DIY Picture Ledges

DIY Picture Ledges

My living room is one of the few rooms in my home that I rarely share.  That’s because it’s been full of mismatched furniture and bare walls for the last few years.  My ceilings are very tall and I didn’t have any large artwork on hand to fill the space.  Well, I took care of one wall this past week!  I ended up making some DIY picture ledges and displaying pictures from vacations that my husband and I have taken over the last few years.  In this post I’ll share how I made these DIY picture ledges and also how I went about styling them.

Before we get into the tutorial, I’ll share this terrible before picture.  Here is my living room in all of it’s glory (or should I say gory)? 😉  We bought this sectional 10 years ago at Big Lots.  It’s actually held up remarkably well.  That said, the style is a bit dated now.  Once we finish the basement I’ll be moving it down there and I’ll get a more modern sofa in this space.  The random purple rug is going to get swapped out too.  I don’t need the basement to be finished to update the walls though.  So I figured I’d focus on that for now.  We have built in speakers so that was something I needed to work around for this mini update.

DIY picture ledge

DIY Picture Ledge Materials & Tools

Below is a list of what you’ll need to make each picture ledge.  I wanted mine to be 8′ long so I bought 8′ boards so that I wouldn’t have to cut them.  This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will make a commission if you click-through and make a purchase.

(2) 1×4 x 96″ Boards

(1) 1×2 x 96″ Board


Wood glue

 1.5″ Wood Screws


Brad nailer

Brad Nails

Speed Square

Sand Paper

Safety Glasses

Dust Mask

*Note that if your shelves are less than 8′ you will also need a saw to cut your boards

DIY picture ledge

How to Make a DIY Picture Ledge

My progress photos aren’t the best quality since I was working in my basement where the lighting totally sucks.  For reference, here is a finished photo showing where each of the boards go and which fastener (screw or nail) to use on the back and front.

diy picture ledges

Step 1 – Attach the 1×4’s to each other

First wipe the boards clean with a rag or paper towel.  Then, apply a bead of wood glue to one side of one of the 1×4 boards as shown below.  1×4’s are used for the back and bottom of the shelf.

DIY picture ledge

Then, clamp the two 1×4’s together as shown below.  The glued end should meet up with the edge of the other board.

DIY picture ledge

Starting on one end, use your drill and 1.5″ screws to attach the two boards together.

DIY picture ledge

Work your way down the board drilling screws every 12-16 inches.  Do your best to keep the two boards flush as you are moving down the shelf.

DIY picture ledge

Step 2 – Attach the 1×2

The 1×2 will be the front lip on the shelf that stops the pictures from sliding off.  Use wood glue and 1.5″ brad nails to attach the 1×2 lip to the 1×4 base as shown below).

DIY picture ledge

Step 3 – Sand the Shelf

First use 120 grit and then follow up with 220 grit sand paper.  You don’t need a power sander for this step but it does make life a lot easier.  I have this one and I totally love it.

Step 4 – Apply a Finish

I went with Minwax Early American stain and Minwax Semi-Gloss polyurethane for my shelves.  I applied one coat of stain.  For the polyurethane I applied two coats and lightly sanded with 400 grit in between coats.

DIY picture ledges

Step 5 – Hang the DIY Picture Ledge(s)

To hang the DIY picture shelf you’ll need some 2″-3″ construction screws, a drill and a level.  A stud finder is also super helpful in locating the stud locations.  Just drill through the back 1×4 directly into the studs.  I put 4 per shelf.

DIY Picture Ledges
DIY Picture Ledges
DIY Picture Ledges
DIY Picture Ledges

You may be interested in other DIY projects that are shown in these photos.

DIY Coffee Table Build Plans

Air Plant Wall Display 

DIY Industrial Bookcase by Shanty 2 Chic

How to Style Picture Ledges

Ok, there are countless ways to style picture ledges and no right or wrong answer here.  That said, I have a few personal preferences that I figured I’d share if you are looking for advice.

Use different frame sizes

I love how the different frame heights add dimension and interest to the wall.  Below is what I used.  The red text are the overall frame dimensions and the black text are the matted photo dimensions.

DIY Picture Ledges

If you’re interested in seeing more of my husband’s photography go follow him on Instagram.

Use different frame finishes

In my opinion, certain pictures look better in different frame colors.  It can really help to bring out a specific tone in an image.  I wanted a mix of frame colors for this reason.  That said, the frames should compliment each other and it needs to all even out.  I was very intentional with my mix of white and wood shades.  I alternated them based on size and color to create the most cohesive yet interesting look.

Overlap smaller frames in front of larger frames

If you are going to use smaller frames be sure to put them in front of the larger frames.  They’ll get lost behind the large frames if you don’t do this.  also, try not to cover the image too much if you can.  I spaced my pictures so that the smaller frames covered the matte on the larger pictures only.

Use a mix of portrait and landscape photos

Mixing portrait and landscape images adds some interest as well!

Play around with layouts BEFORE you hang the ledges

My last recommendation is to play around with the frames and photo orientations before you hang your shelf.  It’s a lot easier to do this when you don’t have to stand on a ladder to put a picture up there and then step back to get a good look.  Also, it may save on print costs since you’ll know exactly what you need before you hang your shelf.  I actually bought four additional frames from IKEA that I’ll be returning.  If I hadn’t laid out the frames first I probably would have opened them and wouldn’t have been able to return them.

DIY Picture Ledges

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DIY Picture Ledges

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What do you think of this DIY photo ledge tutorial?  I’m so happy to finally have something up on that massive bare wall!

Thanks for stopping by!



    1. Thanks Allyson. It’s one of the easiest and inexpensive options that I could find to fill the large wall. Large wall art is so expensive!

  1. Hannah, this was such a timely post as I am trying to figure out how to to this with a smaller wall. What a difference it made in your living room too!! I bought some “premade” ledges but I’m finding that they are not exactly the length I need.. So I may be following your tutorial to try building my own. And I really appreciated the styling tips as that has mostly been the hold up…how to make it look nice. But now I have some ideas so thank you!! Visiting from The Really Crafty Link Party. Pinned for later.

    1. I’m so glad that the post was helpful for you Sherry. I took a long time to actually take on this project because of the styling part.

  2. These picture ledges are great! And your tutorial is also very good. Thanks for linking up at A GATHERING OF FRIENDS LINK PARTY 12

  3. Hi Hannah, beautiful DIY picture ledges. I was wondering you’ve done this project with very creativity. Those images of every step of your work are brilliant. It really helps to take an idea of how a part should be done.

    Excellent job, I like the photos and just wanted to know how much time it took you to complete this project?

    1. Thanks Stephanie. It didn’t take long to make. Probably an hour to build and sand the two ledges. I applied the stain and allowed it to dry overnight. I then applied three coats of polyurethane allowing them to each dry for 24 hours. Most of the time is dry time for the finish.

    1. Thank you! I used pine boards. The extra attention sanding and finishing made them look like a much more expensive wood.

    1. I put them through the front board into the bottom board. Probably every 8-10″. I then filled the holes with wood filler and sanded them down.

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