How to Make Floating Picture Shelves

Effortlessly make these wood floating shelves for picture frames for only $20! Picture shelves are easy to make for any space in your home.

These floating picture shelves are super simple to make and literally cost $150 or more at other stores that rhyme with “smottery smarn”.

You can make these floating shelves for picture frames yourself for under $20, and they will look just as good!

Not only are these shelves very inexpensive to make, they are very easy to put together.

As a matter of fact, we made 6 different sets of shelves to give to family and friends as gifts.

Everyone that we gave these floating shelves to, really loved them.

If you need a quick, easy, and affordable gift idea, these floating picture shelves are it!

Bringing these shelves as a gift to a house warming party, will blow your friends and family away.

They’ll notice that you put the time and effort in to make something for their new home.

Our friends actually surprised us with a rustic console table when we bought our first home.

This console table means so much to us because we knew a lot of time and thought went into making such a beautiful and sturdy table.

Effortlessly make these wood floating shelves for picture frames for only $20! Picture shelves are easy to make for any space in your home.
Effortlessly make these wood floating shelves for picture frames for only $20!

Shopping list/Cut list

  • 1 – 1×4 common board @ 8 feet (cut in half 2 – 4 foot 1×4 pieces)
  • 1 – 1×3 common board @ 8 feet (cut in half 2 – 4 foot 1×3 pieces)
  • 1 – 1×2 common board @ 8 feet (cut in half 2 – 4 foot 1×2 pieces)

Other Items:

Purchasing the Wood

When I say common board, it can be any type of wood you want to display.

I usually choose pine, which is a softer wood, but cheaper.

If you’re new to wood working, a 1×4 or 1×3 or 1×2 is not truly 1 inch by 4 inches or 1 inch by 3 inches, etc.

The “true” size of a 1×4, as an example, will actually be closer to .75 inches by 3 ½ inches.

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How to Make Floating Shelves for Picture Frames

Once you have 8 foot pieces cut in half, the boards will be attached with wood glue and nails.

The 1×4 will be the back piece that attaches to the wall.

The 1×3 will be the shelf, and the 1×2 will be the front lip of the shelf.

To put it together I used a 16-gauge nail gun with brad nails.

The nail gun made putting the shelves together a breeze and I would strongly recommend a nail gun.

If you do not have a nail gun, these shelves can be also be put together using basic finish nails.

floating shelves for picture frames

Start by laying the 1×3 on the floor, with the 1 inch part on the ground, as you prepare to attach the 1×2 to it.

Next, put the wood glue on the edge of the 1×3 then put the 1×2 on top of it.

Make sure to realign it as you go, so that the bottom is as flush as possible.

I started on one end with the nail gun and worked my way down, ending with about 6 or 8 nails in it.

After the 1×2 is attached to the 1×3, I flipped it over and then did the same thing with the 1×4 on the other side.

I wiped up any excess glue then waited for it to dry before staining or painting.

floating shelves for picture frames

How to Stain the Shelves

To stain I started by sanding then used an old t-shirt and Varathane Stain and Poly in Kona Semi-Gloss.

This Varathane Stain and Poly already had a clear coat built into the stain, so no need to apply a clear topcoat.

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Sand the Picture Shelves

Sand the entire shelf with a light to medium grit sandpaper.

I did this by hand or you can speed up the project by using a Mouse Sander.

If you start with a medium grit sandpaper, you will want to finish with a finer sandpaper to smooth the surface.

I decided to use medium grit sandpaper because there were miscellaneous grooves and splintering in the wood.

You do not have to sand this a ton, just enough to smooth the surface.

Next take a rag and wipe down the shelves and table to make sure all the sand on the table has been removed.

floating shelves for picture frames

How to Stain Picture Shelves

Now that the picture shelves have been wiped clean, you can begin staining.

Grab an old t-shirt or a brush and apply a thin coat of stain in the same direction of the grain of the wood.

Let the stain sit for a few seconds then lightly wipe the stain with a t-shirt or rag.

Since the stain is oil based it has a strong odor, make sure you wear a mask, work in a ventilated area, and wear gloves.

Also, do not forget to place a drop cloth under your work space to prevent any dripping.

Apply as many coats as you need to achieve the color you prefer.

Wait at least an hour in between coats, so the stain applies evenly.

I applied 2 thin coats of Varathane to the picture shelves because I like a darker finish to match our Java Scrapped Pergo floors.

Once you have achieved the look you are going for, you are done with the staining.

Again, the Varathane Stain and Poly already had a clear coat built into the stain, so no need to apply a clear topcoat.

floating shelves for picture frames
After 1 coat of Kona Stain! Btw my bar is stained in Kona too (3-4 coats). The bar not only serves as an entertaining space, but also a great space for crafting. I’m not sure that my husband agrees with this thinking though 🙂
how to make Floating Picture Shevles
Floating Picture Shelves!

How to Hang Floating Picture Shelves

To adhere these floating picture shelves to the wall, I used 2 ½ inch dry wall screws, a stud finder, and level as well.

Given that these shelves are 4 feet long, I was able to attach this shelf to 3 studs.

Start by finding the location where you want to hang the shelves, then find 3 studs that span that area.

I pre-drilled a hole right through the shelf and into the center stud and then screwed in the dry wall screw.

From that point, I was able to adjust it to make it level then drill in the other screws.

Add black and white pictures to the floating picture shelves to create a timeless, classy look.

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