{decorating with style} Gallery Wall Tips for Type A Personalities

My name is Angela, and I have Type A personality. {Now you say:} Hi, Angela! 

Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest!

As you probably already know, I'm a pretty structured person, and I like to create detailed plans before I make any decorating or organizing decisions. When I designed Beckett's "big boy room," I created a to-scale rendering of the the argyle wall to decide on the exact color placements before I began painting. And when I organized our pantry, I drew up a detailed plan before buying any baskets or bins.

While I've always admired the look of an eclectic gallery wall, I was afraid that my symmetry-loving brain wouldn't be able to achieve that somewhat random, collected look. But I really wanted to create a gallery of photos and art to help disguise the television in our master bedroom. Finally, I realized you have to work with your strengths, so I found a way to put my Type A tendencies to good use and planned a gallery wall that was not too symmetrical, but also not too random. 

Gallery Wall Tips for Type A Personalities

Do you also have the compulsive need to plan everything out, and does the idea of coming up with a "not too symmetrical" gallery wall layout stress you out? Well, then, friends, I'm here to help with these four tips...


What the heck does that mean?! When I looked at all of the gallery walls I had pinned on Pinterest - the ones that really caught my eye - I realized that I was most drawn to those that had some variety, either in size, shape or color. But the Type A side of my personality was also drawn to those that had a certain degree of consistency so that the gallery had a feeling of consistency and cohesiveness. 

With that in mind - I decided to commit to creative conformity when designing the layout for my master bedroom gallery wall. I picked one element that would add a creative feel to the gallery - different sizes, shapes and styles of frames - and then kept the other elements more uniform - black frames, white mats, black and white photos, and neutral tones in the artwork. 

Gallery Wall Tips

Some of my frames and mats are wider and some narrower. Some flat and some have molding. Some are rectangular, and some are square.

Now, I am not suggesting this is the only right combination. Your choices could be totally different from mine - but if you struggle with wanting everything to be too matchy-matchy, try choosing just one element of that will give the gallery a more creative, collected feel. Keeping other elements more uniform will likely make your Type A heart happy!

Here's a different example. When I was decorating our guest room, I wanted to frame a collection of photos from our honeymoon in Santorini, Greece. I really wanted to hang them in a three by three grid, but I couldn't seem to choose nine photos with the same orientation {portrait or landscape}. I sketched out what it would look like to hang the photos in matching frames, but with some hung vertical and some horizontal, and I just didn't love it. Finally I found a perfect solution - square frames with mats cut for 8x10 photos. This allowed me to hang all of the frames in a perfect grid, but within the frames I could rotate the direction of the mats to accommodate both portrait and landscape photos.

The matching white frames and mats create the uniform look that I was after, while the combination of horizontal and vertical photos allowed me to feature my very favorite shots rather than being limited to choosing nine of the same orientation.


Most of the gallery wall tutorials I have seen suggest that you should collect the frames you want, then frame the artwork, and then arrange them on the floor until you come up with a layout that you like. 

I can see how this would work well for some people, however, I knew it wouldn't work for me. Not only because of my Type A personality that wants to plan first, but also because I was working in a fixed space. I wanted to create a gallery wall that framed our television, but that didn't extend beyond the edges of the dresser because the drapes hang closely to either side.

I couldn't imagine how I could just purchase a variety of frames and make them all fit the space just right. So instead, I decided to plan the gallery wall layout before purchasing any frames. 

First, I went frame shopping {not frame buying}. I snapped pictures on my phone of the frames I liked, and I used my handy dandy mini measuring tape that I carry on my key ring to measure the outer dimensions of each frame. 

I then jotted down notes about each frame, including the photo size, the outer dimension, and whether it could be hung either direction. With these notes, I then went home to come up with a gallery wall layout and to determine how many of each frame I should purchase.

I'm very comfortable with Photoshop, so that is the program I used to draw up various gallery wall layout options, but you could just as easily use graph paper and pencil! I began by measuring and drawing in the outline of the dresser and television, as well as some tall vases and a lamp on the top of the dresser {all in black}. There was also a light switch and an alarm system keypad on the wall that I needed to work around, so I drew in the locations of those as well {in white}. And the white rectangles on the right and left represent the location of the windows on either side of the dresser.

For those who are somewhat Photoshop savy, I'll give you a quick overview of my process (and if Photoshop is not your jam, feel free to skip ahead).
  • Measure the width and height of your wall {in inches}, and create a new Photoshop document {CTR+N} with those dimensions. This will make it a very large image, but it's the easiest way to make your drawing to scale without lots of conversions, and if you need to print it later, you can always reduce the image size.
  • Make the background color similar to your wall color
  • Use the Draw Rectangle tool to draw in the silhouette of the furniture that your gallery wall needs to work around. To get the furniture to scale, choose "Fixed Size" from the "Rectangle Options", and input the dimensions of the furniture. 
  • Make sure to create a new layer for each separate piece of furniture that you draw in - this will allow you to move them around individually to get the positioning right {otherwise, they will all move as a group}
  • Once you have your drawn in your furniture pieces and other items {like light switches}, save the image!
  • Now you are ready to start adding in frames and coming up with different gallery wall layout options. 
    • Using the same draw rectangle tool, draw rectangles for each size of frame you might want to use - being sure to use the measurement for the outer dimension of the frames}. 
    • Again make sure that each new frame you draw in is a separate layer so that you can move them around independently.
    • Also draw in rectangles {or other shapes} to represent other pieces of art that you might include in the gallery wall.
    • I added text labels to my rectangles to remind me what size of photo it would hold, or what piece of art it is. 
    • Drag the various sizes of frames around to different positions until you come up with a layout that you are happy with. 
    • Save each different layout option that you like so that you can later compare them side by side. 
Here are two of the different layout options I came up with in Photoshop:

By drawing up these to-scale renderings, I was able to come up with layout options that had a not-too-symmetrical, random and collected feel I was after, but that I knew would perfectly fit around the television, and within the confines of the width of my dresser. Planning to be random - that sounds just like a Type A person, doesn't it?!

I then took it a step further because - well, because I'm a little crazy like that! I took photos of the art I had bought and the art I had created for the gallery wall, as well as photos of the vases on my dresser, and used Photoshop to size them to scale and added them to my rendering.

I then replaced my grey rectangles representing the various frame sizes with black rectangles, overlaid white rectangles to represent the mats, and then added black and white photos to help me decide which photos I wanted to frame in which frames. I simply opened the photos in Photoshop, converted them to black and white, then reduced their sizes to fit the frames (4x6, 5x7, etc), and copied and pasted them on top of the frames/mats in my renderings. I was then able to drag the photos around until I came up with a layout I liked.

Here's the final rendering I ended up with... it looks pretty darn close to the finished wall in my master bedroom, which allowed me to be sure I was happy with it before putting a single nail in the wall.


Us Type A's love symmetry and seeing everything lined up just so! But since that wasn't the look I was going for with my gallery wall, I had to work hard to come up with a layout that had more of a random look, but that still satisfied my desire for order.

If you have the same struggle, my best tip for you is that straight lines are pleasing to the Type A eye! Rather than trying to line everything up just perfectly, instead focus on making sure that one side of each frame or piece of art lines up with at least one adjacent frame on the wall. I think that's easier to understand with a visual example, so here's my final gallery wall rendering with pink and green lines drawn in to show you all the straight lines in the layout.

You'll notice that none of the straight lines carry all the way through the entire gallery wall layout, except for the one directly above the top of the television.. To keep the wall from feeling too formulaic, I made sure to inset or offset frames to prevent the outer boundaries of the gallery wall from looking too rigid.

When it came time to hang the frames, I relied on these same straight lines. I used blue painters tape to identify the outer edge of the gallery wall (lined up with the edges of the dresser).

I began hanging the lowest frames first, and as I worked my way up, I added more blue painters tape to identify the line above the television.

I continued working my way up until the wall in this same manner until all the frames were hung.


This last tip is a quick one, but one that makes a big difference to us Type A personalities. As I mentioned before, we have an alarm keypad on the wall above our bedroom dresser, and initially I was very frustrated trying to work around it without making the gallery wall layout feel unbalanced. 

Finally, I decided not to let this obstacle be an obstacle, but instead to embrace it and make it part of the gallery wall. I wanted to hang an empty frame around the keypad to make it blend right in. And while that seemed like a simple idea, it turned out not to be as easy as I'd hoped. First, because of the dimensions of the keypad, I couldn't find a frame that would fit around it without being way too big. I also found that some of the frames were too deep, getting in the way when I tried to flip down the keypad cover. 

In the end, I found a set of wall sticker picture frames at Michaels, and one of them was just the right size. 

I simply stuck the sticker frame to the wall around the alarm keypad, and because it had no depth, it didn't hinder opening the cover on the keypad.

The moral of the story is that you can always find a way to work around any obstacle that might get in the way of your gallery wall layout. Whether its a light switch, a keypad, or a thermostat, just be creative and find a way to incorporate it. Framing it, like I did, is one option. Another option - if you don't need frequent access to it - is to simply hang something in front of it. An open backed, stretched canvas can be a good solution if you have something you want to cover up!

If you made it all the way to the end of this post, then you must be a Type A'er just like me. If so, then I hope that these tips are helpful!

Now go forth and plan that gallery wall - because you know you love a detailed plan!

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1 comment :

  1. I never thought to use Photoshop for a Gallery Wall. Really cool idea and it turned out great! Thanks for featuring me on the Creative Circle!