How to Hang a Picture

Written by Mark Rogers

When you find the perfect picture frame for your photos artwork, the next step is to properly hang it. Hanging the picture improperly can result in a number of problems, including cracked or falling picture frames, unlevel frames, and even damaged pictures. Before hammering away at your wall to hang pictures, here’s a checklist of what to do and what NOT to do.

Here are some tips for making sure that you hang your picture just right.

  1. Find the Right Place for Your Picture First
  2. Make Sure to Fasten Brackets and Hangers to a Stud
  3. Only Use Quality Fixtures

Find the Right Place to Hang Your Picture Before Drilling

It's Easier to Erase a Pencil Mark Than a Nail Hole

When you're preparing to hang your picture frames, you need to find the right place first. If you're using a one hook picture frame, you can figure out approximately where you want to hang it and then nail or screw in the fastener. But when it's time to mount a picture frame that has multiple brackets, things get a little trickier.

Put the picture frame up on the wall where you want it, then check to see whether it is level. You could try eyeballing it, but to be accurate, you'll want to get an actual level. Once you have it level, mark the corners of the picture frame on the wall. Next, measure the corner of the picture frame to the point where the brackets should attach. Mark this in pencil as well. This is where you'll drill or tips to hang picture framesnail in the fasteners or brackets.

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. It's a good idea to 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.

Brackets and Hangers Must Be Fastened in a Stud

Some rules are made to be broken, but the old "only hang a picture in a stud" is one that you shouldn't break unless you want a big mess. Securing a picture frame in a stud allows you to have something solid to brace the fastener in. Open door frames are one exception.

The wood is strong enough to hold up the frame without difficulty. Sometimes you can get away with fastening the picture wherever you want if it is light enough. Thumbtacks and print images can be hung up almost anywhere, but as soon as you add in the weight of even a regular metal picture frame, you run a big risk that that frame will fall and break. While you can thump on the wall to find the stud, you'll be more successful in your search if you actually use a stud finder.

Quality Picturing Hanging Fixtures Are a Must

Sure, you could use thumb tacks. You could even use finishing nails. But the fact is, if you want your picture frames to keep cradling your beloved artwork, you need to give them something solid to hold onto. Cheap plastic brackets and plated metal brackets typically won't do the trick any more than inexpensive finishing nails.

Find good quality fixtures to hang your frames on, and pay particularly close attention to the weight. Most good brackets come with a breakdown of the weight you can safely hang on one, two, or more brackets. Do not go over this weight. You might not think a pound or two will make that much of a difference, but it can. Also remember that there's nothing wrong with using a stronger bracket than you need.

When you get a piece of artwork in a beautiful picture frame, make sure that 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.

Common Mistakes When Hanging Pictures

  1. Not Using the Proper Hanging Equipment
  2. Eyeballing the Height Placement
  3. Inconsistent Arrangement
  4. Lack of Planning for Gallery Walls (or hanging multiple pictures)

Not Using the Proper Hanging Equipment

Sometimes, a single nail just won’t cut it—especially with heavier pieces. 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, one on each side, ensures that the weight of the piece is evenly distributed on each side, keeping it from tilting. There are also picture-hanging kits available at most retailers that include the correct brackets, wall mounts and other hardware needed to hang your piece correctly according to its weight and size. Just any nail won’t necessarily work—and if it does, it is still generally not secure for the long term.

Even though adhesive hooks are not ideal, sometimes renters don’t have a choice in the matter as it is common for most landlords and property managers to disallow renters to put holes in the wall. If you fall under this category, the “two-hook” method still works; however, it’s important to get the right adhesive hook for the weight of your piece. Otherwise, you’ll defeat the purpose of using the hook when your artwork falls off the wall and possibly damages it.

Eyeballing the Height Placement

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to eyeball the placement of artwork. Yes, it may look straight while you’re up close to the wall, but once you step away, it may be crooked or too close to the floor.

Before you begin to hang your artwork, measure 57 inches from the floor—that’s the ideal height for the center of the artwork to be. This height is at eye-level for most people, and it is the most commonly used measurement in art galleries and museums. Using a leveler will also ensure the piece does not tilt one way or another.

The 57-inch rule is not where the hook should be; that must be calculated using the placement of the wire on the back of the frame. Using our inexpensive Picture Hanging Tool is an easy way to mark the spot to put the picture-hanging hook on your display wall.

Inconsistent Arrangement

When hanging multiple pieces or creating a gallery wall, the 57-inch rule is even more important to adhere to; otherwise, the pieces won’t flow together properly. Hanging all of the pieces at eye level will create consistency. When hanging an arrangement of pieces in one location, you can use the “string and pushpin method,” where you measure 57 inches from the floor, marking each spot with a pushpin and running a string between them to ensure everything is lined up.

Lack of Planning for Gallery Walls

When creating a gallery wall, pre-planning where the frames will go saves you the headache and hassle of having to continuously rearrange 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 the paper flat on the floor and arrange your frames in the order that looks appealing to you. Larger pieces 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 butcher 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 (without damaging the outlines of the frames) and use the butcher paper as your guide. Voila! The artwork is exactly where you intended.

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One thought on “How to Hang a Picture”

  • Leviticus Bennett
    Leviticus Bennett March 8, 2017 at 7:38 am

    I like your point that it's easier to erase a pencil mark than a nail hole. I just repainted my bathroom and want to hang up some framed pictures. I'm a little bit obsessive when it comes to keeping things level and evenly spaced, so I'll be sure to plan everything out with a pencil first.

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