When flicking through pages of decorating magazines, or websites devoted to the topic I’m often drawn to the fabulous photo walls that people have. Many are quite simple and seem to have grown organically, while others are more regimented and were obviously designed. I adore the structured approach myself but given that matching photo frames are very expensive, coupled with the fact that I rent and must get permission to put a single picture on the wall, let alone a mass of them, it’s always been something that I’ve put away in the “when I have my own place” basket.
With a little thought, some slightly above basic graphics software knowledge and some time there’s no reason for me to wait – last night we finished putting up our photo wall complete with 57 photos at a fraction of the “standard” cost and I’m very pleased with the results.
Step 1: Base size. The first thing to do is to come up with a base unit size for a photograph. A standard digital photograph these days is about 4×3 inches, which is a good base to go with. You’ll want your finished photo to include a “matt and frame” as well, so you’ll need to work out how much border to add. Ours ended up being about 15×12.5cm including borders. It’s also worth reading up about Golden Ratios – a useful concept that will help guarantee success.
Step 2: Alternative sizes. Your next thing is to work out what sizes come off that base unit size. You’ll need to allow for gaps between the photos – we allowed a 2cm gap. Our alternative sizes included – Large almost square : 32x27cm, Tall : 15x27cm and Long : 32×12.5cm
Step 3: Measure out your wall space. No point in making your photo wall too big or too small, so measure it up and decide how big you want the finished product to be, our area measured approx 170 x 120cm – very big!
Step 4: Come up with a layout. There’s lots of layout options online if you search for them – there’s even photo wall companies that will send you a layout and all the frames you need (oh my, expensive!) but you can use their base images to give you a good idea of what kind of layouts you want. In your graphics program of choice create a canas of a size to match your wall and tiles or image squares on separate layers that match your dimensions (Hint: use say 4 pixels to represent 1cm) and then move around and copy until you have a layout you like. Here’s ours – we’ve colour coded the different sizes to make it easer to count.
Step 5: Create templates for your images. For each of the image sizes we created a photoshop file at 300dpi, we then added a layer which was a frame in dark brown of 0.8cm thickness. Inside this was another frame of a cream colour to represent the matt board that you see in professionally framed prints of 1.4cm. We came up with this size as it was what looked most pleasing to us. We used exactly the same sizes on each size of photo.
You can download the files that we used here. These are psd files. You may wish to adjust the colours we’ve used to suit your own home.
Step 6: Create your photos. By dropping a photograph into a layer under our frame/matt layer we could move it around to find the perfect cropping. We played with some of the colours too where appropriate. For each image we then saved it out as a jpg file at maximum resolution. We kept going until we had enough to fill each of the different sizes in our template. We did notice that our template is missing good vertical 4:3 images, but we decided that we were OK with that – you may want to add in different dimension photos, whatever you like, it’s your wall! Next time we do this we’ll also create some spacing strips of 2cm wide.
Step 7: Find a photo printing service that will print extra large poster prints. We used Jessops here in the UK, they do print sizes of 150x50cm which we found to be just right for our needs. They also have software that lets you order prints online. So we then created a canvas size to match and placed our jpg files onto that (again in Photoshop) with a small gap of about 1cm between each before saving out to larger files. You’ll find it easier to group the same sized images together for printing purposes. These we imported into Jessop’s software and requested our prints. Of course, if you have access to a professional quality laser printer that will take the right size card (paper is too flimsy) you can save more and do that
Step 8: When the prints arrive you’ll need to start cutting them out. You will need a sharp blade, a metal ruler and a cutting matt for this. Carefully cut around each photo. Decide which photo will go where, we placed ours on a table then turned over to start adding BluTac.
Step 9: Attach to the wall. Adding spacing strips between each photo as you go makes it much faster to place and get them on correctly. Step back from time to time to double check your handy work and ensure you’re not going off at some strange angle.
Step 10: Admire! Look at that – this particular photo wall cost less than £100 which included the cost of the ruler, cutting matt, blades and BluTac. To put that into perspective, this £60 kit provides frames and templates for displaying 9 photos – and doesn’t include the cost of printing the images. Our wall has 57! Using the kits we would have been up for near on £500 to achieve similar results – providing our landlord would agree to let us hang that many frames!
If you end up using this post to create your own photo wall I’d love to see the results!