Easy Photo Wall on a Shoestring ... er, Wire, Budget

Easy Photo Wall on a Shoestring ... er, Wire, Budget

A couple years ago I attended a play at The Theater in the Round in Minneapolis (really bad site) and in the lobby they had this cool system for hanging cast bios and other info that consisted of wire, pulled taut across a span, in this case from floor to ceiling, with small hardware holding some photos and glass in place.   

I inspected it and it seemed like something I could do at home.  So next time I was at the hardware store I picked up some very basic hardware for just a few bucks.

People come by all the time and seem to think that it is pretty cool and sometimes I let them think it was hard to do. I estimate the whole project took me half a day and cost me something like $60 for an 8' x 4' area - 28 photo holders. The majority of both the time and cost was for the wood photo boards, something that I now realize were really optional. Here is what you'll need for materials: 

  • picture hanging wire (enough for each span to cover)
  • s-hooks - 1" or 1.5" open (2 per photo you want to hang, 1 if not using wood photo boards)
  • Hunt bulldog clips (1 per photo you want to hang)
  • turnbuckles (1 per span of wire; make sure one side is a hook not an eye)
  • splicing sleeves (2 per span of wire)
  • screw eyes (2 per span of wire)
  • Thumb tacks (1 per photo to hang, only needed is if using wood photo boards)
  • Some thin slats of wood cut a bit larger than the photos you want to display (1 per photo to hang)

 The tools you will need:

  • Drill and small drill bit
  • Pliers
  • Saw (to cut the wood photo holders)
  • Sandpaper (to sand the wood photo holders)
  • Paint brush and stain (if you want to finish the wood photo holders)

Here are the super simple steps to do it:

1. Determine where you would like to string your wire(s) across and measure up from the floor so that you can drill pilot holes for the at the same locations. Drill holes. (HINT: when considering the hight of your photo rows, don't forget to leave room for various photo orientations and sizes if you're into that sort of thing).

2. Screw in the screw eyes by hand. You may need to use sheet rock anchors if you do not hit a stud.

3. Cut the wire into lengths that are just a bit longer than the span they will cross.

4. Thread one end of the wire though one side of the screw eyes that are in the wall, double them over as shown below, and clamp them together using the splicing sleeves.

created at: 03/27/2013

5. Attach the other end of the wire to a turnbuckle using the same method making sure that the turnbuckle has plenty of space to screw the two sides toward each other. Tighten the turnbuckle to just before it is to tight and then hook it to the other screw eye.

6. Simple shortcut: Just hang your photos with an s-hooks with a bulldog clip though it for that darkroom look, or continue on for the wooden photo boards.

7. Ok, so you like the photo board idea. It really isn't that hard but it more than triples (or more depending on the number you want to make) the work you will be doing. First thing you will do is cut your boards down to the sizes (and orientations you want) and sand the rough edges.

8. Now its time to drill some holes for the s-hooks. The smaller the s-hook the closer you will have to drill your holes to the edge of the boards. Also be sure to accommodate the gauge of the s-hook.

9. OPTIONAL: you may now stain or paint the boards as you see fit.

10. Stick a bulldog clip to the photo board with a thumb tack (hint: silver matches well).

11. Slip the s-hooks into the holes and hang your boards. Clip photos to them, and you're done.  

Here are the boards I used.

Want some other photo wall ideas? Try these...

created at: 03/27/2013

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Anonymous on Sep 18, 2013:

love this - almost completed in my new apt, but what size s-hooks and bulldog clips did you use??

Jeff Southard on Aug 14, 2009:

If you have digital photos and like the modern aesthetic, consider a CollageWall.  It's very simple to make and install. http://collagewall.com/

CollageWall up close

Loree on Mar 24, 2008:

Hey... this looks awesome, and I want to do it, but the supplies needed and instructions are no longer showing up on the page!

megrockstar on May 07, 2007:

im obcessed with this idea! I can get it out of my head, where Im going to put it- theme etc

Outtacontext on Nov 20, 2006:

A variation on this is something we've used in our house: clothes pins and cord to hang our children's drawings. We have one up in the hall and one that goes around the kitchen.

ckilgore on Nov 18, 2006:

Good point about it being too heavy, alttext. Maybe I will use foam core covered in paper as mattymatt suggests. We do have quite a span to cover. 

Hopefully I can get on this project next week while all the kids are gone for Thanksgiving break. I will definitely post pics if I get it done.

Andrea on Nov 18, 2006:

alttext: "the Photojojo magnetic photo rope could be your solution. If I could just find those little silver magnets I would be doing it."

These magnets are neodymium or rare earth magnets. You can get them really cheap, for example at Gaussboys Super Magnets. The small ones literally cost a few cents. I ordered some at Supermagnete - they're fun to play with!

Sydney on Nov 17, 2006:

This is actually a post about the low platform bed (the website keeps kicking me over here); Ready Made magazine featured a terrific low platform bed awhile ago (maybe a year? I could kick myself for losing that issue). It was essentially two IKEA Lack bookcases sandwiched between plywood and set on casters to make a bed with storage; looked great and quite simple to do (they actually bragged on the cover that "A woman made this bed!"). I'm sure I could have managed to put the bed together and I'm domestically impotent.

alttext on Nov 17, 2006:

Yes! Foam core would work well. It is nice and clean looking and cuts well.

mattymatt on Nov 17, 2006:

Hey, neat, thanks for writing this up.
For slightly less work and expense, you could use foam core instead of wood.

alttext on Nov 16, 2006:

Oh that is awesome, how it comes as wallpaper (if it were a real thing) and then you can peel off up to 4 layers of different grey tones.

bruno on Nov 16, 2006:

Another cool (less easy) way to cover a wall: use Post-it notes!


datsro on Nov 16, 2006:

well you made it to lifehacker!

alttext on Nov 16, 2006:

Yeah that is a great idea the Photojojo magnetic photo rope could be your solution. If I could just find those little silver magnets I would be doing it. Simple things are the the best. I think the magnets are the only real expense for that but I am sure I could do it for $8.

BrightCrow on Nov 16, 2006:

Super idea...  Instead of board, I plan to use cardboard covered in brown paper bags.  I make notebooks from these materials and it has a nice finish.  Instead of a clip, I plan to use paper photo corners.


kiddynomite on Nov 16, 2006:

 That's a really cool idea, and easy to boot.

 A great spin off on this would be a non-permanent installation for xmas cards. Don't know exactly how the execution would go, but it would be a cool way to show all the cards you get and don't know where to put... hmm...

alttext on Nov 16, 2006:

PS - I just uploaded the completed project photo to my flickr account so you can get a bigger view. Be sure to click all sizes to see larger photos if you like.

alttext on Nov 16, 2006:

ckilgore: "but i like the way the wood gives it some extra emphasis and weight"

Weight in more ways than one. I wouldn't try to span too much more than 8 feet and hold more than 7 boards across it unless you really are screwed into some solid wood or concrete. That is one more consideration for doing just the clips, they are so much lighter.

Bruno: All those photos are mine but, I would have people look at flickr if they want to see some great stuff. Try flickr explore and look for photos with creative commons licenses that allow for personal use.

bruno on Nov 16, 2006:

Hey Ben, sweet idea! I'm definitely going to have to try this one. Are the photos all yours? Where would you recommend people look for cool pictures to use if they don't have their own?

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