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How to Do a Gallery Wall (for less than $20)

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How to do a Gallery Wall (for less than $20)

Gallery Wall

I’m kinda a little bit obsessed with gallery walls. I love eclectic collections of mementos, and I think a gallery wall is such a fun way to show things off that might normally be relegated to a box in the basement.

When we were planning JuneBug’s nursery, we knew we wanted do a small gallery wall above her changing table. We liked the idea of being able to include lots of prints, photos and keepsakes that had meaning. And we liked that the wall gives us the ability to change things out, switch it up and make it different in the future as she grows up.

This isn’t our first gallery wall rodeo. In fact, we have two gallery walls (one above the bar in our living room and one in our main floor hallway) that we absolutely adore. And we managed to do each wall for less than $20!

The key to doing gallery walls on the cheap is (a) being okay with mismatched frames and (b) thrifting your little heart out. All the frames for our gallery walls come from the thrift store! If you’ve never hit up the Goodwill’s photo frame section, you’re seriously missing out. For less than $1 each (and most of them are $0.25 or $0.50) you can get perfectly good frames that are wall-ready after a little coat of spray paint. Just ignore the art inside and the colors, and pick out the shapes, sizes and styles that really speak to you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Goodwill with less than 100 different picture frames stashed in a corner.

Gallery Wall

For the nursery gallery wall, we spent less than $10 to get all these frames.

Gallery Wall

First up, after a quick wipedown to remove any dust or dirt, we set all the frames out on a drop cloth, sans glass, and gave them a few good coats of white spray paint. We like that the white helps bring together all the mismatched frames and make them feel like a “set.” Plus, the white really lets the artwork and mementos shine.

Gallery Wall
Gallery Wall

Once the frames were completely dry, I put the glass and the backs in, and then started figuring out the layout. I do this by using a big piece of paper – you can get poster paper or kraft paper at most stores, or, do what I did, and just tape together newspaper. Just roll it out about the size you want on the floor, then arrange your frames until you’re happy with the layout.

Once I was content with the layout, it was time for the really fun stuff—figuring out what to put inside! You could, obviously, shell out some cash and put some nice pieces of art in there, but we went the affordable route and used what we had on hand. We put in some old greeting cards we’d saved, old photos we had, and other keepsakes and mementos. I even designed a few simple pieces, printed them, and hung them up. I tried to keep the colors in the theme of the nursery, but mostly just put things we liked in there.

Gallery Wall

Once the frames were full and in a layout I liked, I traced around each frame on the paper, and then measured where the hanger was on each frame, and made a corresponding mark on the outline where the nail for each frame should go. I also wrote on each outline what item I wanted placed there.

 Gallery Wall
Gallery Wall

Then, I hung the paper template up on the wall above the changing table, using a laser level to make sure it was straight.

Gallery Wall

 And got to work hammering and nailing! I put a nail straight through the template into the wall at each of the nail mark spots.

Gallery Wall

Then, I tore the template down, and what was left was a random-looking pattern of nails. But not random, at all! Oh no!

Gallery Wall

Now that the nails are in the right spot, it was easy to start hanging the frames in their respective positions.

Gallery Wall

Once all the frames are up, it ends up looking a little crazy pants because they’re all teetering on one nail each. Not only does it not look so great, but it also isn’t a very secure setup for a child’s room. Don’t worry, I can fix this!

Gallery Wall

To make sure the frames stay straight, and are also very secure so none of them accidentally drops on Baby J while she’s getting her diaper changed, I used super strong mounting tape pieces at the bottom of each frame.

Gallery Wall

These suckers aren’t going anywhere. In fact, I used this same tape on our other gallery walls, and especially in the gallery wall in the hallway, we bump into it constantly, and not a single one has budged in nearly two years (or even thought about budging). These do really stick to the wall, so if you’re living in an apartment or some place where you don’t want to chance damaging your walls, I’d recommend figuring out another way to secure them.

Gallery Wall

For each frame, I leveled it before sticking it to the wall. That way, everything would be nice and straight once the whole wall was finished.

Gallery Wall

All done! Ain’t she a beaut?

Gallery Wall

Curious what all is in the wall? Here’s a handy-dandy little chart:

Gallery Wall

  1. My baby picture
  2. A pink moose. Because I love moose
  3. June Bug’s initials, cut out of four maps that represent four important areas of our life
  4. Craig’s baby picture (yup, that’s a picture of him, not June Bug, holy cow do they look alike)
  5. A little drawing of a family of berries that I did
  6. Botanical print of a juniper plant
  7. A pressed four-leaf clover I found on my due date
  8. Some lyrics from an Avett Brothers song I love (well, slightly altered lyrics) that I designed up and printed out
  9. Cute greeting card we got from friends at our baby shower
  10. A bee. On glitter paper. Because we have a “thing” for bumblebees
  11. Strips of paper from a banner that was hanging at our baby shower, plus a “J” that was on the banner
  12. A pressed maple leaf that was picked from our woods a few weeks before my due date
  13. A little mirror

 Gallery Wall

 And here’s what we spent on it:

  • Frames: $9.00
  • Spray paint: $3.87
  • Mounting tape: $2.59

Total: $15.46

We had the newspaper and nails on hand, but even if you had to buy some kraft paper and nails, you could get up a gallery wall for less than $20. And I think it makes a big impact in the room!

Gallery Wall

I love this project for two reasons. First up, the obvious fact that we filled a wall with art that is meaningful. It makes us so happy to look up at these frames and know that each and every item represents something special to us. Secondly, I love that this project is entirely upcycled. Not only is upcycling good for the budget, but it’s also really good for the environment. Knowing there is such a good collection of frames just asking to be loved at a local thrift shop makes me never want to buy new picture frames ever again!

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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14 Responses
  1. Shauna

    I love it! I’m planning out two gallery walls in our living room and hallway, but I was struggling to figure out an arrangement and how to make it not suck. Thanks for this helpful post! You’re really super crafty and graphically talented, which adds a really awesome touch! I love love love the moose and the berries!

    I also love the look of white frames. We have white walls, though, so I’m stuck trying to decide if I should stick with black frames, or do an assortment, or what. White walls are blah.

    And here I thought I was awesome for framing square cork boards and hanging them to pin the boys’ artwork to, haha.

      1. Shauna

        Oh, that looks way better than I was imagining! I think I prefer white frames to let the artwork/photos pop, too! I think black frames might be a big overwhelming.

        And inspired by this post, I went through some little things we’ve saved and found a cute South Africa postcard that I’m going to frame to add to our gallery wall. 🙂

  2. I love your little gallery wall. Some of the prints are super cute. We did a gallery wall in our house using goodwill frames too! I think ours is probably double the size of what you did and it probably cost us around $30 total (including pictures). It’s such a great project and really brings a wall to life. We get so many compliments on it now.

  3. Someone at your Goodwill needs to come talk to my Goodwill because ours have suddenly jumped up to overpricing just about everything.
    I do love your gallery wall 🙂

  4. LifeSheWrote

    This looks amazing! I love the look and the ability to change them out as she grows without having to redesign the whole wall. Speaking of changing the pictures out, how do you go about doing that if you used the super strong mounting squares on the walls? Do you pull them down and then just put more mounting squares on them when you put them back up (but in the same spot so it doesn’t matter if there’s a little damage to the walls)? Or is there a way to change out the pictures while leaving the frame up? Just curious! Thanks!

  5. Getting the frames at Goodwill is so smart! I have been wanting to do a gallery wall above my couch in the living room and the thought of buying expensive frames was holding me back. Now I know I can make it so much cheaper!!

  6. Kate

    This is a great idea that I’m going to do in September while on vacation. I only wish thrift stores in the bay area had inexpensive frames. At Goodwill the frames started at $3.99 and went as high as $19.99 for larger sizes. 🙁

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