Before I begin, let’s get one thing straight: I don’t profess to be any sort of expert when it comes to hanging art. I’ve spent a lot of time watching professional museum preparators hang everything from paintings to skeins of yarn, and I’m nowhere near as good as they are.
That being said, over the years I’ve picked up a few tips, so I thought I’d share them. Some of these might seem obvious, but if you’re one of those people like me who get OCD if a picture isn’t hung straight, they will be very helpful!
Apologies for the quality of my photos. My one camera battery is dead so I’m only using my cell phone, but I wanted some quick illustrations of what I was talking about.
1) Frame your art (if possible). Paintings, prints, photographs – it’s true that everything looks better in a frame. A cheap one from Target or Michael’s is always a possibility (the 5 photograph frames in the top left photo are all from Target), but if you want something to last, spend the cash to get it professionally framed. The quality is always worth it.
2) Figure out what you want to hang where and with what. Whether it’s a piece by itself or several together, figure out what looks good together on what wall before you even start measuring. Put together pieces by theme, or shape, or size, or color, or style. But pick a grouping that you enjoy. Small tip: odd numbers tend to look better than even ones.
3) Measure your wall and each of the pieces. Be as exact as you can. Measuring tape works better than rulers.
4) Figure out where on the wall you’re hanging everything. The general rule of thumb is that the middle of the piece should be 60-65 inches up from the floor. Of course, rules are sometimes meant to be broken, so have someone hold up your pieces, step back, and figure out what height works best for you. If you’re hanging something over a piece of furniture, or in a non-sitting space like a hallway, pieces might need to be hung higher. Every hanging is different, but 60-65″ is a good place to start.
It is very important to make sure that you know where on the back of the piece the hook will go so that you nail the hook at that height and not at the top of the frame (I’ve made that mistake before!).
4a) If you’re hanging multiple pieces as a grouping, use pencil and paper (graph paper if you have it) and plot out your entire group. Not only is it kind of fun (especially if you use different colors!), this is a ridiculously helpful guide. Obviously a quick sketch is helpful for single hangings as well.
4b) If this is your first time hanging a lot of art or you’re unsure about your measuring skills, go ahead and get some big pieces of scrap paper, cut out one to scale representing each piece, and pin them to the wall with silly putty or some other low-grade adhesive. This is really helpful if you’re unsure of how you want to hang your pieces, because it can help you visualize what their sizes will look like on the wall.
5) Aaaaand go! This is the part where it’s extremely useful to have a friend or 2 to help out (when I’m in the same town, I use my mom because she’s got a great eye for levelness). Get an actual hammer if you don’t already have one (not one of those dinky plastic ones) and some real picture hooks, plot your points, and nail away! Just watch out for your fingers!
If you need to use pencil marks to get your measurements exact, go ahead (pencil erases pretty easily from most wall paint, but check beforehand if you’re unsure). And if you don’t have a friend to check and make sure everything is straight and even, you might want to invest in a leveler. I have a horrible eye for straight lines, so I always either have someone check or I rest a small book or ruler on top of the frame – if it doesn’t fall off then the piece is straight enough!
See, 5 simple steps, and it’s not all that hard! The most important point I can make is not to worry about mistakes. You’re going to screw up and put a nail in the wrong place or hang something totally crooked. Laugh, and try again.