Gallery Wall Photo Ledges




Do you have....

...dozens of photos just sitting in a box?

...picture frames of different colors shapes and sizes but you don't know how to display them?

...wall space that could use a little pick me up?

That was me...guilty on all three counts. With four kids spanning from late teens into adulthood, I have probably thousands of photos. Great pictures of babies, toothless grins, first dances, graduations, pets...happiest of family memories just sitting in plastic tubs in the basement.

With three pieces of wood, a few of screws and a little paint, I was able to get those happy memories out of the box and onto the wall where I can enjoy them every day. (Well, actually, I duplicated the process three times, so technically it was nine pieces of wood.)

These photo ledges are verrrrryy simple...and if I can make them, you can too!

~AND...if you like this Instructable, I'd be grateful for your vote in the shelving contest... :)

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Step 1: Gallery Walls the Hard Way

This picture is what used to be my photo wall...pretty awkward. I hung a picture or two and worked my way out from there.

But even if I'd put my collection on floor, drew lines and made a nice arrangement, adding more pictures wouldn't have been easy... frames had to coordinate and line up, space was finite, and the best I could hope to do is put a new photo over an old one to change them out...or worse, have to reconfigure the entire collection each time I added to it.

When I painted the wall, it was time for something new.

Step 2: Gallery Walls the Easy Way

I have a few of photo ledges from the swedish import store (can you say Ikea on Instructables?), but they max out at about three and a half feet long. (If this were simply an I'ble on easy gallery walls for a smaller space, I'd just point you in that, easy, done.)

BUT....if you have a long hallway or wall and want a continuous shelf, you'll have to make your own. Still, no big average 8-foot shelf might only cost $10 to $15 to make.

Head to the lumber yard and pick out some wood...and when you do, consider this...(which I learned after the fact):

Our shelves line a hallway. I was originally concerned about the projection of the shelf from the wall because we have college students schlepping backpacks and gear through our hallway, and I didn't want a floor full of broken frames. I did like layering my many photos, but some of the frames were pretty thick. A wider channel allows the pictures to lean a little more securely, so even though I like the projection better as it is, I may have opted for the extra width…especially with an occasionally slamming door to the garage sharing the same wall (that’s often closed via gravity, versus care).


Lumber - (all my wood cuts were done on site at the store)

IF THIS IS FOR A might not want the ledges to project out too far from the wall. I chose to use a 1"x 2", a 1"x 3" and a 1" x 4" . I prefer to use poplar wood for these types of projects. My hallway is pretty long so I selected 12' boards, examining them carefully for knots and bows...

IF THIS IS FOR A WALL that doesn't get a lot of traffic and projection isn't an issue, I would swap out the 1" x 3" for a second 1"x 4" .

Wood screws - 2"

Finishing nails

Wood glue



Step 3: Assemble As Shown

I assembled the boards as shown in the diagram. For the back two pieces I used wood screws. For the front piece, the 1" x 2", I attached it with finishing nails. I spaced both nails and screws about 11" apart along the length of the shelf.

I wanted to make sure everything was nice and smooth against the wall, i.e., the screw heads don’t protrude, so I decided to countersink them.

If you’re a novice like me, you may not know how to “countersink,” but this is what I did:

First, drill a pilot hole for the screw using a bit that’s slightly narrower and slightly shorter than the width of the screw shaft.

Next, select a drill bit that’s slightly wider than the screw head and use it to widen top of the pilot hole. Then add a dab of glue into the hole, insert your screw and fill the remaining space with wood filler (although it doesn't show, so the wood filler is really optional).

(IF YOU'RE MAKING THESE FOR A WALL, remember to swap out the 1"x 3" board for a 1" x 4".)

Step 4: Sand, Paint

Give the shelves a good sanding until they are smooth.

Paint as desired in the color/sheen of your choice.

When painting, I used a good brush and a product called Floetrol to minimize brush lines. However, I had to be careful because the paint liked to pool along the edges. In do-over world, I might try a good spray paint...I suspect it would offer fine results.

Step 5: Hang Your Ledges and Load 'em Up!

To hang mine, I located the wall studs, drilled a pilot hole through the wood and screwed the shelf to the wall studs so they would be very secure. I didn’t bother to countersink or fill the holes in the shelf, there are plenty of pictures to cover those.

As far as height, mine may be hung a tad high, but our big dog likes to hug the wall and I could see that happy tail knocking down many a photo… so a little high works for me.

THEN, get out those family photos and arrange as desired, stacking and layering frames on your shelves until you can't fit another happy memory on them.


Hubs and I promise honest assessments of each other’s "home mades" so they don’t look too…. well, home made. His verdict: “more shelves please.” In our house, that’s pretty high praise!

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Participated in the
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Participated in the
Shelving Contest 2016



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    10 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I have an Instructable myself in this context, but I have to admit this project is great!

    I'm going to vote for this one :)

    1 reply

    2 years ago

    My kind of project.

    Easy, inexpensive, practical and beautiful.

    Thank you.


    1 reply

    Thanks MRW. It definitely give us the ability to mix and match our collection... although I've seen it with all coordinated frames and that looks really nice, too.


    2 years ago

    Great job. I've made 5 of these myself. They sure save room on the wall and I can display more pictures

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks Karen!

    I plan to make more as well :)

    AND I was surprised by how much even visitors like to look at all the pictures...especially our kids' friends.


    2 years ago

    Awesome, looks like the 1 x 3 can be 1 x 2 so it sticks out less. Looks great. I see some graduation pictures,

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hi, Carlos... Yes, that's true...especially if you are using thinner frames or don't intend to stack them. I have SO many pictures (and they keep coming) so stacking is a must for me...BUT the less projection, the less they are able to lean and so I would risk them tipping forward.

    Really, ALL of the wood size is flexible based on preference :)