How to Hang a Painting | A Free Guide From Xanadu Gallery

How to Hang a Painting

Introduction

 

You’ve just purchased a spectacular painting. An artist spent years studying, refining his/her craft to create this masterpiece. A gallery went to great effort and expense to display the work so that you could see it in a pristine setting. Now, you’ve got the work home and  . . . you’re on your own.

Many collectors feel overwhelmed by the prospect of hanging new artwork. They worry that they won’t know where best to display the work in their home, or that they’ll make a mistake in hanging the work, and it won’t look as good in their home as it did in the gallery, or that it won’t fit in with the other work in their collection. In this guide, I’m going to help you alleviate any of those feelings and give you tips that will help you hang artwork like a pro.

Before I begin, allow me to give a little of my background. I’ve been surrounded by art since I was a young child. My father, John Horejs, has been a professional oil painter for most of my life. I grew up watching him create artwork. Our home was always filled to overflowing with paintings. Though I never wanted to become an artist, I too, fell in love with art and followed him into the art world. I began working in an art gallery when I was 17 and have done so ever since. I opened my own gallery, Xanadu, in Scottsdale, AZ, in 2001.

It’s safe to say, over my lifetime, I have hung thousands of paintings. I’ve rehung the artwork in my gallery countless times; often, on a weekly basis. I’ve hung artwork for my clients in their homes – many here in Arizona, but as far away as Boston! If you can imagine a difficult scenario for hanging a painting, I’ve likely encountered it.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about hanging artwork successfully. I have learned from experts in my industry, but even more through experience. I would like to share some tips and techniques I use that will make hanging artwork much simpler.

The most important thing you should know about hanging art is, in spite of the fact I’m going to give you some formulas and equations, hanging a painting is not an exact science. You should also know that there is no objective right or wrong way to hang a painting. The most important thing, is to hang the art in a way that feels right to you. The guidance I’m going to give you here, will allow you to find what feels right, more quickly.

1 | Tools of the Trade

 

Tools You'll Need to Hang a Painting

 

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.

Hammer

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.

 

Level

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.

Several years ago, I purchase a laser level. The laser creates a line that extends the length of the level, and it makes you feel high-tech. Truthfully though, I’ve found I very rarely end up using the laser function. My batteries died in the level several years ago, and I’ve yet to replace them. In other words, an old fashioned, low tech level should meet all your needs

 

Pencil

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.

The next four tools are specialized hanging tools. You’ll probably have to order them online if you don’t have a specialty art supply or framing supply close by. I include links to the suppliers I use, for your convenience.

Floreat™ Hangers

Floreat Hangers

Painting hooks are available at most hardware and home improvement stores. The variety they carry is okay, but once you’ve used a Floreat hanger, you’ll never be able to use another brand again. Floreat hangers are manufactured in Germany, and the engineering and design is exceptional. These brass plated steel picture hangers are strong and durable. The nails are extremely tough, yet very narrow, almost pin-like in gauge. They leave very small holes in your wall. Unlike other brands, Floreat hanger nails won’t bend easily, and can be reused if you need to move the artwork.

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).

I order the hangers online from Ziabicki Import Co., and if you order one box of the 50 lb hangers, you should have enough to last you for many years.

https://www.ziabicki.com/deluxefloreathangers

 

Strap Hangers

 

Strap Hanger

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 hole, strap hangers from United Manufacturer’s Supplies. Several other designs and weights are available, but this one is well-engineered and will work for almost any scenario.

http://www.unitedmfrs.com/cart/detail.cfm?item=709

 

Tuflon™ Coated Picture Wire

United Manufacturer’s Supply also has a great picture wire. Their Tuflon coated wire is heavy, and the coating prevents the wire from fraying and splitting, which can lead to catastrophic failure.

You can get a roll of the #6 wire for around $20 at the time of this writing, and the roll should meet all your hanging needs for many years to come.

http://www.unitedmfrs.com/cart/detail.cfm?item=5746

 

Nail Hole and Corner Filler – Gold, Dark Gold & Silver

Nail Hole and Corner Filler

Finally, whenever you’re hanging a piece of artwork, it is almost a certainty that you are going to ding up the frame (hopefully only minor dings). Rustic frames can take a bit of abuse, but a more ornate frame is very sensitive to any scuffs or scratches. Every precaution should be taken to avoid damaging the frame, but if damage does occur, it’s a good idea to have a way to cover nicks and scratches. United Mfrs Supply, has just the right tool. Their nail hole and corner filler comes in a wide variety of colors and finishes and is designed to be applied to a wood frame to cover any blemishes. Even though the color won’t be an exact match, it will be close enough to make the imperfection disappear.

The filler is a colored putty that is guaranteed not to dry out or crack. To apply, you will get a small amount on the tip of your finger and smudge it lightly onto the frame, blending it into the surface and filling any holes or gouges.

Of course, large cracks or gashes may require the services of a professional framer.

http://www.unitedmfrs.com/cart/detail.cfm?item=2277

 

Drywall Anchors

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

 

Mortar Anchors

 

As I mentioned in the introduction, I’ve had the occasion to hang artwork in some fairly awkward locations. Some of the most difficult hangings have been above fireplaces that have stone or block mantles. My 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; you can trust me, it isn’t. If at all possible, I 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

In the first chapter, I provide you with a variety of wall hanging hooks and anchors. It’s important to select the right one 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

I will give exact measurement guidelines for measuring and placing artwork in the next chapter, but for now, you want to have a rough idea of artwork placement. If you have a good idea of your approximate placement, determining the final placement will be much simpler.

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.

If the artwork is a particularly important piece, have your designer help you place it, or ask an artist or gallerist to help you place the piece. I’m happy to offer placement consultation (at no charge). If you live in the greater Phoenix area, just give me a call and I will come by and help you hang the artwork. If you live outside of Phoenix, email me an image of your new artwork and of the space you are considering for the piece, and I can help you with placement over the internet.

 

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.

Height

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. My 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.

Important Measurements for Hanging Art

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”.

How to Hang Paintings in Alignment

Use our Online Painting Height Calculator

Now that I’ve explained the process, I’ll give you a simple way to cheat: use our online painting height calculator at http://www.xanadugallery.com/HeightCalculator.

 

Click Here to Use Xanadu Gallery's Height Calculator

Extremely Tall Pieces

My 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.

How to Hang a Large Painting

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 our 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).

How to Hang a Grouping of Paintings

 

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.

 

How to Hang a Grouping of Paintings

 

Furniture

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.

How to Hang a Painting over a Couch

 

How to Hang a Painting Above a Couch

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.

How to Hang a Painting Using Two Hooks

 

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.

 

4 | Other Considerations

 

Protecting the Artwork

Gloves

Artwork is delicate. When you are handling the artwork it’s a good idea to avoid fingerprints and smudges. Consider wearing white cotton gloves while handling your artwork. The gloves will prevent damage to the surface of the artwork and they’ll make you feel like you have your own personal museum!

Padding

You may also place a folded blanket on the floor under the artwork as you are hanging it in order to protect the work from potential damage. This will give you a soft surface on which to let the artwork rest; it will also act as a shock absorber and cushion if your newly acquired hanging skills fail you, and the piece falls off the wall.

Work with an Assistant

If the artwork is heavy or fragile, it’s always advisable to have a second set of hands. Besides helping lift the painting, an assistant can help support the artwork as you place the wire over the hook; always a difficult task.

Getting the Wire on the Hook

If the piece is particularly large and the wire on the back of the frame is tight, it can be difficult to get the wire over the hook by reaching behind the piece. We have an old wood yardstick with a notch cut in one end that we use to reach behind the art and raise the wire over the hook.

Make Sure the Wire is Firmly Set in the Hook

Once you’ve hung the piece on the hook, don’t immediately step away from the artwork. Pull your hands slowly away from the artwork, keeping them poised to catch the piece if the wire didn’t firmly set in the hook, or if the hook isn’t firmly in the wall. You can also pull the artwork away from the wall and glance behind to see that the wire is indeed in the hook and not resting on the nails.

 

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.

 

Conclusion

 

Hanging artwork can be a lot of fun. If you follow the steps I’ve shared in this guide, there’s no reason you can’t become an expert art hanger and the curator of your collection.

We have a client for whom we hung a few pieces several years ago. When he saw how easy it was, he said, “I can do that!” He later told us that on many Friday evenings he will have a few margaritas, and he and his wife will completely rearrange their collection.

If you do ever run into difficulty with the hanging, don’t hesitate to contact a professional art installer, a gallery, or Xanadu, in Scottsdale. No hanging challenge is insurmountable.

Enjoy your new artwork!

 

Suggestions for Artists

 

While this blog post is geared toward collectors, there are a number of ways that artists and galleries might use our How to Hang a Painting guide.

 

  1. The ideas shared in this article apply to artists hanging their work for shows or display in galleries (or in your own home, for that matter).
  2. Print a copy of this guide from our pdf page and give it to a collector who has just bought one of your pieces. You may freely print and distribute the pdf as long as you don’t alter it. Be sure and attach your business card to the print out.
  3. Email a link to the pdf version of the guide to your collector list. Your collectors will appreciate the information in the guide, and they’ll appreciate the effort you went to to forward it to them. Be sure and include a link to your website in the email – you’ve just given your collectors a great excuse to think of you and your art.
  4. Post a link to the pdf download page, or this page on your website or blog, and on your social media pages to provide this resource to your followers. You also have my permission to download the pdf, and post it directly on your site or email it to your mailing list as long as you don’t alter it in any way.

 

 

Share Your Thoughts by Commenting on This Post

Do you have additional tips or ideas about what you’ve read in this post? Do you agree or disagree with something that was said here? Did you find the information valuable? Let us know! Make your voice heard by posting a comment below. Please note that, because of the comment spammers, we have to review all comments. It sometimes takes a few hours for your comment to appear. We truly appreciate your feedback – it makes the posts even more valuable!

 

Starving to Successful

StSBookSHave you always wondered what it takes to show your work in galleries? Is your work being seen by qualified collectors?

In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

86 Comments

  1. Good job! We hang our own paintings and use a technique almost identical to yours. It works consistently and flawlessly. We use the same equipment as you but don’t have as good hangers – but they are the best we can find. We will find the ones you recommend. We do have a level that has sliding indicators on each end of the level that can be adjusted to mark the places where the hanger nails will be inserted right and left of the center mark. We nearly always use two hangers which keeps the paintings hanging level (a lot easier then using just one hanger).

  2. Who knew this subject was worthy of almost an e-book? All these years I’ve just banged them up on the wall where they look good. Of course, if you move a picture in my house, you might find 3-4 holes behind it. . .

  3. I understand the major concern about hanging. I would like to ask you your thoughts about lighting of the art work.

    1. Dan – Great suggestion. I will put this into my list of future posts. Lighting is perhaps even more complicated than hanging, and just as, if not more, important.

    2. This depends on location, size of room, and type of art. It also depends on the amount of natural light in the room – times of viewing, if residential obviously 24 hrs a day and other sources of light within the space – is it a gallery or a living room – decisions can only be made if one has all the facts?
      Tony Corbett
      Lighting Designer

  4. I have seen diagrams using the “two wire” system for either heavy work, or to avoid shifting off center. The wire goes in a circle, and each of the two “nails” or hangers hangs on each of the two times the wire crosses at the top. Have you ever used this method? It looks like it would also be effective. Also, how about a hint about where to place the D hooks? I’ve always been told to place them 1/3 of the way down from the top. Do you do that?

    1. Sharon – I’ve never used the two wire method in that way. I can see how it would work and add stability, but I’m not sure the advantage would be significant enough to make up for the extra work that’s going to be involved in getting the right wire on the right hook. I do sometimes double, and even triple the wire, but I still put the entire wire cluster over both (or all three, if I ad another for the capacity) hooks. I’d be curious to hear if anyone else uses the method you’re suggesting, and how well it’s worked.

      On the other question, I think a third is probably too far down for the D hooks. The further down you are, the more the top of the piece will hang out from the wall. I don’t have an exact number, but for small pieces I’m usually about 2-3″ down, and for the larger pieces I’m 8-12″ down. Even on the largest pieces I don’t think I’m ever down more than that. I should also note that I make sure the top of the wire is never closer to the top of the frame than 2-3″, otherwise you risk showing the wall hook – especially if the piece settles at all on the wire.

  5. A really good guide and I have shared the link. I agree with Dan, have you advice on lighting? I am moving to a house which we are setting up as our ‘art house’. One room, south facing, is going to be an display room and will need some artificial lighting. But, not sure what to set up. Limited budget and it isn’ a public space. 10 x 13 feet sq. Appox.

  6. Thank you for these detailed instructions on how to hang a painting. Also, the information on hangers, etc., is very helpful. I love getting good information like this from an expert and appreciate it very much.

  7. As ever, an excellent blog. I am going today to hang a show at a well-known realtor’s office in Baltimore. So this letter arrives at the perfect time. I don’t have the hooks, though. I will invest in them…for the next show.

  8. Oh that yardstick trip for hanging large paintings would have come in handy when I was assisting with hanging one of my works in a local show recently 🙂 Excellent article Jason and the most useful I have ever seen to assist someone in hanging art work. I will be definitely be adding it to my resource materials as you suggest.

  9. Thank you for the article and free use of the pdf. Our group is having a show of Friday and I feel that this information could really help us(and any potential buyers) out.

  10. You sure covered everything here about hanging paintings with plenty pictures and suggestions. Thank you . And yes, lighting is always tricky and difficult in some cases.

  11. Thank you for the wonderful article, Jason – I’ve got a big show to hang in September and will be sure to use your tips and free measuring calculator for the installation!

  12. Thank you! This is a great article–one of your most helpful emails I’ve received from you! I can understand why so many people simply lean their artwork against the wall! But this article should make them feel more confident about getting some of their own artwork or purchased artwork up on the wall!

  13. We put up a show yesterday in a public gallery. We used the same method for placement of the pieces you described with success. However, the paintings were hung from chains 14′ long, so light pieces tended to angle away from the wall. We routinely place our D hooks 1/3 down the frame as Sharon Otstot does. Would it help to go to 1/4 down the frame, or to weight the frame on the bottom? Or maybe a weight at the end of the chain? Thanks for the Floreat hangers suggestion and other practical information.

    1. Lil – I’ve never liked the chain method because it naturally leads to this proble – more so than a hook, because the chain pulls away from the wall with no resistance. Moving the hooks up would help, as would making sure that the wire is pulled fairly tight across the back of the frame.

    2. I routinely hang from wires using picture molding. To minimize the hang out angle, attach the wires/chain as close to the top of the frame as possible. Sometimes I install two additional strap hangers just for this purpose if I already have a wire installed at the normal 1/3.

  14. Great advise and very well presented. Thank you! I would like to mention a tool which has become indispensable when hanging more than one piece particularly diptychs and triptychs. That is a Wallpaper Hanger’s level. This is a 30″ level which is like a conventional, carpenter’s level except that the top side comes to a point which allows you to see the inscribed ruler from eye level. The ruler on one side counts from left to right and, on the other side, from the middle out.
    I find it can cut the time for hanging a show in half.

    1. Dana – this sounds like a great tool. We do a lot of multi-panel hangings. Is there a particular brand that you use? I found several variations.

      Great suggestion, Thanks!

  15. One of the handiest tools I use for hanging paintings as well as other things around the studio is a CenterPoint tape measure made by ProTape. (someone gave it to me as a gift and I love it) It is a standard tape measure with markings in full inches on the top and a 1/2 inch scale on the bottom. By measuring the width of a painting or a space on the wall in inches you can instantly find the middle by finding the same measurement on the 1/2 scale on the lower half of the rule. It’s impossible to make a mistake in mental division because its right there in front of you!

  16. Apart from hanging some of my own art, I’ve been collecting art for years. Many pieces in my collection are of medium size with light weight frames, so the method you advise works fine. But I’ve purchased and hung some heavy and large pieces, using the methods you describe, and I’ve found that, over time, the weight of these pieces hanging from just two points on the sides of the frame, with the wall hangers centered behind the piece (even using two hangers), results in a horizontal stress that can actually pull a frame apart at the corners because the entire weight of the piece pulls inward on the sides of the frame. No amount of horizontal spacers or braces between the two vertical sides will prevent this because the pressure is a twisting pressure, not simply a lateral pressure. After this happened several times to some of my large pieces I was quite frustrated. But an old artist showed me how he hangs heavy works, and it is ingenious. That is to drill holes in the back sides of the frame in the same manner as is done for conventional hanging, and screw in eye-screws into these holes tightening them down and stopping when the eye-screws are horizontal and tight. Do not put a wire between the two eye screws as would usually be done. Instead, after having selected the placement of the peice on the wall, carefully measure the distance from the top of the frame to the eye screws and place small screw-hooks or conventional wall hangers on the wall in positions matching the places on the wall where the eye hooks on the frame will meet the wall when positioned as you wish. Assure the hook part of the wall-hanger is small enough to go through the eye of the eye-screws on the frame back. Then hang the piece so that each wall-hanger is securely hooked through the eye-screws on the vertical members of frame. This allows the downward pressure of the weight of the piece (commonly called gravity) to be distributed equally on each vertical frame side. The result is that there is virtually no cross stress on the frame, so it cannot be pulled apart by its own weight. The difficulty with this method is in getting the artwork on the wall perfectly straight. But it can be done by careful measuring, as I can attest.
    I hope this is helpful for hanging heavy pieces. It’s the only way I hang large or heavy pieces now.

    1. Really intersting Doug – If you could send me a photo of this technique I’ll add it to the post. Heavy work is always a challenge and I’d be interested to better understand how this works.

    2. Thanks Doug for taking the time to write such a detailed explanation. I love that it came from an old Artist as well, it makes it seem magical 🙂

  17. I always enjoy reading your emails, Jason! They contain such good, useful information, like you are reading my artist mind and answering my questions. The picture hanging advice is one more example of your helpful information that I will definitely find useful for hanging paintings in my studio/gallery and home as well.
    Thank you so much!

  18. Jason,
    Thank you for posting this information again. I had saved it from when you did a webinar on hanging paintings a while back. But,when my hard drive crashed, I lost this great guide line. This time I am going to print it.

  19. This is a great, practical article and far better than learning by trial and (crash)error. I might also not on tech/level issues that I had a realtools ap on my iphone that was very good, until suddenly it was “off”. When my instincts told me something wasn’t right I got out the real level and straightened things out. Maybe its just an earthquake country thing but I also use a small blob of earthquake gum to one lower corner of each piece to keep things level.
    Finally, I’d like to refer you to the site for the “Lost Art Gallery” in San Francisco where they discuss the “Salon Hang”…I first got interested in this after seeing the Gertrude Stein Collection and the photos of her work as it was hung in her home. It is a way to hang groups of smaller paintings to make a cohesive display. Planning is quite a project, and some common thread be it style, color frame or theme keeps it from becoming a mish mash. This is useful for those times my collectors don’t have a place for more art. When I moved to a smaller home it was a life saver. Not everyone has big walls either because of a smaller home or large windows to showcase beautiful views.

    1. Maria – Thanks for the suggestion on the salon hang. This is something I’ve never done, but I like the concept as well and have seen many photos of the old salons in Paris and many of the galleries and collections in NY in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Now it’s all about breathing and space, but there’s something really interesting about seeing all of the art together in the salon style.

  20. Really slow downloading. I’ve tried several times today.

    Also, would appreciate tips on hanging art on a stairwell.

    Thanks for posting this; I hope I can download it soon.

  21. Hi Jason,
    First of all, I was wrong about the length; it is 36″. The name of mine is “Speed Level” #460-36 with a patent even (5279041). Even made in USA.. I got mine a Home depot. I do still carry my little 6″ level since it fits nicely in my pocket. I will second Maria’s use of a little sticky clay (the white stuff is best) to hold things level. (I’m pretty sure it is an earthquake country thing but, in some of the places I have hung art, the walls shake when the doors close.)
    Thanks again!
    Dana

  22. Hi Jason,
    Very useful information. One point though, is that one of the numbers used in the screenshot of the Xanadu Painting Height Calculator would seem to be incorrect. On a painting measuring 24″ high, the height from the wire to the top of the painting cannot be 26″. Unless this was a deliberate mistake and I have won a prize for observation…..?

    Regards,

    Richard

  23. Jason, I have a strange grouping of several light-weight unframed canvas pieces. The largest is 8×24. I was hoping to use those new command strips that look like velcro, but is that what you meant by no adhesives? Since they are unframed, they are quite light-weight. I’m afraid that they will not stay straight otherwise, and putting double hangars on tiny pieces seems like a bit much. Please advise.

  24. Jason, Doug
    — another way to cope with hanging heavy artwork is to run the wire through D-rings mounted on the sides, in the usual way, but attach the wires’ ends to a second pair of D-rings mounted near the outer edges of the frame’s bottom member. That way, the wire is constantly supporting the bottom edge of the frame.
    It’s analogous to picking up a heavy paper bag of groceries–don’t trust the handle, pick it up from the bottom!
    Interesting post, thanks. I’ll be getting some of those German hooks.
    Ellen

  25. I have a hanging tool I got from dick blick years ago, and have never seen another. It makes short work of locating the hook for paintings needing just one, and for groupings, it’s incomparable. I’ll try to describe it; anyone who can cut steel sheet could make it. Imagine a 12″ ruler with a notch near the bottom, say at the 11′ mark, for holding the picture wire. On the opposite side of the ruler, lined up exactly with the bottom of the notch, is a small spike. Engage the picture wire on the hook, pick up the picture, with the ruler perpendicular to the wall, move the painting around until the placement is exactly right (you may need an assistant/another pair of eyes), then press the spike into the wall. That’s where your hook goes. Done.

  26. I have a gallery wall above a stair case. Where the wall and roof meet I hung tracks designed to hang curtains (think hospital curtains) and hung long chains on the track rollers. I grouped paintings into similar widths and hung them so that each is hooked to two chains, one at either side. I placed hooks in the chain and in the eyes or strap hangers attached to the frame. (something like Doug suggested) I used small curtain pins as hooks. This worked really well, looks great, the paintings don’t tip forward and it is easy to change up. It is essential that the eyes or strap hangers are placed on level on the back of each frame. I also planned my arrangement using a computer drawing program with the wall drawn to scale, little rectangles representing the size of the framed paintings and then dropping jpeg images of my paintings into the rectangles. Much easier than changing my mind about placement later.

  27. Pat Scheible’s Blick hanging tool could be improved upon with use of a 12″ carpenter’s framing square with a notch filed into the top at the 11″ mark for supporting the hanging wire. This would assure perpendicular alignment of the wire to the chosen spot on the wall.

  28. I work in a similar way too for shows and galleries. Feeling vindicated now at fellow artists who would roll their eyes at me measuring from the floor and dividing heights.

    An extra quick tip – take off rings! I often see artists hanging shows with jewellery on. Silver rings in particular will mark a frame or canvas easily. It’s essentially a blunt silverpoint drawing tool on your finger.

  29. Plenty of useful information in this post. I used to work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and find this instructional RIGHT ON. As a member of the staff charged with the responsibility of hanging very valuable and irreplaceable works of art, we frequently needed to redouble our efforts to do it right the first time! Now some 50 years later I smile as I see you’ve your very sound methods, for helping Artists and Consumers.

    Thank you,

    elf

  30. Besides theinformation and the pictures, I really appreciate your attitude to share your knowledge and your work with readers and artists, allowing them to use it in their own benefit. So unselfish.

  31. Thank you for sharing these details. I’ve always used the “Trial & Error” method, so it’s nice to have a complete set of instructions on how to hang art correctly. One of these days I need to patch all of the holes behind my paintings! Cutting a notch in a yardstick to actually get the wire onto the hanger…fabulous tip! I’ve struggled with that for years.

  32. An artist friend of mine said that paintings in a room, or in a great room where more than one painting can be seen at a time, should be hung so that either the tops or the bottoms of the paintings are even. This, of course, would be when hanging larger single paintings, not vertical groupings. What’s your thought on this?

  33. This has been a very informative guide. I have since went around my home which I am setting up as my gallery for my husband and myself. It is my 2nd chance at life, and my opportunity to create and use my artistic talent to show my view and appreciation of Gods beauty from my journey with breast cancer.

    I want to express my love of life to my family, so this has been my private therapy and concentration away from doctors, hospitals, and all kinds of tests to get by mind and body healthy and stay a survivor.

    I corrected some art work that didn’t quite follow your guide and they do look more eye pleasing. But I am still stuck on how to get the ideal eye height for my stairwall pictures. I have 12 steps. The left hand rail is about 3″ lower on the wall side then the right hand rail with iron spindles. From the living room looking up on wall it almost looks like the higher right rail should be the measuring height to see the collection on the stairwall. That may sound confusing, but I dont know where to measure or how to hand my pictures ? Not to mention a light fixture which I measured and will include in my layout.

    Any suggestions? If u need pictures I can send. Thanks for your time to read this.
    Sincerely,
    Cat Johnson

  34. Thank you for these tips. However, I’ve a question. How do you hang art on a straicase wall? The height changes right? So, how should we proceed to hang art there.

    Any ideas will be appreciated.

  35. I’m a artist and I display my art on my walls changing them often and would like to us in most cases the same wall fastener keeping it at 60″ . If I wire the painting center that will not work. Any ideas? I do mount my own canvas could I add a cross support rail off center and hang it that way?

  36. Thank you for this post. I mainly wanted to know the ‘correct’ hanging positions for paintings of different sizes i.e. smaller on top or the other way round. Personal preference seems to the the way!

    Best wishes
    Helen Ryan

  37. We are about to hang a mirror over the fireplace in our great room, but above the eye level recommended. I want it as a decorative item and also for the reflective light. My question is: Can we have a decorative hanger of some type and look good, even over bricks? …or is just best to hide all hardware?

  38. A great article.

    My problem is slightly different. I’m preparing a large painting for shipment to a client in another state. I am responsible for providing hanging hardware on the painting, but will not be party to the hanging in the client’s home.

    The painting is 24″ x 36″ and the frame molding is 5″ wide. The overall dimensions of the framed painting is 34″ x 46″.

    The framed painting weighs 23 pounds.

    I’m planning to use 3-hole strap hangers and I plan to place them as you suggest, about 12 inches from the top of the painting.

    I do NOT plan to use hanging wire.

    Will this arrangement be sufficient to support a properly installed painting like this one? If not, what changes would you suggest?

    Thank you for this article.

    Carrie L. Lewis

    1. Tina – this really depends on the space available and the size of the artwork. The important thing is to keep the space consistent as you hang multiple pieces. Regardless of size, the space between the works on a wall should be equal.

  39. Hi there, very interesting article. Should a diptych be framed? if so How? framed separably and hanged together or together in a single frame?
    Thanks

  40. Hello, Jason. Great blog! Not sure this is the correct protocol, but here goes …. Helping Hands Innovations is a start-up philanthropic entrepreneurship based in Charlotte, NC. It’s mission and business philosophy are simple: “Do Well by Doing Good.” It’s patented product, Hangeroo the picture hanging guide, makes it easy to quickly and precisely hang a wired picture frame or mirror, especially a large one, onto a common picture hook. Hangeroo is a game-changer. We invite you to visit us at Hangeroo.com. Thank you.

  41. When it comes to drywall, I have found that the best hangers, by far, are the Hercules Hooks. Available at Target in the ‘As Seen on Television’ section. These amazing hooks will hold up to 100 pounds and require no tools to install. Check them out, you won’t be sorry.

  42. I have just discovered your site and blog. I’m finding both very helpful. I discovered my love of painting a few years ago. Took a few lessons and have produced a few pieces. I actually sold a number of pieces. As you see I have a small country inn and as a result have been able to display some of my work. At present there are pieces in Korea, Israel, and several Canadian provinces. I sold my first piece to an art collector last week (a new experience for me). Your blog was very timely!

    Thanks so much

  43. Hi Jason,
    Wonderful information for those just becoming familiar. I worked in a art gallery for 10 years and had success using a centering pull tape. During those years we were always instructed to place the D-rings apprx 1/3 the way down the back of the painting. However, I found placing them apprx 1/4 the way down prevented the painting from leaning out away from the wall when hung. Your trick with the yard stick is priceless.
    Thanks for sharing.

  44. Excellent piece, Jason. After hanging numerous gallery exhibits and installing my art in clients’ homes, I can say that all of your guidelines and advice are spot on. I would only add this: I have found that a couple pads of Post-It Notes (large and small) added to the tool kit will make the job much easier; they are perfect for initially marking the vertical & horizontal edges of the piece and are helpful when positioning the hook(s). Pencil markings can be made on them rather than on the wall. Also, Post-Its left on the wall during installation will serve as a final check to be sure you “nailed” the positioning exactly where you wanted it. One last thought: I’ve found that things generally work out much better if I hang the art and THEN have the margaritas!

  45. For my gallery wall I installed a ‘picture hanging molding’ and then produced a hanging system that used two hooks and adjusted easily to accommodate the height of my paintings. When replacing eight ir nine paintings an hour was all that was needed and there were no holes in the walls to cover or repair. Providing a home with the molding would allow the art to be rearranged easily again without damage to the walls.

  46. Great article and I love all the links to the materials you recommend. I’ve been planning to check out the site where you get wire and D-rings, but hadn’t done so yet. You just saved me time. My husband and I just hung my solo show. I knew some of these tips and it went pretty fast, but I bet we could hang even faster with all this information. Many, many thanks, Jason.

  47. Thank you, Jason, for this very detailed guide to hanging art. There are ideas I have not tried before, but will put them to the test.

    One advantage of using metal frames and plexiglass to frame a matted watercolor or acrylic painting on paper is that the wire hardware on the back can be adjusted vertically in the track. Slight changes in the height of a painting can make all the difference in how pleasing it looks. All my main picture hangers are at the same height so I can rehang my many paintings easily without damaging the walls. Also a rather taut wire will hold the painting to the wall nicely. I wrap the ends of my hanging wire with tape to prevent damage to humans or walls, also visually, this gives a clean finished look to the back of a painting.

    Hazel Stone

  48. Thank you for sharing great information. The notch in the yardstick for hanging is priceless!
    I plan to host a one (or two) woman show in my home soon and your grouping ideas came at an opportune time.

    Gretchen Olberding

  49. Thanks for this information and especially for the links to suppliers. I’ve use Floreats for years and the same measuring system you do, but was unaware of some of the suppliers for frame repair. This is a great article that will be so useful to many of us. I so appreciate your sharing your knowledge!

  50. Jason, many,many years ago, I had a professional framer clean up and put a fresh mat on an odd sized etching I acquired at auction. We talked about framing and he said when he had a large heavy frame, he would put two additional strap holders on the bottom of the frame (running the wire from e.g. bottom left to left side, across the back to the right side, ending at bottom right). In effect, the wire forms an upside down “U” supporting the bottom of the artwork and preventing the frame from separating over time. He recommended placing the strap holders one third down, even on those bottom pieces. He said if you do a lot of framing, it’s easier to do if you are consistent in your methods.

  51. Jason,
    This is so funny to receive your email right now…..I was just thinking about you! I am ready to purchase space in your gallery book and will be in touch tomorrow. Oh…this blog about hanging paintings was amazing and so informative, as are all of your articles. I have no idea how you find the time to do all that you do and share so much, but know that your efforts are extremely appreciated!
    Best regards,
    Marlene

  52. Hi Jason,
    Firstly let me add my thanks and appreciation for ALL your information and help on may different and important topics.
    I always have trouble with the wire/string on the back. I really don’t know how to tie the knot and or twist the wire. Could you please at some stage give us advice on how you handle this. I hung a painting once in a frame and, luckily let it go very slowly, it came undone.
    I have hung heavy mirrors on a wall with a different method. I take a strip of timber, 1″ x 3″, for example, and cut it at 45 degrees along the centre lengthwise. Screw one piece to the frame and the other (levelled) to the wall then just hook the painting onto the batten on the wall. Naturally you will have to be sure where you want to locate it precisely first as moving the wall batten may leave holes.

  53. I recently bought a set of canvases. It is one picture on three separate canvases. How many inches should be between the canvases?

    Thanks!

  54. This is excellent!
    Thank You so much!
    Do you have any recommendations or precautions for hanging original artwork or fine art prints with direct sunlight from a window?
    Your help is very much appreciated!

  55. Putting up all paintings and other wall hangings to the same level is a good idea, unless there is a lot of them, it can make the wall seem lopsided or uneven. I like how you mentioned being careful with the art work. A lot of frames and works are very delicate, wearing gloves is a great idea! That will keep the oils from your hands off of the painting. Thanks for sharing, this was very helpful.

  56. suzanne
    Jason, what about a 4′ by 5′, 40 pound oil to be hung outdoors in stucco under an eave? How do I attach all four corners to avoid wind damage? Help, help. will the Fhoret hangers work in stucco? Should I find the studs instead? Great site. Loved reading your advice. Thanks very much.

  57. I just put two pieces of art in a locale Art Center Gallery Show. The curator placed my two works literally 8 inches off the floor! All 54 other pieces where hung at eye level. I am very angry. What do you think. I feel this is total disrespect.

  58. When I hang the painting on the wall, I get a gap (It is the size of a finger width more or less) on the top, between the wall and the painting. Is it normal?

    1. This is fairly normal. This gap is caused by the wire. The higher up on the back of the painting the wire is, and the tighter it is, the less gap you will have. If the wire is too tight, however, it will become very difficult to hang the artwork.

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