How to hang pictures on your wall at home
Preparing to hang pictures on your wall
Working out where to hang a framed print is worth taking a little time over. Get it wrong and it looks a little slap dash. Get it right, and perfectly placed frames on your wall can transform a room.
With this expert guide, you’ll find out how to hang one frame, several frames or a gallery wall.
I managed a photography gallery in London, and over the years I learnt all the pro tips and tricks for hanging pictures for exhibitions. Now, as a full-time family photographer, I’m often advising clients on where and how to hang their artwork.
In a nutshell:
- Choose the wall that will best suit your photograph.
- Get someone to help you by holding the frame in position.
- Measure up, and then step back.
- Check that the positioning looks right to your eye too.
The kit you’ll need to hang your pictures
Gather together the following equipment:
- Tape measure
- Spirit level
- Rubber / eraser
- Picture hooks
How to hang one frame
1. Measure the width of the room, or the space available
Once you’ve decided which wall you’re going to hang your framed print on, measure the width of the wall. If there’s a light switch or furniture that’s off centre, measure the width of the available space. In other words, don’t measure the full width of the wall.
2. How many hooks
For standard size frames (less than 30 inches), you’ll generally be fine with one hook. If if’s very lightweight, use a picture hook with one prong; for a meatier frame, use a hook with two prongs. If you’re going to leave the frame up for years, consider using two hooks on medium size frames. This will prevent them from sliding over time.
For frames that are larger than 30 inches, you’ll need to use two hooks. In which case, measure the width of your frame in thirds rather than in half. Put a picture hook a third of the way in from each corner.
For frames that are very heavy, your framer will use something other than string. In this case, adapt the measurements below.
3. Find the eye level
Next you need to decide on where the centre of the frame will be from the floor. A good height is to calculate the centre of the frame as being 5 feet from the floor. This makes the centre of the picture at eye height.
If you’re a very tall or very petite family, do adjust this measurement to suit your eye levels!
4. Adjust the eye level for furniture or other frames
Do also bear in mind that if there’ll be furniture beneath the frame, you’ll need to leave enough space above the furniture so it doesn’t look cramped. Aim to leave around 5-7 inches between furniture and the edge of your frame. The same is true for ornaments. Measure the space above the ornaments, not from the shelf or mantlepiece itself:
If you already have a picture hanging that’s not 5 feet from the floor, consider how this new frame will sit alongside the existing frame. You could either re-hang the original frame while you’re at it, or adjust the height for the new frame so the two frames look good together.
5. Position frames away from busy areas
Do think about the way you use the space. If you’re frequently moving in an area, keep framed prints away from where you’ll be standing or sitting. This is especially true of the dining table. Leave enough room to push chairs out and to stand up without touching any framed prints:
6. High ceilings
Equally, if you have very high ceilings, you might find that the usual 5 feet from the floor looks a bit low. Use your judgment, and hang them a bit higher.
7. Make your mark!
With a pencil, make a light mark on the wall to show the centre of the wall (measured horizontally), and 5 feet from the ground. Where these two points cross is where the centre of your picture will sit.
Measure the height of your frame. I find it best to do this in centimetres rather than in inches, as it feels easier to be more precise. In this example, the frame is 38.5cm.
Now we need to work out where the string will fall, in relation to the centre of the frame. It’s time to look at the back of your frame! A handy tip is to tuck the end of your measuring tape into the string to pull it taut. Then carefully use the measuring tape to take the weight of your frame. This will allow the string to take the weight of your frame. You can now measure exactly where the string will be when it’s hanging. In this example, the string is 9.5cm below the top of the frame.
Now to put your measurements to work!
To find out how high above the 5 foot centre line the top of your frame will be:
- Halve the frame height
- Subtract the distance from the top of the frame to the string.
This is where the bend of the picture hook will sit, ready to hold the string.
In this example, the frame is 38.5cm high. The top of the frame will be half that distance (ie 19.25 cm) above the 5 foot centre line. We’d then subtract the 9.5cm to find where the string will sit. So, from the 5 foot centre line, we’d mark up 19.25cm minus 9.5cm = 9.75cm. The arm of the picture hook should be 9.75cm above the 5 foot centre line.
Make a light pencil mark at this point (if you’ve made a few marks, it’s handy to make this an X so you know for sure which mark you’re looking at). Then, hold the picture hook so the bend of its arm sits on that point.
NB. make sure it’s the arm of the picture hook that sits on this point, not where you make the actual hole.
With the arm of the picture hook on the pencil mark you just made, tap a picture nail into the hole of the picture hook.
Voila, you’re ready to hang your frame!
Putting your frame on the wall
Hold the top edge of the frame to the wall, a little higher than it’s going to be hanging. Keep a hand between the wall and your frame as you slide the frame downwards and onto the string.
Move the frame across so it sits centrally. If it tilts a little to one side, just move it a bit further across on the string until it balances.
You can use a spirit level to check it’s really level, but as period properties often shift over time, you may well find that a perfectly level frame doesn’t look right alongside the dado or wall lines. Trust your eye here!
How to hang multiple frames
If you’re hanging more than one frame together, think of the overall gallery wall as one print. You can then apply the steps above. Measure the centre of the frame area, and mark up 5 feet from the ground to the vertical centre of the group of frames.
Make a paper template of the frames beforehand. Lay them out on the floor so you can get a sense of how they’ll sit together.
Allow enough space between each frame for each picture to breathe. I recommend leaving at least 2 inches between each picture. Have someone hold them in position, and step back to see how they look. Give them more space if it feels better.
You can place the paper templates onto the wall using masking tape, so you can mark up where the corners of each frame will go. Move each piece one at a time, so you don’t get confused about which frame was going where!
With portraits, aim to have faces looking into a grouping of frames rather than looking outwards.
Further tips for perfect picture hanging
Keep treasured frames away from heat sources like radiators, they’re not good for wood.
If you suspect a wall is damp, that’s also not a good place to hang your artwork.
Still have the heebies about hanging prints on your wall? Remember that frames can look great leant against the mantlepiece or on shelves:
Following the tips above should mean your pictures are perfectly placed! But if you’re still having trouble, try a Picture Perfect Hanging tool.
I hope that helps – happy hanging!