Picture Ledge (Beginner Project - Ten Dollars for Full Length Shelf)

Submitted by Ana White on Thu, 09/12/2019 - 12:21
Starter Projects
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You can build your own picture ledge for about a DOLLAR a foot.  This easy to build picture ledge tutorial requires NO cutting and basic tools.  Paint or stain any color your choose.  Thousands of people have built this shelf and you can too!  

picture ledge with photo display
picture ledge with books in kids room

Reader submitted photo by Katie Garber


Need an inexpensive and beautiful way to display books, photos, decor or more on your walls?  Our famous $10 picture ledge shelves are easy to build (you can even build these without cutting a single board!), can be built in any length, and are easy to hang! 

What You'll Need

  • Off the shelf pine boards available at any home improvement store
  • Drill (used to build and hang the shelves)
  • Screws (used to build and to hang the shelves)
  • Paint or stain
  • Level is recommended for hanging the shelves
  • A stud finder is recommended for locating the studs in the wall to hang the shelves on

If you want to customize the overall length of the shelves, you'll also need a tape measure and any saw that can cut wood (this includes a handsaw).


But I'm Not Handy

These picture ledge shelves have been built thousands of times, by beginners everywhere.  In fact, we recommend this project as your first project because it is SO easy and SO affordable!  Our step by step tutorial makes it easy. 

YOU can do this!


Reader Submitted Photos from Our Picture Ledge Tutorial

Here's a few different versions of our picture ledge, submitted by readers, and used in different ways.

Book ledges by Crisaphi

Reading nook by karahart

Rustic Stain by a.stauff

Easy Picture Ledge Tutorial



picture ledge
You can customize to any length that you want.
Avoid going to short (less than 24") because it may be hard to find a stud in the wall)
You can also make the shelf deeper by simply replacing the bottom 1x3 board with a 1x4, 1x6 or 1x8 board


Shopping List

For (1) 8 foot long gallery ledge

  • 2 - 1x3 @ 8 feet long
  • 1 - 1x2 @ 8 feet long
  • For every foot of shelving, you'll need about (3) 2" wood trim screws (like these that also include the drill bit)

What Type of Wood?

  • The least expensive is pine furring strips (about $2 for a 1x3 and $1 for a 1x2) and will paint just fine and stain to that rustic look everyone is after these days
  • You can use a select pine or hardwood board as well if you are trying to match other woodwork in your home or are looking for a more refined look
  • I don't recommend MDF as it doesn't have much structural integrity
Cut List

For 8 foot long shelving, NO cuts are necessary.

For shorter shelves, simply cut 

  • 2 - 1x3 @ desired length of shelving
  • 1 - 1x2 @ desired length of shelving

EXAMPLE: For 36" long shelves, you would cut two 1x3 @ 36" and 1 - 1x2 @ 36"

Tape Measure
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Circular Saw


Step 1

Attach the two 1x3 boards together with 2" trim screws, about every 12".  

Step 2

Attach the 1x2 to the front, with the 2" trim screws.

If you have a brad nailer, 1-1/4" brad nails and glue can also be used and will be easier to finish than screws.

  • For a painted finish, fill the screw or nail holes in the front 1x2 only with wood filler.  Let the wood filler dry and then lightly sand any excess off.  Then paint as desired.
  • For a stained finish, lightly sand the project.  Then apply wood stain of your choice.  Then use a stain matched wood filler to fill any holes.

Step 3

Locate studs in the wall with a stud finder.

Mark with a pencil.

Place the picture ledge up on the wall at the desired location and screw through the back 1x3 into the studs in the wall.

  • At least two screws are needed to hang the picture ledge.
  • One screw per stud in the wall
  • If only one stud behind the picture ledge, than use two screws to attach to the one stud
Help Improve This Plan

We apologize if there was an error in this plan. Please help us out and report any errors here.


Tanjia (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 03:50

Ana - I think I might be able to get this project done before the snow starts flying here! Thanks for empowering me yet again!

sarahhiggs (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 04:55

haha.. sorry, i'm new to all of this! I think this will be my first project! ;)

I recently helped my husband build a shed, gate and shingled the roof! It's the first time I've really ever picked up a tool, and although scary at first, not so bad once you get the hang of it! I have been following your site for a few weeks now and have about 20 projects bookmarked.. thank you so much for all the inspiration. simply amazing.

Tsu Dho Nimh (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 05:22

Lisa - She has a paypal donate button at the bottom of the right-hand column of stuff.

Tsu Dho Nimh (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 05:28

Oh my ... I have a wall these would be perfect on for some cookbooks, and a pile of scrap lumber to play with :)

QUESTION: What is that paint color? I'm looking for a creamy pale yellow and that looks like a nice shade.

ShaRee Hirschi (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 05:56

Ana, (Please respond if you read this)

Can you give measurements of the height you hung the shelves on the wall. What was the distance between shelves, etc?
Thanks so much!

Ana White (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 06:44

Hi ShaRee, I'm in flight right now, so I can't give you the exact measurements - but I can give you an approximation. We hung the bottom shelf at about table height - so about 30" high. Then we left enough room for the frames, about 15" between the shelves. When I get home I can give you better specs. Thanks so much for asking - I'm sure others have the same question.

Annalea (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 06:51

Ana, I just wanted to say (again!), how much I appreciate this blog, and all of the awesome plans on it. We're currently building a house, and I can hardly wait to pretty much fill it with things I build from your site. These ledges, especially, are going to be perfect for the apartment over the garage where we'll be living while we build the house itself. (The garage is coming along nicely, but it's going to be a squeeze with the kids. Think Japanese-style living.) These ledges will allow great use of little bits of wall, while not projecting into the room, or overwhelming the space. Thanks so much!!!