Stairway to heaven {how to create a gallery wall up a staircase}

Since we decorated just before Christmas last year, the majority of the walls in our home have remained bare; and most of our framed pictures have been stacked up on the floor, waiting to be rehung.

We used to have a ‘stairway photo gallery’ going up the staircase. Dozens of black framed, black and white photographs — in various shapes and sizes — containing the smiling faces of our friends and loved-ones; plus memorable places we’ve visited (or lived in) over the years.

But after taking them all down I decided that I was ready for a change.

We visited a really cool hotel last year and they had a gallery wall up a staircase.

It was really impactful. Instead of a large collection of small pictures, the pieces they’d used were really large. So I decided to do the same up our stairs.

I searched on Google for how to arrange pictures on staircase walls — and also on Pinterest for inspiration — but most of the gallery walls on there had a theme; either by colour or frame style.

There always seemed to be a common thread tying all of the pieces together, plus there were lots of tips on creating a gallery wall but, more often than not, they were very contrived and the pictures that were used were very similar in look and feel.

The pictures that we had didn’t really have much in common at all — apart from the fact that we loved them all.

They were a bit of a mish-mash; the  frames were various colours and styles plus they were all different sizes. And totally different types of content too — some graphic, some illustrated and some fine art.

We even had my grandad’s medals in a frame.

But what do you do when none of your pictures match?

I’ve seen lots of different methods for planning a gallery wall.

Some people hang the pictures and hope for the best. Some pin up newspaper templates — or squares of brown paper — in order to get a feel for the composition before they hammer in the first nail.

But as the wall flanking our staircase was quite a large space — and quite tricky to access —  I decided to take the measurements and plan it out in Photoshop first, before we attempted to hang all the pieces on the wall.

How to create a gallery wall up a staircase using Photoshop

1 — We measured the wall we wanted to hang the pictures on. I decided that I wanted to keep all my pictures within a square, rather than have them coming down to the bottom of the staircase. This made things easier to plan too.

2 — I created a grid of that exact size in Photoshop, to represent the wall.

3 — Then I measured all of the pictures I wanted to use and created corresponding rectangles, in my Photoshop document, to represent the pictures.

4 — From here I was able to move them around easily on the Photoshop ‘wall’ grid and work out a formation.

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

My photoshop shapes — each one representing a picture.

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

You can easily move the ‘pictures’ around on your Photoshop ‘wall’ until you find a formation you like…

The only problem with that was —how would I know that the images worked together?

Black boxes are all well and good but do the pictures compliment each other?

5 — To figure this out, I took a photo of each picture — using my phone — and dropped them into the corresponding rectangles.

All of a sudden you can really see how the images are going to work together.

And you can easily move them around within the Photoshop document to create various layouts and patterns.

6 — This was a much easier way to see what our pictures looked like together.

And I really started to get a feel for which formation I like the best. I was able to add or take away pictures — and move them around — until I found a pattern that I really liked.

Definitely simpler than climbing a ladder and trying to work it out on the actual stairwell.

The final design for my gallery wall

7 — Next, all I had to do was take down the measurements between the gaps.

As I’d created my Photoshop ‘wall’ and ‘pictures’ in the actual cm values, it was easy to make a note of the numbers and add them to the plan.

8 — All that we needed to do now was transfer those measurements on to the wall and make some hanging marks.

My big (man-shaped) boy got his tape measure out and turned each picture frame face-down and looked at the fixings on the back. Thankfully, they were all on picture wires, so he stretched these, vertically, as high as they would go (in the centre of each frame) then made a small mark on the wall to show where to put the nail.

9 — Next, he hammered a nail in where he’d left a hanging mark.

10 — Finally, he hung the picture on the nail, to match the image map I’d given him.

Ta-daah! How to create a gallery wall up a staircase in ten easy steps!

Now, there are probably some of you thinking — well that’s all well and good if you actually have Photoshop — but fear not! There are other, similar, graphics packages that you could use; if you don’t have Photoshop. Canva is a free graphic design package that is a good alternative.

Being able to see the pieces of art together — and move them around easily — was brilliant. Such a simple way of organising a gallery wall up a staircase. No fuss and very little effort.

Really useful when the largest piece on the wall was almost a metre high!

The start of my gallery wall and the first 3 pieces hung in place!

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

Adding the pictures one by one…

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

Sweet little Trooping the Colour advertisement from Wayfair.

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

All different styles and sizes but working together well.

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

My helpful assistant.

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

Starting to really come together!

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

Line drawing of Battersea Bridge — Art Group at Wayfair

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

And it’s partner — The Millennium Bridge; London II by Susie Brooks

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

Looking really good — especially with Deirdre (our deer head).

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

Cosmo keeping watch.

how to create a gallery wall up a staircase

Our final gallery wall, in all it’s glory!

We had such an eclectic mix, it was really hard to envisage them all sitting together.
A combination of silver, black and wooden frames and the content of each frame is so different.

There’s a black and white photo. An original Jamie Reid print — he’s the artist that created all the artwork for The Sex Pistols.

A beautiful Chagall reproduction that my sister bought me for my 40th birthday — plus a Penguin book cover print that I made for Dickie, for our wedding anniversary one year.

We also had three gorgeous — London inspired — illustrations from Art Group at Wayfair. Plus a print by Rolf Harris (controversial, given the fact that he’s been banged up for paedophilia but I still absolutely love it — albeit not him).

Finally a couple more memorable London themed pieces; an original bus blind and a photo of the street sign of the place we first met — plus my grandad’s medals in a frame.

Planning a gallery wall up a staircase in Photoshop is perhaps not the most conventional way to organise your art but it really worked for us!

This year I’m really excited to be working with Wayfair, as I’m part of their ‘Home Experts’ programme. I’ve already done a couple of posts — Boho Luxe Living and Pantone Greenery — pop and have a read if you missed them the first time round!

Pin ‘How to plan a gallery wall in Photoshop’ for later…

How to create a gallery wall up a staircase

Caro Davies

Caro Davies art directed fashion and interiors before leaving the world of design to pursue a career in social media. She can now be found chasing the light — and two small twin boys.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook

45 Comments

  1. 8th May 2017 / 9:13 pm

    Omg you have an original Jamie Reid OMG OMG you are soooooo cool I am in awe
    And yep I love your planning in photoshop bit bloody clever eh !
    But seriously an original Jamie Reid ah I can see it (almost) it’s the one with the queen right !
    Bestest Ashley xxx

    • 9th May 2017 / 11:50 am

      Haha!! We do!!!! I bought it for Dickie a few year’s ago — it’s one of my our prized prossessions ;) xx

  2. 8th May 2017 / 9:35 pm

    It looks great Caro. We had a gallery wall in the hall of our first apartment in Germany and I loved it. I spendt ages arranging the pictures on the livingroom floor and, once I finally had a layout finalised, The Bavarian said it’s be too much of a pain to hang them all! I was livid but I managed to get him to change his mind.

    • 9th May 2017 / 12:20 pm

      I’m really pleased with how this has turned out — and to be honest — I think Dickie was happy that we weren’t putting all the tiny pictures up again!! 11 holes in the wall now rather than 50!! LOL!

  3. 9th May 2017 / 12:42 pm

    Ah I love it Caro and I love the theme too, what a clever idea to do it on photo shop first. I really need to try and use it again x

    • 12th May 2017 / 9:46 am

      So much quicker than trying to plan it on the actual wall — the stairwell is so difficult to access, this made it a piece of cake!! xx

  4. 9th May 2017 / 12:44 pm

    What a fab idea to do the planning in photoshop. I love the choice of prints and also the different sizes. That print of the millennium bridge is gorgeous.

    • 12th May 2017 / 9:46 am

      So much easier Jo!! Nice to see all our pics up on the wall again instead of stacked up on the floor! :)

  5. 10th May 2017 / 10:02 am

    Great arrangement! Using a computer is a great way to play around with the images – much easier than paper templates! We’ve painted our hall ,but still haven’t got round to creating our new arrangement yet (Soon!) x #HomeEtc

    • 12th May 2017 / 9:54 am

      SO much easier!! Paper templates are fab when you can easily access the wall the pics are going to be hung on but hanging pics up a staircase is so tricky!! xx

  6. 10th May 2017 / 10:10 am

    This looks amazing! To be honest though, I don’t think I would have enough patience. We have had a stack of pictures for our stairs for three years and I too looked at the Pinterest ideas too. In the end I just went for it and hoped for the best. It looks OK but not as good as yours! xx #HomeEtc

    • 12th May 2017 / 9:55 am

      Thanks Becky — I think creating it in Photoshop definitely saved my patience!! ;) I’d have given up if I’d have tried to plan them using any other method! LOL!!

  7. 10th May 2017 / 1:08 pm

    How clever! What a great way to avoid mistakes and to give yourself the confidence to get the drill out! It looks fab too! Philippa xx #Homeetc

    • 12th May 2017 / 9:55 am

      Thanks so much Phillipa — so much easier than trying to plan in situ!! :)

  8. 10th May 2017 / 1:58 pm

    I love your gallery wall. We hope to do one once we’ve paneled the stairway but I hadn’t really thought about how I would arrange the frames. Using photoshop is very clever and so much easier than other methods I’d considered! The only issue I have is putting nails in my newly plastered walls! I’ve refused to do it so far in the house but I’d have to bite the billet for a gallery wall!!

    • 12th May 2017 / 9:45 am

      Thanks lovely :) I’m so pleased with it. And if you don’t want to use nails, you could use contact strips? They work well — even for large paintings.

  9. 10th May 2017 / 6:31 pm

    I love Photoshop, but I’d never have thought to use it in such a clever way!!! How brilliant! Last night I finally got around to piling up a bunch of framed prints I’d had around the house and am about to go hunting in the loft for more…The first stage in my gallery wall challenge!!! This is such a perfectly times post. I’ve seen the other methods with newspaper etc but I love this idea. Esp taking photos too.

    Some fab prints. I love those London Line drawings and have seen them before. WANT! #HOMEETC

    • 12th May 2017 / 9:44 am

      So much easier than trying to plan it in situ. Especially in such a difficult to reach space — nice to see them laid out in front of you on the screen and swapping them all around — and best of all — the measurements are all there!! ;) Look forward to seeing yours when it’s done Jane!! xx

  10. 10th May 2017 / 8:44 pm

    Ah this is ingenious!
    When pieces don’t match I quite like to use the same coloured frames as a way to tie it all in together!

    #HomeEtc

    • 12th May 2017 / 9:41 am

      Thanks Karen! Yes — our old gallery wall was all black frames — and I sprayed a load of cheap frames in neon pink one year for our guest bedroom — but some most of these are gallery framed prints and I didn’t want to reframe them. Nice to be able to fit a loaf of things that don’t match together :) xxx

  11. 10th May 2017 / 8:45 pm

    That’s genius. We have a gallery wall in the dining room but they are linked by black frames – lots of different shapes and sizes but all black.

    • 12th May 2017 / 9:31 am

      Thanks lovely! Yes — our old gallery wall was all black frames but some most of these are gallery bought and framed and I didn’t want to reframe them for this. Quite like the mix :)

  12. 11th May 2017 / 7:44 am

    What a beautiful gallery wall, I love it. We have just taken down our living room gallery wall and replaced it with a shelf but need to move all the photographs around the house somewhere. I’m thinking of making a gallery wall up the stairs and add to the ones that are already there. Great post x

  13. 11th May 2017 / 10:50 am

    What a fabulous idea! I will be repining this for later reference.. and I love how you’ve captured Mr Twinkle Diaries hard at work lol!! Keep ’em busy, I say! #HomeEtc

  14. 11th May 2017 / 1:16 pm

    Such a helpful post Caro! I’m hoping to do a gallery wall going up the stairs in our new home so this will come in very handy. xx

    • 12th May 2017 / 9:28 am

      Thanks lovely — they’re such big pieces, trying to plan it in situ would have been a nightmare!!

  15. 12th May 2017 / 11:53 am

    I love this, such an organised way to do it rather than my way of just sticking the pictures up and using my eye! Looks lovely xx

    • 12th May 2017 / 3:32 pm

      Thanks chickie — much easier than faffing about with bits of paper :)

  16. 12th May 2017 / 6:31 pm

    Growing up we always had tonnes of paintings up the stairs, my mum took them all down for a more “contemporary” look but I miss them whenever I visit her!

    #HomeEct

    http://www.hellonancy.co.uk/

  17. 14th May 2017 / 8:53 am

    That is such a clever idea, I keep seeing all these tips on creating a gallery wall and they all say planning is key but I’m too haphazard ;) Xx #HomeEtc

    • 9th Jul 2017 / 6:12 pm

      I’m haphazard with most things but wonky pictures really upset the designer in me!!! ;)

  18. 15th May 2017 / 12:44 pm

    Oh that’s so cool and I love the final design you chose. I think I’d choose that one too. I’ve always wanted to do this with photos of the boys but it’s sitting down and picking them that feels like the hard bit!

    • 9th Jul 2017 / 5:56 pm

      Thanks so much lovely!! You should definitely do it! Most of us take so many photos these days, and half of them never see the light of day! Make it a mission to pick some of your faves and get them up on the wall! :)

  19. Kerry
    15th May 2017 / 6:18 pm

    This is so clever! I always find hanging lots of photos together an absolute nightmare. I usually make Chris do it an the gets VERY grumpy with me xx

    • 9th Jul 2017 / 6:00 pm

      I’d use Photoshop for everything if I could! LOL!! It’s helped me pick room colours and even choose how I was going to paint the outside of our caravan! It’s definitely more useful than just for editing photos :)

  20. Kate
    16th May 2017 / 3:00 pm

    What a shrewd and nifty technique! Looks really quite chic and cool and at the same time, very elegant too! xx

  21. 16th May 2017 / 11:08 pm

    Love this – and great idea for the planning. Helps me massively as I’m planning to do something similar, but of course not so simple as it’s on one of the slopey walls, which is why I’mve probably not done it yet. Now I’ve got some tips, I may even give it a go x

    • 9th Jul 2017 / 6:03 pm

      Do it!!! Honestly — it would be much easier to plan it out like this than just go in, all guns blazing :)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.