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


Annalea (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 06:53

The best way to pick a color is to go grab some paint chips that appeal to you, and then tape them to the wall you're wanting to paint. Since color is an abstraction, literally a function of the ambient light in a given area since color is just reflected light, it's really difficult to directly transfer a color from a photograph to your own home. Printing out the photo above and taking it to the paint display is probably your best bet. :o)

Hope this helps!

Annalea (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 06:59

P.S.) Is there a way to download a pdf that I missed? If not, here's a PDF I made in case someone wants an easily-printable version. Ana, if you'd rather not have this here, please feel free to delete this comment, or let me know, and I'll remove access to the document.


Maureen (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 07:35

Love you Ana! Went to Orange and bought wood today (I decided to go with 6 foot long for over my couch). I also picked up some spray paint to make my matching frames. Can't wait to knock this out! Thank you once again!!

suzannah (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 07:54

Have been looking at our bare walls since we moved in this summer - afraid to hang anything permanent since we don't have permanent furniture.... these shelves are perfect for any furniture placement!! no centering needed! Love it! Another thing on my project list!

Laurie (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 08:01

These are GREAT! I've been meaning to ask you, do you use a spray gun? Spray paint gets pretty expensive and there aren't as many options. I found one that attaches to the pancake compressor and uses mason jars. Makes cleanup, paint color changes, and paint storage so much easier! $40 on amazon.com. I think it's called "Critter".

ChrisE (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 08:54

Off topic comment - but I just wanted to tell you I heard you on NPR today. Great job!!!! I don't know why they didn't mention your website by name though!!!

Laurie (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 09:11

I just re-read my post and it sounds like I'm trying to sell something! Sorry, just excited about my find!

Laurie (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 14:54

Ana! I have been following you for a while and have even built a few things! I am addicted! Anyway, I want to build some of these for my daughters room for books and things, but I don't really want to screw them to the wall. I do want them to be able to hold ALOT!! Any suggestions?

Sheela (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 16:42

Ana (or anyone else who is a finishing expert) - what are your tips for getting paint to lay down smoothly on wood surfaces? Do you use a brush, foam brush, roller, etc.? Any tips are very appreciated!

Lyndsay (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 16:56

This is my 2nd project that I have made of yours. And this one was so easy and simple. I love it. I just need to wait for the paint to dry to hang it up. I am putting it in my craft room. It is going to hold all my paints. Thank you so much.