I get asked a lot about my photo walls. I have one upstairs on the landing seen here and one downstairs in the living room seen here. People ask about them when they come into my home, or email me from the blog posts, so I thought I’d try and help with a how-to. Most people find it hard to make something on the wall look to not look intended or contrived. And it’s true, it’s much harder to put together artwork or photos and have them look uneven without looking a mess. Know what I mean? Anyways, I took a wall in Greta’s room since she has no photos up in her space. It’s a small wall where her bookcase is and I wanted to add photos to the upper half of the wall. Since it’s a small space I decided to divide it into two groups of photos and sort of align them. You’ll see what I mean. This wall is not haphazard looking like the wall on the landing, but it’s not the usual all in a row photos either.
First thing is first. I do not have a photo I want to frame and then find a spot for it on the wall. Nope. I first create the space and then will fill in with pictures later on. This is opposite from what most of you may do. But it works, trust me. You will always find photos later on to add to a space, but it’s much harder to hang one frame and then add frame by frame to a wall over time and have it look great. Get your wall put together first, then fill it in with photos or artwork. You will often find empty frames around my house waiting for the right photo to just appear.
Once you decide on your wall space you then need to decide on the frames you will use. You can mismatch frames or you can use a uniform frame for all your photos. Decide on a frame selection and jot down all their different sizes. I like to do this online. For instance, I choose to use CLIPS by Ikea for my specific photo walls, I write down all the frame sizes that are made in that style. Then I get out my roll of brown craft paper (you can use any paper and tape together sheets to make larger sizes). Once I have several cut outs of each size I just start taping them to the wall. This takes a while because I will tape up and then pull down and I just do this until something looks right. It may take an hour at least to get it just right. And I will leave the paper up for a few days and make minor adjustments here and there. I like to photograph each layout and then study the photos since I can’t rely on my memory anymore.
Here’s what my wall looks like with taped up craft paper.
A mistake a lot of people make is the selection of sizes. Having a wall full of 4×6, 5×7, and maybe an 8×10 looks cluttered to me. They’re too small and they make the space look smaller in my opinion. Now, if you have a floor to ceiling wall FULL of little frames, that can look very cool. But a wall with random 4×6 and 5x7s just doesn’t appeal to me. People are scared to go big. But don’t be. They make awesome statements and I cannot tell you how many compliments I get on my wall that has 9 20×20 photos on it. NINE frames. 20×20 each! That’s big. So throw in a 16×20 or a few 11x14s. You won’t regret it. Just to give you an idea these frames on this wall are 20×20, 9x9s, and 12×16. Not small sizes at all.
Once you are happy with the way the wall looks with your paper on it, then you can start marking their corners with pencil. Next is where you need to find a handy husband or friend good with a level and hanging supplies.
Aaron likes to hang the backs of the frames all at the same time and then I can fill them in with photos and we put on the glass once the prints arrive. Here’s my wall ready, just waiting for the prints.
Now, ordering prints is a whole other subject. I tell all my clients that using a cheap online print place is okay for small prints, but when you blow up photos, you need to make the investment and spend a little more. It makes a HUGE difference. Poor quality photo prints are going to look that much worse the larger they get. So, I urge you to find a local custom lab or choose a pro lab online to print your larger images. It makes a difference! And price around. The photo wall in my living room took awhile. I was quoted at first $80 per print for the 20×20. $80 x 9 was a lot of money. So I shopped around and ended up finding an awesome lab who charged me around $30 per print. Much better. And although I haven’t changed out the photos in my living room, I have changed out the ones on my landing several times. I love every few months putting current photos of our kids on the wall. It keeps it interesting and that way I always have something fun and new to look at. Also, don’t be afraid of square frames. You can easily crop a vertical or horizontal photo into a square. You’ll notice in the 3 squares below that the original photos were not square.
So here’s the wall after the prints came. I left the largest space for Greta’s artwork so I can change it out every so often to showcase her 4 yo work. And I figure the tap recital photos can be changed yearly and updated with her recent recitals. I also left some space between the top of her bookcase and the bottom of the frames that way we can add knick knacks and a few pieces over the years that mean something to her.
And while loading these photos I do realize the bookcase is not centered and will be solving that momentarily.
And that’s how I do a photo wall. This wall took about a month from start to finish because of ordering prints and deciding on the layout. So don’t rush it, it’s not a fast process but in the end I think it’s worth it. Happy framing everyone!