Facing an Empty Wall in Your House? Here’s How to Create a Gallery with Your Own Photos

Maybe you have one in your hallway, stairwell, or basement.

It could even be in your living room.

It’s the cold, blank wall in your home you see out of the corner of your eye every day.

Decorators may suggest you fill that space with beautiful framed pieces of art, but you can also warm up an empty wall with the charm of your own photos. My home feels much more inviting when I look around and see reminders of treasured family memories in every room.

Do you have a blank wall in your home that you would like to fill with family photos or your own photography?

Keep reading for tips to spark your creativity and guide you through the fun process of creating your own photo gallery.

Staging Your Wall to Add Warmth and Charm to the Room

You don’t have to be an interior decorator to design a wall that adds value and warmth to your home. Begin with deciding on a theme and how you want to arrange the pictures.

You might consider the following theme ideas:

  • Family heritage — a wall of vintage photos of family members. I have a wall featuring photos of past generations of our family in our upstairs hallway.

Julie's Family Heritage Wall

  • Family photos (like your your family portraits) mixed with images of baby pictures, kids, pets, etc.
  • Family events like weddings, family reunions, or vacations.
  • Your own photos of landscapes in a coordinating theme (e.g. floral, beach, mountains, etc.).
  • A single family or landscape photo divided into multiple, large images (see some examples here).

Once you determine your theme, consider the size and shape of the space, and think about how you would like to display the images. Here are some layout ideas to help you start creating your own design:

  • A geometrical grouping of similar shaped and colored frames with identical mat colors.
  • Vintage frames in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
  • Small prints hung by clothespins on a wire framework attached to the wall.
  • A display of unframed, small prints, hung to create a shape (e.g. a capital letter, heart, or one of the 50 states).
  • Gallery-wrapped (or canvas-wrapped) photos. These images are professionally printed on canvas, then wrapped around a wooden frame. They add depth and dimension to walls over a mantle or to groups of shelves on a blank wall.

Gallery or Canvas Wrap Example

Choosing the Best Prints to Display on Your Wall

Now that you have a theme and direction for the look of your wall, it’s time to choose which photos to print.

Get creative with this process! Here are some ideas and tips to jump-start your selections:

Posed Portraits vs. Candids
For an artistic twist, consider using photos taken from different angles, rather than all portraits.

Look for photos where subjects are not facing the camera (e.g. a photo of the back of a mother and child walking hand in hand, bride and groom facing one another, or silhouette photos).

Candid photos of people laughing or enjoying an event together add warmth to the photo gallery.

Choose photos of different family members taken of them as children, so you can enjoy seeing the family resemblance.

Candid Photo Examples

Source: Pottery Barn Gallery in a Box Frames

Color vs. Black & White
If you are framing color photos, try to choose photos that coordinate around one dominant color to avoid the wall looking too busy or cluttered.

Or consider a gallery of all black & white photos surrounding a focal point that catches the eye such as word art or a color photo.

Color Focal Point Example

Source: Little Bits of Home

Consider Image Size and Quality When You’re Choosing Your Photos
To get clear and sharp looking prints for your wall, you need to choose top quality, large images.

The higher the image resolution, the better the quality of print. Image resolution refers to the number of pixels (image dots) inside each square inch of your photo.

To find the pixel resolution of your photo, right click on the image file and choose “Get Info.” You will see two numbers next to “Dimensions” (i.e. 4032 x 3024). These are the pixel resolution dimensions.

This helpful chart from MPix gives the minimum and optimal pixel resolution requirements for different sized prints.

We always recommend using the original image whenever possible. Photos downloaded from the internet or Facebook are resized smaller for storage, so they will come out grainy when print them.

Once you’ve chosen the photos you want to print, create a folder for them on your computer and copy those images to that folder. When you are ready to print or upload them to an online printing service, all of your photos will be conveniently located in one place.  

Tips for Printing, Framing and Hanging Your Photos

Printing Options
You can print your smaller sized prints (up to 8” x 10”) on photo paper on your home printer, if you are happy with the quality.

For larger prints, we recommend using an online service such as Shutterfly or MPix, or local print shops like Kinkos or Costco.

Another option we suggest is Mixtiles, an easy to use app that lets you send photos from your phone. Mixtiles prints your pictures on 8” x 8” movable wall tiles, allowing you to change your wall collage on the fly.

When you upload your image files to one of these services, their software will notify you if the image is the correct size and file type to get the richest quality print your are ordering.

Almost all of printing companies guarantee their work. They save your photo files and image creations in case you are not satisfied and they need to reprint your order for you.

Framing Guidelines
You can frame your images yourself at home if you are selecting a simple grouping of photos framed in the same color frames with pre-cut mats.

Have your prints professionally framed when you:

  • Have large sized prints or prints that need unusually-sized mats.
  • Have images that need to be printed and mounted on foam core or matboard.
  • Have images you want printed on canvas and wrapped around a wooden, stretch frame.
  • Want the appropriate hanging hardware already attached to your frames.

Some of the online printing companies offer framing services, or you can take your prints to a local framing store.

Steps for Hanging Groups of Frames
When your photos are printed, framed and ready to hang, here are some suggested steps to make the process easier:

  1. Use craft paper to create cut out shapes of each frame.
  2. Hang the paper cut outs in the layout you want using painter’s tape.
  3. When you’re satisfied with the layout, add a nail to the spot matching the location of each frame’s hanging hardware.
  4. Hang the frames and remove the craft paper.

Use Your Walls as Your Canvas

The best part about wall designs is that they don’t have to be permanent. As time goes by, you can easily modify the design with new frames or layouts, or keep the layout in place and simply replace the older prints with updated photos in the frames.

We hope some of these suggestions will give your blank walls a new lease on life!

Creating a meaningful gallery of your own photos can be a fun and rewarding project that adds a touch of tenderness and personality to the decor of your home. Let us know how your project turns out!

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