April 29, 2020

Gallery walls: Your questions for hanging art ANSWERED.

Looking to hang some gallery walls in your home? Well, I’m sure you’ve got a few questions on your mind. While incredibly beautiful, gallery walls can be tricky to get started on, and also take a fair amount of time to complete. But hey, once they’re done, boy are they something to talk about.

Let’s cut to the chase. Here’s your questions answered for hanging a gallery wall, as well as a few of my extra art tips because I’m well nice.

gallery wall with large framed art
A gallery wall in my last flat in Margate, broken up with painted stripes.

Where do I start?

Gallery walls can seem daunting (and I for one need to be in the mood to get started on one), but the best way to get started is by gathering your prints in one room and experimenting with how they might look. Work out any frames you might need, any prints you might be missing and potential arrangements. The other alternative, which is an approach I often take, is to just go for it. Once you pop, you can’t stop and all that.

What do I need to hang a gallery wall?

There are a couple of ways to hang a gallery wall and you don’t always need to make holes in the wall. For traditional hanging of artwork, you’ll need a hammer (or drill depending on wall type), nails, spirit level, electronic tester and a measuring tape. 

If you’re only working with smaller prints or are in a rented property, Command strips are your new best friend. Just make sure they’re right for your wall type first.

Where should I buy art?

It’s so easy to get lost in the articles about spotting the artwork to invest in and what to / what not to look out for. At the end of the day, if something speaks to you, buy it! I’ve written a full guide to buying art here but for quick links to my faves, try: Print Club London, King & McGaw, Babak Ganjei, Telegramme, Charlie Evaristo Boyce, Concepcion Studios and Hotel Magique.

colourful gallery wall in hallway
Hallways are the perfect place for gallery walls with different types of artwork.

Where should I buy frames?

Framing is important when it comes to protecting artwork, but there are affordable options out there. IKEA frames often get a lot of stick but I think they do the job well for the price. If you’re using Command strips, I like Desenio frames as they’re super lightweight but come in a variety of colours. Habitat and John Lewis also offer more high quality options that will last considerably longer, but are heavier. You should always ensure that expensive artworks are framed properly to avoid them getting damaged.

Are there surfaces that I should avoid?

While most wall surfaces are suitable for hanging, you do need to be aware of the kind of surface that you’re hammering or drilling into. There are different techniques for all. By knocking on the wall first, you should be able to determine whether it’s a masonry wall (made out of brick) or a cavity wall (typically made from plasterboard).

These different wall types require different methods, so it’s important to research this before you get cracking; cavity walls in particular may have piping or cables behind them so it’s good practise to use an electronic tester to check you’re not going to hit something important. No electric shocks here please.

How should I measure where to hang my art?

Your starting point (and potentially favourite pieces) should be in the centre of the average person’s line of sight which is around 152cm off the ground. Simply use a measuring tape to locate this and ensure that you take into account the width of the picture frame.

For a gallery wall I actually tend to go purely by eye because I’m the one who’s going to be looking at it, but if you’re unsure or want to be extra meticulous, you can measure out the wall area first and replicate the same dimensions on the floor. You can then plan out your gallery wall and play around with placement. Choose your starting piece to hang first and measure the same distance between each print to create a uniform look.  

gallery wall in pink bathroom
I didn’t leave any spaces between the frames in this gallery wall as I didn’t want to have pink gaps!

Should all my frames match, or can they be different?

This is entirely dependent on your own style and preference. Mixing and matching frames will bring you a more eclectic and maximalist look while standardised frames will look chic and a little more graphic. If you are mixing frames, make sure you take into account your placement as you don’t want too many of the same styles in the same area.

Do I need to choose a theme for my images?

Again, this isn’t necessary and will depend on your own personal tastes. A loose colour theme will ensure you have a cohesive look but gallery walls can still look amazing when there is absolutely no link between the art. I would recommend vaguely using the same colours and rough styles to bring the look together as a whole. You’ll notice that many of mine have a colour scheme that matches the decor of the room.

gallery wall with scallop detailing
This simple gallery wall in our guest bedroom has been broken up with photos and postcards.

Can you mix and match mediums? For instance, pair a painting with a photograph?

Gallery walls tend to work when there is a mix of mediums and styles so do think outside the box and look for images using photography, illustration and typography. The display is a great way of showing off your personality, so embrace it and incorporate all the things you love.

Can I mix sizes?

Absolutely. Again, the feature is designed to be a combination of styles and sizes so incorporate them all, but keep similar sizes spaced out i.e you don’t want lots of A2 prints in one area. Any small spaces left can be filled with photographs and postcards which I find bring a new layer to the wall.

gallery wall with Samsung Frame TV
Our most recent gallery wall, which works around the Samsung Frame TV.

What are the common mistakes of gallery walls?

A common mistake I see is not giving each picture enough breathing space. There is such thing as going over the top when it comes to a gallery wall. You still want to be able to see some of the wall behind it. Measure between each print; I’d recommend leaving around 5-10cm between each frame depending on your preference.

What about if I just want to hang a single piece of art? How high should I hang it?

Take the same approach as you would with the starting point of your gallery wall. You should try to hang art in the centre of the average person’s line of sight which is around 152cm off of the ground. Or of course you can measure your own eye line, after all, you’re the one in your home all the time!

gallery wall in retro living room
Break up your gallery walls with different sized prints.

Where on the wall should I hang art? can it go over furniture, near a door, by a window?

A single piece of art should act as a focal point in a room so hanging it over something such as a fireplace, sofa or console will ensure it takes centre-stage. Avoid doors and windows as these tend to be already busy spaces and stay well clear of anything around light switches or plug sockets as there are likely to be cables nearby.

Do I always need a frame?

Not necessarily. Canvas art doesn’t require a frame and still looks great. If you’re always switching you art up, bulldog clips can act as a great way to display art but still change the image on a regular basis. They’ll add a little bit of variety to your gallery wall too. I’ve also seen some incredible gallery walls created with no frames at all – washi tape can look great to hold up graphic posters and postcards!

art on picture shelf in pink retro bedroom
Try a picture shelf for a more minimal approach to a gallery wall.

What about picture shelves?

There are plenty of DIYs for picture shelves out there but unless you’re looking for something completely bespoke, I’d opt for an affordable option from IKEA or Desenio. The time and labour of building your own probably isn’t worth it unless you have the materials already.

Once you’ve hung your shelf, it’s important to think about what you want to display. Picture shelves are perfect for mixing different sized frames with photos and postcards too but you need think about proportions. Don’t go too symmetrical but think about balancing items. You could even incorporate your favourite books or magazines.

Can you combine sculpture with art in a picture shelf?

Yes, but you need to check the width of your shelf. Picture shelves tend to be pretty thin but can accommodate small objet d’art and trinkets. I like mixing these in with art as they showcase interests and memories.

For more interior inspiration, colour clashing and general life admin, check out the rest of my blog. Follow me on InstagramPinterest and Twitter for more EJP in your life.


  1. sharaginley says:

    I love this so much! I am planning my gallery wall and this has really helped. I am wondering where you got those low shelves that holds records under the gallery wall?

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Emma Jane Palin is a freelance art consultant, interior stylist and multi-award-winning blogger residing in Margate, UK. She has worked with various home and lifestyle brands not limited to West Elm, Apple, John Lewis, Habitat, MADE, Caran D'Ache + No.3 Gin. Emma is also a regular contributor to Hunker where she writes about design trends and interior advice.

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