Monday, September 3, 2012

Gallery Wall on the Cheap

Bring order to your photos while being lazy and cheap

I have always liked the efficiency of a gallery wall. Having all the family pictures in one place is cool because we can point to Great Grandma in 1926 and see the same cowlick that our kids have in 2012. I also like having them all in one place because it keeps them from creeping on to every surface in the house. We decided to hang our pictures in the stairwell so we would have plenty of room to add more.

We picked simple black IKEA RIBBA frames. They come in a slue of sizes sizes and are pretty darn cheap. They have not changed the design in several years, so if we should be able to get more of them as needed. They are also light enough to hang on a single nail in our plaster walls.

The tough part is figuring out how to arrange them. Just holding them up and eyeballing it is far to imprecise and would likely lead to sloppy results and an abundance of nail holes. My next thought was to arrange them on the floor first. As I was about to start measuring the dimensions of the staircase and putting tape down on the floor, I had a much better, lazier idea.

I grabbed the digital camera and mini tripod and put them on the book shelf across the room. I took a picture of the blank wall. 

Then without moving the camera, I got the 5 year old to give me a hand. One by one, she held up the framed pictures against the wall as I pressed the button without moving the camera. One could do this on their own using the camera's timer, but it went much quicker with a helper.
Blank wall

5x7 portrait
5x7 landscape
8x10 portrait, etc.
Now I had pictures of all the objects that needed arraigning in the proper scale to be digitally manipulated. I used GIMP to do this next part. GIMP is an open source cross platform graphic manipulation program. It is a free alternative to Photoshop. Seriously, who can afford that?

I opened each image, and used the rectangular select tool to select the picture that Maggie was holing up against the wall. Then Edit->Copy. Next, I clicked on the picture of the blank wall. Then Edit->Pate As->New Layer. Repeat for all the pictures you are going to hang. Now, you can drag the little pictures around the wall as much as you would like.

Rectalgle select, Edit->Copy
Edit->Paste As->New Layer, Move tool

The design i ended up with was based on a series of horizontal lines across either the top or the bottom of a row of frames. This would allow for frames of different sizes to be easily aligned with a level. It would also extend up the staircase wall as we had more pictures to add.

Still in digital space. Plan for wall using GIMP

Time to get the hammer, nails, and a level. Using the laptop as a guide, I started at the lower left and did one row at a time. The ones where the tops line up are simple to align. The ones where the bottoms line up are a little tougher. Just hold up the frame that is to be hung so that the bottom is even with the one next to it. Make a small pencil mark at the top of the frame. Then, measure down from that mark the height to where the nail will actually support the frame. For the RIBBA frames, this distance is 3/8". Small adjustments can be made by tapping the nail up or down to bend it ever so slightly.

When actually hung, I made a few small adjustments, mostly in the horizontal alignment. I used the width of the level (about 1-3/4") as a standard spacing. I was surprised how closely the physical result matched the digital plan.

Finished result in physical space. Michelle, we're still saving a spot for the twins!

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