College apartment decor: budget-friendly gallery walls

A gallery wall is a great way to make your apartment feel brighter and more put together without having to spend a ton of money. If you want to invest a little more moola to get fancy art or nicer frames, then that’s great, but there are also ways to do it for literally under twenty dollars. Today I am going to share with you how I created my own budget-friendly gallery wall!

How to create a budget-friendly gallery wall

Trust me, I know how it is. You’re in college. You don’t have a penny to your name, and you eat ramen noodles five times a week. You have three exams next week and you literally haven’t gotten dressed in three days. Why the heck you would you invest any of your hard-earned money you made at your minimum wage job in decorating your small and overpriced apartment?

Well, let me tell you. The space you live in can have a huge impact on your mood, productivity and general outlook on life. Let me tell you a story. Freshman year Lexi was a complete slob. I had my own room (I am such an introvert that I literally took out a loan so I could afford to not have a roommate) and it was a complete mess at all times. I literally would leave food and clothes lying around the space for weeks on end. And guess what? I was not my best self. I was lazy and unproductive, and I had no motivation to do anything on my to do list. I really feel like this all could be attributed to my disgusting living situation.

So, fast forward to junior year Lexi. I now live in an apartment with two awesome roommates (well, I have my own room, we just share the living room and kitchen. Lets not get too carried away here) and I make sure to keep my space clean (most of the time). And you know what? I feel SO much more productive and organized. I can really focus on what I have to get done without worrying about the mountain of old dishes in the sink, or all the dirty laundry lying on my floor.

Where am I going with this? Oh yeah. Decorating your apartment. Ok. Let’s get back on track. So anyway, having a put together and cute space helps to make us feel more awake, organized, productive – all that jazz. And that is why you should put some effort into sprucing up your living space! I know we’re all on a budget, especially in college, so a great way to fill up an entire wall without breaking the bank is to create a budget-friendly gallery wall! It’s totally customizable and makes for a super fun DIY project.

How to create your own budget-friendly gallery wall

Here’s what you will need:

  • Printed art
  • Photo frames
  • Spray paint (optional)
  • Nails and a hammer (or just something to hang the frames on the wall with)

budget-friendly gallery wall print art

 First, print the artwork you want to hang on your wall. Go on Pinterest and search “free gallery wall printables” or “free artwork prints” and you will find literally hundreds of cute (and free!!!) art that you can use in your budget-friendly gallery wall. Then, just print the ones you want off. I recommend using cardstock paper because it just has a cleaner look, but you can totally use regular paper if that’s what you choose. You can use as little or as many prints as your heart desires. For my gallery wall, I went with 15.

Tip: If you are a college student, you most likely have a printing allowance on campus. Use the school’s printers to print your artwork. That way you don’t even have to pay for the ink!

Budget-Friendly gallery wall frames

So far, this project has cost you zero dollars. Pretty thrifty, right?? Lol. Anyway, next you’re going to want to get picture frames. Now I know what you’re thinking: “I’m supposed to buy 15 picture frames??? Das esspensive!” Girl, I KNOW. Why does a little square plastic thing cost so much? Who knows. BUT, you can go to your local Goodwill or other thrift store and get frames for like fifty cents. Way cheaper. My local thrift stores actually didn’t have that many frames in the right size, so I ended up getting them from both Goodwill and Wal Mart. Hopefully you have better luck, lol.

The frames will probably set you back about 20 dollars; they are definitely the most expensive part of the project. You can cut down the number of pictures you use if you don’t want to spend as much money.

spray painting a frame for budget-friendly gallery wall

spray painted frames for budget-friendly gallery wall

To make all the frames match, I used spray paint, which costs less than five dollars. You can use black or white, but my roommate and I went with purple and mint green because we’re funky. Then just separate the frames from the glass, and spray away! (Please do it outside, you don’t want to deal with spray paint on the walls/floor of an apartment you don’t own).

Tip: I used both plastic and wood frames for my project, and the wood frames didn’t take the paint as well as the plastic ones did. Keep that in mind when buying your frames!

When the paint is dry, bring all of your frames back inside and put the artwork in the frames. Now comes my favorite part! On the ground, arrange the pictures the way you want them to look on the wall. You can arrange them in straight lines, or you can make it more of a collage. Whatever you want!

Tip: Spray paint actually takes a while to completely dry, which I did not know before doing this project. I would suggest letting your frames dry overnight before continuing on with your budget-friendly gallery wall.

Once you have a good idea of how you want to hang the pictures, get out your nails and hammer (or other hard item if you don’t want to buy a hammer just for this project, haha). Just go one picture at a time and build them off of each other until you have all the pictures on the wall exactly the way you want!

YAY! Our budget-friendly gallery wall is complete! It’s not perfect and we definitely hit a lot of bumps in the road, but it was a cheap and fun project to do with my roommate! I hope this helped some of you, and if you end up creating your own gallery wall, make sure to tweet me pictures!

Since I am a mess 99% of the time, I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the problems my roommate and I came across while doing this project. I just want to show you that it is OKAY not to be perfect, and the best way to enjoy life is to learn to laugh at your mistakes! And me and Jenna definitely had a lot of those going on today.

Budget-friendly gallery wall misadventures

  1. I bought the wrong size picture frames. Yep. We had to fold back some of the paper so it could fit. Awesome.
  2. As I mentioned earlier, the spray paint would not stick to the wood frames. I had to paint like four layers on them and they still aren’t perfect. Oh well.
  3. I don’t have my own printer, so at first I went to my apartment complex’s leasing office to use the printers there. But GUESS WHAT? Of course, they don’t print in color. So then I had to drive all the way to campus to use the dumb printers there that charge fifty cents per page to print in color. Yes, you heard right. Fifty cents PER PAGE. #capitalism #studentdebt
  4. After we spray painted the frames outside, we let them dry for about an hour. By this point it was close to ten o’clock at night, so we decided to bring them inside and lay them on our kitchen floor overnight. Well, they filled our entire living room area with the stench of paint, and I literally thought I was going to get sick from ingesting the fumes. Fun times.
  5. Jenna broke one of the pictures frames, and I ripped one of the pieces of paper. So you may notice that in the after picture, we only have 14 frames instead of 15. Lol.

I’m sure we messed up more than five times, but these were the main ones. Anyway, thanks so much for reading this long post! I hope you have a wonderful day, and always remember that you are beautiful inside and out!!!