love with.
Finally, IKEA! Most of us are familiar with the oldies but goodies that IKEA offers; like the RIBBA frame. IKEA frames are cheap and come in a multitude of sizes.
I guarantee you that you will find a collection of good frames and at any of these shops mentioned above. Let’s move on to the artwork.
Where to find Inexpensive Artwork
The wonderful thing about art is that it’s all subjective. I recommend you find art that’s meaningful to you in some way.
Don’t just choose any old art for the low price tag. With that being said, you can find art that speaks to you and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Here are some great options …
Let’s start with one of my favorites sources for inexpensive artwork. Etsy. This site is chock full of talented artists and many of them sell at crazy affordable prices. You can even purchase digital versions of your favorite art and print it out at home. (More on printing your digital art below).
Another source for inexpensive art is IKEA. If you peruse their frame aisle you can find some little artistic gems alongside. Take a modern piece of art and contrast it by framing with a vintage gold frame. I can guarantee you no one will know it’s IKEA!
Download and print Public Domain Art from National Archives. This is probably my favorite tip! There are some gorgeous prints that you can find FREE on these websites:
I would ensure that each photo you find is definitely public domain and not copyrighted. Each photo/artwork should specify. If printing at home, I highly recommend using this Printable Cotton Paper. It gives your photos a subtle texture and more heft.
Finally, take stock of what you already own. And think outside the box.
Perhaps you have a photograph from a memorable trip that you can print and frame. Or, maybe you can frame an heirloom doily or handkerchief. Now that’s something with a story behind it.
Here are some additional unique ideas for “art”:
- Pages from calendars and books
- Old Letters or Recipes
- Vintage Photographs of family
- A favorite fabric (even clothes!)
- Pressed flowers or leaves from your own backyard
- Photographs from Free Stock Photo Sites
- Plates, mirrors and other objects (like antlers, shutters, low baskets, matchbooks)
- Create your own art!
Layout your Art before Hanging
You want to take some time to play around with the frames and overall look. The easiest way I found to do this is to pretend the floor is your wall.
Measure the overall size of your gallery wall space and then copy the same size on your floor. You can use painter’s tape to mark it off.
Now, lay all your framed art on the floor within this space. You can mix and match until you find the look that works for you. Start with your anchor frame and build around it.
If you are going for an eclectic look, try to pair different frames next to each other. A vintage near a black frame, a horizontal next to a vertical, etc. But don’t stress about this either.
I’ve found that we can get so caught up in the stress of creating a gallery wall that it takes the fun out. And it’s going to look great so don’t worry!
(As a side, my husband insisted that we add two small frames on the bottom left-hand side of the gallery wall.) Do I love it? Meh, not really, but ya know what? This wall took us FOUR LONG YEARS to figure out so I’m not about to start nitpicking.
You can do the whole “cut pieces out of kraft paper and tape them to the wall thing” but I found it just as easy to lay all my art out on the floor and find the perfect set up that way.
Again – don’t worry and keep it fun!
Snap photos of your floor creations so you can remember what you did and to make it easier when hanging.
How to Hang a Gallery Wall
The basic guideline for hanging a gallery wall is that there are no basic guidelines. However, generally, it’s best to try and keep art 2-3 inches apart.
If you go much further apart than that it starts to look disjointed and weird, in my opinion. You can totally eyeball the spacing. It doesn’t have to be mathematically precise.
Hang your anchor piece of art first, if you have one.
The ONE step I do think you can’t skip is using a level. Art that is not hung straight makes the whole wall look off. So, take some time to level off each piece of art while hanging. You’ll be so much happier you did.
You can use a hammer and nails to hang your art, or you can use (my favorite) 3M wall hanging strips. Then you don’t create a bunch of micro-holes in your walls. Just be sure to use enough strips for each piece and I usually go for the heavier ones (the ones that say they hold 12-16 lbs).
This was a hard lesson learned. At 2:30 am one night, I was abruptly woken from deep sleep to the sound of one of our frames crashing to the floor. Unfortunately, it broke the frame and I had to piece it back together with some construction adhesive.
So – always err on the side of caution and put a few extra strips on your frame.
Here’s some of my favorite gallery wall hangers …
If you have been considering creating your own cheap gallery wall, I hope these tips help you along the way. We love our gallery wall. LOL. And I love not having a giant blank wall staring at me every time I come home.