How to Hang a Picture: A Complete Guide

Written by Mark Rogers

When you find the perfect picture frame for your photograph, painting, or print, the next step is hanging it correctly. Mistakes in this step can be bad news for a number of reasons, including falling picture frames, unlevel frames, and even damaged artwork. Before hammering away at your wall to display your pictures, know what to do — and know what NOT to do.


1. Measuring Tape

2. Pencil or Painters Tape

3. The Picture Placer (Optional)

4. Hammer

5. Sawtooth Picture Hanging Mounts or J-Hooks

6. Nails

7. A Level

8. Stud Finder (For Pictures Over 30lbs.)


1. Choose the right hanging fixtures for your picture.

2. Find the right spot – before you hammer or drill.

3. Fasten brackets and hangers to a stud if needed.

4. Level your picture.

Step 1. Choose the Right Picturing Hanging Fixtures

Choose good, quality fixtures to hang your frames with — and pay especially close attention to the weight limit. Most hanging kits or hooks come with a breakdown of the weight you can safely hang from the hooks. Do not go over this weight. You might not think a pound or two will not make that much of a difference, but it can. Also remember that there's nothing wrong with using a stronger bracket than you need.

Small Lightweight Pictures

If you have a relatively small and lightweight picture, it may have a saw tooth hanger on the back or you may choose to add one. You can use a saw tooth hanger on a wood or metal picture frame that is less than 12 inches at its longest side. There are different saw tooth hangers for wood vs. for metal, so be sure to check that you have the right version before attaching it to the frame. For that type of hanger generally a standard nail (or two next to each other) in the wall will be sufficient to secure the picture. 

Standard Pictures

For any other standard sized picture and those with hanging wire attached, j-hook picture hangers work best. You can find these in a standard picture hanging kit sold at most frame retailers. These are commonly rated for holding 20-30 lbs. 

Oversized or Heavy Pictures

Some larger j-hooks may be rated for 50 lbs that have two nails, but over 30 lbs it would be better to consider a stud. A wood stud within the wall provides something solid to brace the fastener in. It’s way stronger and more stable than just dry wall or a typical wall panel, and can safely secure your picture frame. To find the stud, thump on the wall and listen for a “solid” sound. (No stud will elicit a “hollow” sound.) For a better shot at success, you can use a stud finder tool available at most hardware retailers.

Step 2. Find the Right Spot

Using the Golden Rule

There’s a golden rule of hanging a picture that most galleries and museums use and that is to have the center of the photo be at 57 inches. This reflects the standard eye-height of the average person, and most interior decorators will use that as a guide as well. 

Another thing to consider is that you want the pictures in your home or space to be fairly consistent as you move throughout the rooms. So if you have a height that you are generally comfortable with throughout the rest of the space, you can match it. 

Pinpoint the center of your artwork (from top to bottom). Then measure the distance between the center of your picture and the top of the frame. If you are using the golden rule of 57 inches, add the distance you just calculated to 57 inches. 

Then measure that combined height from the floor, and with a pencil or a piece of painters tape, mark that height on the wall where you’d like the picture to hang. 

Typically a saw tooth hanger will be positioned very close to the top of the frame so for that picture you can simply nail in the nail right below that mark. 

If you have hanging wire on your picture, you’ll need to mark where the actual hanger will be as well as the top of your picture. Hold the wire taut in the middle to form a v-shape. Measure the distance from the top of the v to the top of the frame.

Measure that same distance down from the first mark on your wall and add a second mark or piece of tape. This is where the picture hanger or nail will be attached to the wall.

Using the Picture Place for Accurate Placement Every Time

Using our inexpensive Picture Hanging Tool, The Picture Placer, is another easy way to mark the spot to put the picture-hanging hook on your wall. Just center the Picture Placer in the center of your framed art as the directions indicate, and hook the wire on the back. Pull up tight. The wire will hold the tool in place. Now position the top of the frame at the first mark on the wall and give it a gentle push. The Picture Placer will leave a tiny hole on the wall where the hanger or nail should go.

Centering the Picture

If you’d like to center your frame over a piece of furniture or at the very center of a wall, first measure and calculate the center of that space or item. Then from that spot, measure up from the floor to the height you calculated for the hanger height. 

If it turns out that you marked the points incorrectly, you can easily fix them. Use a clean rubber eraser to remove them from the wall. Wipe the wall down with a dampened rag to make sure it's clean. Always let it dry completely before you attempt to hang anything. Pencil lead can streak on wet surfaces.

Step 3. Secure the Hanger to the Wall

While using a single hook might work for some smaller pieces, most of the time it’s extremely difficult to get the artwork perfectly straight without using another hook. Using two hooks keeps it from tilting.  

Nail the j-hooks in the wall on either side of the mark or tape you placed on the wall.

Step 4. Hang and Level the Picture

On to the last step and one last tip: Use bumpers if you have them. Bumpers are included in all the hanging kits you receive from us or can be purchased separately. These not only help keep the picture straight, but they help protect the wall if someone slams a door or bumps into the wall near your picture which would typically cause your picture to slip or bounce. 

Now hang the picture by the wire on the two j-hooks, and make sure it’s level. 

The two hooks should make it fairly easy to hang the picture straight, but you can use a small level to confirm if you like.

When you get a piece of artwork in a beautiful picture frame, make sure you hang it properly. Following these tips will help you to do it right the first time and leave your walls just as beautiful as before.

Bonus Tips: Things to Avoid When Hanging Pictures

These are some common mistakes people make when hanging pictures:

1. Using improper hanging equipment

2. Eyeballing the height placement

3. Eyeballing multiple piece arrangements

4. Lack of planning for gallery walls

Lack of Planning for Gallery Walls

When creating a gallery wall, pre-planning where the frames go saves you the headache and hassle of continuously rearranging the pieces on the wall, creating dozens of holes during the process. A commonly used and effective method for pre-planning a gallery wall is to use craft or butcher paper. Lay a large piece of paper flat on the floor and arrange your frames in a way that looks appealing to you. Larger art placed toward the left can create a sense of harmony.

Trace the frames out on the paper — including the placement of the hooks — and tape the craft paper to the wall with painter’s tape. Hammer the nails for the hooks through the paper on the wall where indicated. Take the paper down (careful to not damage the frames) and use the craft paper as your guide. Voila! The artwork is exactly where you intended.

Learn More: How to Hang Pictures Without Nails

Last Updated Feb 14, 2023