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Tips for hanging picture frames



    Artwork should never be hung in direct sunlight or ultraviolet lighting, even if the piece has UV protective glass.
    Never hang valuable work in humid areas or near a direct heat source. i.e. washrooms and kitchens.
    Always use 2 hooks when hanging larger pieces, this helps keep it straight and provides more stability.
    Plugs and screws should be used for very heavy pieces, or if possible find a stud.
    When hanging a group of frames usually an odd number will look best.
    Frames should be hung at eye level; usually about 60" from the floor, but this will change from room to room. Always consider whether the viewer will be sitting or standing.
    To avoid unnecessary holes in the wall, cut out pieces of paper in the same sizes as the frames you want to hang (newspaper works well). Use masking tape to arrange the paper on the wall; this will help you decide on the appropriate layout.
    Think about the proportions of furniture and walls, larger scale rooms require larger frames to keep a sense of balance.

Also on this page:

    Detailed instruction for hanging pictures

Detailed instruction for hanging pictures

1 | Tools of the Trade


Any job is easier with the right tools. Investing in  the right tools will not only make the job easier, it will ensure better results. Fortunately, it’s easy to obtain tools to hang artwork, and the investment required is a small one.

The first four tools are pretty straightforward and can be picked up at any hardware supply or home improvement store.


When it comes to hanging a painting, just about any hammer will do the job. Some prefer to use a small framer’s hammer, as it is less likely to bend your nails. I prefer a traditional claw hammer that has some weight to it. With practice, you won’t be bending the nails anyway, and I like to have a little weight in the hammer. Weight helps you drive the nails in more quickly. An occasional bent nail is a minor inconvenience, and worth the tradeoff to have the driving power of a full size hammer.

 Tape Measure

A good tape measure is also invaluable. It’s unlikely you’ll be hanging a piece of artwork at extreme heights or need to measure extremely wide walls, so a 12 or 15 ft tape should be more than adequate. Cheap tape measures will bend and jam – spend a few extra dollars and get a sturdy one.


Some people can sense how level a painting is by pure instinct; I’m not one of them, and I, therefore, like to have a level handy at all times. Invented in the 15th century by Melchisedech Thevenot in France, the level has to be on of the greatest inventions of the last millenium. Utterly simple, but infinitely useful.


Any pencil will do for marking your wall. I use a simple, number 2 lead. It’s easy to erase if you make a mistake. This is a job where you don’t necessarily need a sharp writing tool, but it doesn’t hurt to have a good sharpener around, just in case.

Picture Hangers

Painting hooks are available at most hardware and home improvement stores.

The hangers come in 10, 20, 30, 50, and 75 lb rating varieties. I typically have the 20, 50 and 75 lb hangers in my toolkit. The hooks can be doubled or combined to take higher weights (more on heavy pieces later).

Strap Hangers

Most paintings that you purchase will come wired on the back, ready to hang. However, it’s always a good idea to verify that the hardware the artist or gallery provided is sturdy and well mounted. Recently, a rather large painting in my own home came crashing down. In spite of the fact I had used the right hanging hooks, the picture wire on the back of the piece pulled the mounting hanger out of the frame, and down the piece came. We were fortunate that the damage was only minor, and even more fortunate that it happened in my own home, not the home of a client. But I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of every component in the hanging process.

When hanging small, light pieces, the hanger isn’t as critical, and often a simple screw-eye hook will be more than sufficient. As work gets heavier, however, it’s important to have a sturdy hanger in place.

I use heavy, two or three hole, strap hangers from United Manufacturer’s Supplies. Several other designs and weights are available

Drywall Anchors

Some artwork, especially contemporary pieces, may not be presented in a traditional frame, or the mounting may not work with wire and hooks. In those cases, or if the piece is heavier than about 120 lbs, you may need a heavy-duty drywall anchor in order to mount the piece. A number of different types are available. I prefer the expanding metal screws that are driven into the wall with a hammer, and then screwed in, to expand a kind of flange behind the drywall.

Plastic drywall anchors, and metal drywall screw mounts are also available, but I haven’t found these to be as stable as the expanding screws. Follow any instructions carefully, and ask your hardware store for advice about which mounting is appropriate for your application and how to do the installation.

Mortar/Concrete Anchors

Sometime you want to hang artwork in some fairly awkward locations. Some of the most difficult hangings being above fireplaces that have stone or block mantles. Our first word of advice in this kind of situation is to get professional installation help. These installations can be very tricky, and a professional will have the experience and tools requisite to handle almost any scenario.

If you do choose to mount the artwork yourself on a surface other than drywall, you will likely need to use mortar or concrete anchors. Again, your local hardware store can be a great resource for finding the right anchor for your installation.

2 | Preparation

A few simple preparatory steps will make the actual hanging easier.

Clear the Wall and your Work Space

Rather than moving your couch out of your way, it may seem easier to climb onto it to hammer in the hook and hang the painting;  it isn’t. If at all possible, We advise you to clear everything off the wall and move any furniture out of your way. This includes lamps, plants and other pictures. Give yourself the best possible access to the hanging space to avoid damage to artwork and furniture.

Clearing your space is especially important if the piece is heavy and requires more than one person to hang it.

Determine the Wall Composition

It’s important to select the right hook or anchor based on the material composition of the wall. Most walls are built of drywall these days, and drywall is the easiest material to work with. I’ve hung artwork on plaster, block, and wood walls, all of which require screws, and often anchors instead of simple hooks.

Because most homes are drywall, and because plaster and block walls often require a custom installation process, I’m limiting the instructions in this guide to drywall installation. Other materials almost always require a professional installation. Better to bring in a professional than to have to hire one to do a repair on damaged artwork!

Take Initial Measurements to Determine Approximate placement of the Artwork

Each installation will be different, based on the design requirements of the room, your personal taste and the individual piece’s composition and scale.

As a rule, you can start by centering, and then refine the placement from there. A large piece will  typically be roughly centered on a wall, or, if the wall is divided visually by some other element (a piece of furniture, a column, etc.), you might center the work in the visual space. If the artwork will hang above a couch, you will typically hang the piece to center on the couch.

Again, this is only a place to start. Sometimes, you will need to work to create balance on a wall, offsetting other artwork or other visual elements.

Entire courses exist in design school on how to place artwork and furniture, but typically, if you follow your instincts, you will place the work almost perfectly. You are going to be living with the artwork; your satisfaction is what counts most.

Check the Wire, Straps, and Picture Hooks

I mentioned the importance of checking your hardware in the previous chapter, but it bears repeating here. Before you start hanging, check, and then recheck all of the hardware to make sure everything is solid.

Pick the painting up by the picture wire and lower it and raise it in your hands a few times, as if you were lifting weights. Do this carefully, and make sure you do it over a soft surface – carpet, for example, or a blanket. Raising and lowering the artwork puts a small additional stress on the hanging wire. If I hear any creaking or feel any give in the wire, I replace the hanging straps and wire without hesitation. Remember, the piece may be hanging on this wall for years and years to come. Better to spend a few extra minutes now, to make sure the hardware is secure, than to have problems in the future.

3 | Getting Down to Business

Now that you are prepared, and have all of your tools, it’s time to get this picture hung. You’ve already determined roughly where you are going to place the center of the artwork. Now it’s time to determine height. Determining the right height for the artwork is critical – it can also be a bit tricky. I’m going to give you some tips that will help.


Two main factors will be taken into consideration as we prepare to hang the artwork. First, will the artwork hang above some other object, such as a table, sofa or other item of furniture? Second, what is the height of other objects displayed on the wall in the room?

The goal in hanging the artwork is to create harmony throughout your space. Creating a common height will help. I strive to align the centers of all of the artwork in a room to achieve the common height.

So, our first decision is to determine what the center height of the artwork should be – in other words, how high off the floor will you place the center of your artwork? Eye level would be the perfect height, and if you live alone and will be the only one viewing the art, by all means, measure the height of your eyes and use that as your guide!

Most of us don’t live alone, however, and unless everyone in your household is exactly the same height, you’re going to have to compromise. I feel that 60” is a good middle ground. I’ve found that five feet from the floor is close enough to eye level that the height won’t offend either the very tall or very short, and to most viewers it will feel perfect. You may decide you want to hang a little higher or lower to have the heigh feel right, and this is fine. Just be sure to use the same number to calculate the height of all of your art.

Getting the center heights aligned is easy if you have a blank wall with no furniture, so let’s begin there, and then we’ll throw some furniture into the mix to show you how to deal with it.

On an empty wall, we’ll measure the height of the painting, divide that number by two, add the number to our ideal height (60”, or whatever height you decide your ideal height is) and then minus the distance between the top of the artwork and the highest point of the picture wire. The resulting number is where you will place your hook.

Wow, that looks really complicated written out as it is here, but the formula is pretty simple once you get the hang of it (pun intended). Working your way backward, you’ll see that in order to get the middle of the painting to align with your ideal middle height, you’re going to have to determine how much higher the wire is than the middle of the painting. This formula does exactly that.

Written mathematically, the formula looks like this:

1/2p + i – w = h

where p is the height of the picture, i is your ideal height, and w is the distance between the top of the frame and the highest point on the picture wire.

Alright, that didn’t really help simplify things either. Let’s try an example and illustration and see if it makes the process easier to understand


Let’s say your new artwork measures 24” high x 36” wide, and that the wire is 3 inches from the top of the frame. To get our hook height, we would take the height of the painting, 24”, divide it by two, to get 12” (in other words, 12” is the vertical middle of the painting, which we want to align to our ideal middle height). We would then add that number to our ideal height, 60”, to get 72”. This is where the top of our painting will be on the wall. Now all we have to do is subtract the wire distance, 3”, to get 69”, which is the height we need to place the hanger. Easy! Now you can measure 69” up from the floor, make a pencil mark on the wall, and pound in your hook.


If we were to now hang another piece of artwork on the same wall, we would see how this formula forces the alignment of the artwork. If the second piece of artwork were 40” high x 44” wide, with a wire that came to 4” inches below the top of the frame, our calculation would be:

Dividing the height of the painting, 40”, by 2, we get 20”. Add that to 60”, the height where we want the middle of the painting, to get 80”, the height of the top of the frame on the wall. Subtract 4” to get the top of the wire at 76”.





Extremely Tall Pieces


The formula works extremely well for artwork of any height up to 120”. Once you get to 120” you run into the floor (if you are using my 60” middle height). With tall pieces, I prefer not to hang right on the floor, but rather up 8”-12”, depending on the size of the piece.


Measuring for our hook on a tall piece is actually pretty easy. We’ll measure from the bottom of the piece to the top of our hanging wire, and add that number to 12” to get the height of our hook.


Hanging Groupings


Now let’s say you purchased two smaller pieces and you intend to hang them together, one above the other on the wall. Well that’s just great, you had to go and throw another curve at me, didn’t you!?!?!?!?

Hanging groupings is actually no harder than hanging a single piece, and in fact, I consider any grouping to be a single piece. Any measurements will be taken from the overall grouping, not the individual pieces.

For smaller pieces, I usually allow about 4” between the paintings. I carefully lay the artwork on a table or on the floor, measure the total height of the two pieces, including the space between them, and then run your calculation. The resulting number will be the height of the hook for the top painting. Go ahead and hang the top piece.

Now measure the distance between the wire and the top of the second piece. Add four to that number, and then measure down from the bottom of the first piece by that amount. This will give you the hook location for the second piece. You may have to take the first piece off the wall once you have the height of the hook so that you can place the second hook directly below the first (a level comes in handy for this job).



In our example, we used paintings similar in size. If the paintings are of different sizes, the middle height might not be right in between the pieces as it is in the illustration. That’s okay, you just want the mid-line to be in the middle of the grouping.

If the pieces are different sizes you will also have to decide whether you want the larger piece on top or underneath. There’s a great debate on this subject. Some insist that the larger should always be on the bottom, others say it should be on top. I’ve hung both ways and recommend you do what feels most natural to you.

If you have more than two pieces, you will use the exact same technique of creating a grouping and  using the grouping to make your measurement calculations.




Thus far we’ve been hanging on a blank wall, not dealing with furniture. What if we have a sofa or table that will sit under the artwork? If the furniture isn’t in conflict with the artwork using the methods above, I would basically ignore the furniture and hang the artwork using our middle-line method. As long as you have sufficient space between the furniture and the artwork, this will look best. If the furniture, or artwork, is too tall to allow for this, do the same thing we did with tall artwork: create a space (I like 8”-12” inches) and measure up to the wire.

You may use the same approach to hang a painting over a mantle or in a niche – measure up from the desired bottom of the installation

Using Multiple Hooks

If a piece is heavy, or if you want to help prevent the artwork from shifting off level, you can use more than one hook to hang it. All of the measurements and formulas remain the same, but instead of placing one hook  or screw on the wall, you will use two or more, separated by 4”-5”.

Using multiple hooks help distribute the weight. If the wire is on two hooks it becomes much more difficult for the painting to shift and become crooked due to vibrations or bumps.



Alternate Method: Trial and Error

If all the math and formulas seems like too much effort, you can always use the trial and error method. Hold the piece up on the wall at a height that feels right to you, estimate where the hook would need to be in order to get you to that height and pound in a hook. Step back and look at the piece. You can measure the height of the middle of the piece from the floor, and if you are off significantly from where you would like to be, take the painting down and move your hook accordingly.

This method usually only requires moving the piece one or two times to get it right. You would be surprised how many gallery owners, artists and other art professionals use this method. With the Floreat™ hangers your nail holes are so small that they are almost inconsequential. You won’t feel that you are destroying the wall if you have to move the hook a few times.

Never, Never, Never

Never Use Adhesive to Hang Artwork

Never try to use adhesive to mount the artwork. I’ve seen artists attempt to hang artwork using plastic hooks and industrial adhesive. I suppose some of them may have been lucky and had success with this technique for very light artwork. This kind of luck doesn’t hold out, however. Eventually the artwork is going to fall. I have no doubt that some adhesives are strong enough to take the weight of artwork. The problem, however, is the surface you are trying to adhere to. If you glue a hook to a painted wall, you are, in essence, placing all of the weight of the artwork on the paint. The paint will eventually peel away from the wall and your artwork will end up on the floor.

Don’t worry about holes in the wall

Better to make a few extra holes in the wall to get the placement just right, than have the piece hung incorrectly. Holes are easily patched and painted over.

Never use defective hanging hardware

Throw away bent nails and hooks. Trying to use damaged hardware will only lead to frustration, bruised thumbs and damaged artwork.

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