16 Ways to Refresh Your Wall Art Without Spending a Dollar

published Jul 11, 2020
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gallery wall with frames painted different colors

Whether you are fortunate enough to be able to work from home or are just on lockdown re-watching “Insecure“, you’ve most likely spent more time than ever this year staring at the walls that surround you. For some, that’s motivation to finish some home improvement projects that have been back-burnered. For others, it’s made things in your home that normally bring you happiness start to get on your nerves.

Take your gallery wall, for example. It took forever for you to get it just right! You loved it! But now you have to look at it all. the. time. Maybe that print you got at a flea market is really starting to tick you off. When will we be able to go to flea markets again?! Or perhaps that picture of you and your partner needs to go because you decided to split ways recently. Or maybe you’re just looking for something to do and you’ve already rearranged the furniture, organized the kitchen, and given your bathroom a deep clean. What else can you do to improve your space (preferably without breaking the bank—we’re all watching our wallets right now). 

Why not try giving your gallery wall a complete refresh? Does that sound too expensive? You’d be surprised. Here are 16 ways to refresh your wall art without spending a dollar.

1. Swap out your current art with a free printable graphic

Think you can only order graphic art from Etsy? Think again! There are many sites offering free printable graphics that look so chic, no one will believe you printed it off without spending any money. Chicfetti is a go-to for inspirational cuteness, Burlap and Blue has tons of adorable lettering, and Bless’er House has plenty of free seasonal printables (hello beautiful spring flowers and Christmas tree prints!).

If “cute” isn’t what you’re looking for, the New York Public Library has a huge, downloadable digital collection and the USDA even has free watercolor printables in their agricultural library.

2. Frame a handwritten recipe

Try switching out a piece of art for something a little more sentimental. If you have handwritten recipes from family members that you might not be allowed to travel to see right now, this makes it even sweeter. Lindsay Franklin of @franklin_farmhouse framed this recipe found inside a cookbook that her mother-in-law gifted her. She says one side is a recipe for sugar cookies and the other side is for icicle pickles!

3. Or frame a meaningful note

It doesn’t matter if it’s a quick “see you tonight” scribbled on a post-it from a memorable day or a love letter between great-grandparents: Framing a handwritten note is a bit like framing a moment in time, and it might bring you more happiness than a flower graphic.

4. Display your own original watercolors

Be your own artist! Painting with watercolor is not only a relaxing activity, but if you’re happy with your final product, it could be a nice, soft change to your art collection. 

Not sure where to start? There are plenty of online watercolor lessons that will walk you through it. If you are still quarantining, this is also a great Zoom screenshare activity for friends far away. If you like the look of watercolor paintings but don’t necessarily want to be the painter, you can always print one for free.

5. Embellish your art

If you already have some art supplies and an old print lying around, now’s the time to experiment. This tutorial from Gal Pal gives the low-down how to add some texture to canvas prints, and this one from A Beautiful Mess walks you through the process of adding floral embellishments.

6. Try your hand at pressing flowers

While you could always embellish your current artwork with some pressed flowers, you could also just give that particular print a break and press flowers onto canvas or in between the glass of a double-glass frame.

If it’s your first time pressing flowers, Rosina from Forever Petal says to make sure your flowers are completely dry, then place them in a book between two white pieces of paper, and wait 2-3 weeks. If you’re putting them between glass, make sure the glass is clean and use a tiny bit of glue if they start sliding around.

“Pansies, violets, delphiniums and anemones are some of the best ones I’ve worked with,” says Rosina. “Many people have flowers on their doorstep that are suitable to try.”

7. Open up a beautiful book (and change the pages for a new look!)

This whole gallery wall by Shirley D’Mello is divine, but a highlight is the display of the open book on the top shelf. “My boyfriend gifted me an Egon Schiele book, but when I unwrapped it, it was in French. Although I don’t understand it, the pictures were too beautiful not to showcase,” explains D’Mello. “So I had some paper clips around and opened it up and ta-da! Every month or so I change the pages, which refreshes the whole space!”

8. Frame a piece of cloth

D’Mello included another smart add in her gallery wall above. “The black and white image on the bottom left with the white frame is actually a piece of cloth I had bought for inspiration for a design project,” says D’Mello. If you have a wall full of art and pictures, adding something with a little texture can help give it some more personality—double points if the cloth has sentimental or practical value.

9. Add a matching mats and paint your frames the same color

“After researching a lot of inspiration photos, I started to notice that one common theme that gave me that expensive feel was the non-standard matting boards; the white space they created allowed it to feel more elegant,” says Blanca Chierighino.

As a serial DIYer, Chierighino says she made her own white matting boards and then painted all the frames the same black color in order to create the specific gallery wall vibe she was going for. While she did buy the supplies for this, you could still get creative with some temporary matting materials and black paint.

“I paired all of that with some black and white family photos, a hand-painted poster from my husband’s old punk rock band, a few watercolor paintings I painted myself and one from my husband’s step grandmother, and a small little ‘street sign’ I made with our city’s name,” she says.

10. Or paint your frames different colors

If you don’t want to change out your art but you know you want a different look, try changing your frame colors. A simple coat of colorful paint can really make a statement—for example, the mix of colors Aurosmita Pal used on her gallery wall.

11. Add a plant

Plants are always a good idea. A tiny succulent sitting on top of a shadow box or a hanging vine cascading down your art will freshen up any gallery wall.

Credit: @teteberlin

12. Change the mat colors

Mat colors make a difference, as you can see in Tete Interiors’ gallery wall. The top left frame is a blank sheet of paper placed against a colorful mat. By focusing on the color palette as a whole in addition to the individual pieces, you can really bring out the “wow” factor.

13. Add unexpected trinkets

Maybe you don’t have a flamingo lying around your house (or maybe you do!), but you probably do have something that’s 3D and fun that could refresh the space around your art, even if you’re not actually changing out your art. “I like to add trinkets, ornaments & plates on my gallery walls,” says Joanne Mooney. “It’s not always pictures or prints.”

Credit: Heidi Swapp

14. Switch out your frames for something unconventional (like clipboards!)

Have some extra office supplies around the house? Take a cue from Heidi Swapp, who took some fun prints and cards to the next level with this clipboard wall. These prints would be cute on a normal gallery wall but the quirkiness of this setup makes it extra adorable. 

Credit: Erin Johnson

15. Or DIY a different kind of frame

When I got these prints from artist Jane Beaird, I knew I couldn’t just put them into normal frames; they deserved to be on display in a special way. So my dad and I DIYed these wooden “frames” by cutting recycled pallet wood and gluing them together with wood glue

16. Ditch the frames altogether

However, there’s also something a little bit sexy about prints or photos that are Mikel Welch and repurpose them into a terrarium