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.


Nichole (not verified)

Fri, 10/08/2010 - 03:34

Hi Ana. I have been loving your blog for quite a while now. I originally found you through a reference on Woot! and have been checking it daily ever since. I am in the process of buying my first house. In fact, I just had the inspection yesterday. I am so excited about getting in there and fixing it up and making it mine. I have dreams of filling it with furniture I made myself from your plans. My dad has always done woodworking in his spare time and I always admired that and wanted to try it myself, but was too intimidated until I found your site. Maybe these shelves will be my first project for the new house.
Thanks so much for all you're doing to help us make our homes beautiful while keeping some money in our pockets. More importantly, though, for giving us the confidence to try.
Also, I wanted to let you know I happened to catch your interview on NPR last night during a late-night burger run. You did great. Please consider this positive comment #10,001.

malissa (not verified)

Fri, 10/08/2010 - 11:23

can you make the ledge part wider? i was looking at shelved just like this that you could either lay wine bottles on or store wine glass in but i think you'd have to use more than a 1x4. any thoughts?

Tsu Dho Nimh

Mon, 03/28/2011 - 07:20

Malissa -
   You can make the ledge wider, BUT ... All of the weight you place on the ledge is held by the screws through the back into the ledge. The ledge will tend to pull down and away from its backboard. And eventually fall off. And there goes the wine, all over the floor.  :(

1 - Use MORE nails or screws, and glue too, to attach the bottom of the ledge.

2 - Add a small angle brace (those "L-shaped steel things) at each end and the middle, attached BELOW the ledge to reinforce the wood.
Use a taller backboard, and add a triangular brace under the ledge to support the weight.

Melissa (not verified)

Fri, 10/08/2010 - 11:38

Sheela, I'm definitely not an expert, but for paint on wood I like to use a brush, then go over it with a mini roller immediately, while the paint is still wet (I don't like brush strokes, but there are people who do). You will still be able to see the grain, though, if you use this method. I personally don't use spray because it's so messy (especially if sprayed in a breeze! ;)). But plenty of people love it. A lot of times the professionally made furniture where you see "nothing" is because it's made using MDF, which doesn't have a grain to it like wood. Good luck on your project! Eventually you'll find the finishing process that works best for you. :)

Helen Rickertsen (not verified)

Fri, 10/08/2010 - 11:42

We were a few days to early to use your design, but just hung our gallery ledges last night. Every time I walk into the room I smile. My husband and I love your site and are so grateful for the fabulous and simple designs. One project at a time we are slowly putting our first home together. THANK YOU!

Sheela (not verified)

Fri, 10/08/2010 - 12:09

Thanks for the finishing tips ladies. Spray paint is definitely wonderful, but it's hard to find the exact shade you want sometimes, so I use latex in those cases. I'll keep trying different techniques until I get it just right (or at least close enough!) :)