The Importance of Negative Space in a Gallery Wall - Cramer Imaging - Quality Fine Art Photography
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The Importance of Negative Space in a Gallery Wall

The Importance of Negative Space in a Gallery Wall
Just as silence is important in music from time to time, a lack of adornment in the right places is important to a design scheme.  It is what we, in the industry, call negative space.  This negative space is also an important element to build into a gallery wall in your home.  Want to know why?  Then keep reading.

Have you ever been in a room where you found a central focus within a matter of seconds?  How about a room where you didn't know what to look at because it was all just a jumbled mess?  I'm sure we've all had at least one of those experiences.  The difference between creating a focal point and having a confusing mess is often the presence or absence of negative space.

Photograph of Cramer Imaging fine art photograph 'Ancient Red Skyscrapers' on the wall of a living room setting
Here's an example of a simple gallery wall with a clear focus.
In the example above, you are left in no doubt of what the focus is in that room and on that wall.  The size of the photo helps but it's not the defining element of the focus.  The negative, or empty, space around the large fine art photograph is what helps emphasize the focus in the room.

Picture of a wall crowded with pictures in picture frames by Cramer Imaging
This gallery wall completely lacks focus thanks to a lack of negative space.
In this next example to the left, the gallery wall you see lacks a clear focus.  There is a large format picture in the upper right of the photo but the close proximity of the other pictures diverts your attention away from the larger piece.  Instead of adding something to the gallery wall, the extra pictures are detracting from it and creating a jumbled mess.  The pictures don't have room to breathe and stand on their own.  This is due to the lack of negative space.

The thing to note about negative space is that it's very much a visual aesthetic.  It's difficult to quantify how much space a particular picture requires next to another without looking at it.  Pictures that go well together require less space between them than those which don't go well together.  Once again, determining what goes together and doesn't is completely visual.

Your gallery wall at home need not look like the mess in the second example photo.  There are some quick and easy things you can to do avoid this visual vomit on your own walls.  Just follow the suggestions below and you will be sure to have enough negative space on the wall to create a focus rather than a mess.

How to Have Enough Negative Space on Your Gallery Wall

Having enough negative space on your gallery wall is about making sure that each individual image you hang has enough space to breathe but still be connected in to the rest of overall theme.  It's ok to have a singe picture make up your gallery wall and it's also ok to have several do so.  The key is knowing where to stop adding more pictures.

  • Assemble the pictures you want to hang on the wall.  Decide which ones will work together and which will not.  Discard those which don't from consideration.

  • For those pictures which will end up hanging on your gallery wall, try arranging them on a large empty floor space.  This will give you a reasonable idea of how much negative space will be needed in between and surrounding all the pictures.

  • If your eyes aren't drawn to something in particular, it could be because you have crowded your images together too much.  Try spacing them out a bit more and reevaluate.

  • Take measurements before hanging if you're unsure you can duplicate the floor arrangement on the wall without help.

  • You need not cover every possible picture slot with a picture.  Sometimes it's best to leave a spot blank for that negative space.  Remember that more is not always more.  Sometimes less is more.

Photograph of Cramer Imaging's fine art photograph 'Upper Mesa Falls' on the wall of a sitting room

A gallery wall can be in lots of different settings.

Once you have a good arrangement on the floor, it's then a simple matter of hanging your arranged pictures on your new gallery wall.  Check out this article for some advice on how to properly hang pictures on the wall.  This article will help you choose some stable mounts for drywall.


Negative space is something which is easily defined but poorly understood with words.  It's something which is best understood visually.  You know when there's enough negative space on a gallery wall and when there's not.  Making sure that your gallery wall at home has enough is an important element of your overall design scheme.

Now, it's your turn.  Do you have a gallery wall at home which has enough negative space?  Do you have an example of a gallery wall which lacks enough negative space?  Please share in the comments below.