These techniques will help you display favorite pictures and paintings like a pro.

By Jessica Bennett
February 25, 2020
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So you've finally found the perfect piece of art for your space. Now what? Sure, you can take a hammer and nail to the wall and hope for the best. But achieving that gallery-worthy display will take a bit more effort. You'll need to get it precisely level, mount it at the right height, and (perhaps most importantly) make sure it's secured properly to the wall. With so many factors to consider, hanging large-scale artwork can be a tricky process, but with the right techniques, it's easier than it looks. These tips for hanging art will have you mounting pictures with confidence.

John Bessler

Tips for Hanging Art

Before you start hanging artwork, you should know the weight of each item first to help you decide on the best strategy. Check the packaging on the nails, hanging hooks, or wall anchors you intend to use to ensure the hardware will be able to safely support the frame.

Gather Supplies for Hanging Art

Although the exact hanging technique to use will depend on the weight of your piece, here are some supplies you may need:

  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Painter's tape
  • Nails or picture-hanging hooks
  • Hammer
  • Stud finder
  • Wall anchors
  • Screwdriver or drill

Decide How High to Hang Art

To find the correct height for your artwork, refer to the golden rule of hanging art: The center of the piece should be about 57 inches off the floor. That's roughly eye-level for the average adult and the height most art galleries and museums use when mounting artwork. For a gallery wall, the center of the arrangement should be at that height. To determine where to place your hardware, measure and mark 57 inches from the floor with a pencil. Then, measure the distance from where the nail will catch on the back of the art frame (a sawtooth hanger or metal loop, for example) to the middle of the piece. Mark that difference from your 57-inch mark on the wall; that's where your nail or wall anchor should go.

Make Your Artwork Level

Ensuring your art display is level is also essential to a professional-looking display. First, measure and mark where the top of the frame will end up on the wall. Use a level to determine an even placement, and mark it with a line of painter's tape to use as a guide when you hang the art.

Kim Cornelison

How to Hang Art on Drywall

Hanging art on drywall is fairly straightforward. If you're not sure whether your walls are drywall or plaster, try pushing a pin or thumbtack into the wall. If it goes through, you're dealing with drywall. Because plaster is a much harder surface, you likely won't be able to push the pin through.

For Artwork Weighing 5 Pounds or Less:

For relatively lightweight art, a simple nail should suffice. Adhesive picture-hanging strips (such as 3M Command strips) also work well, and metal picture-hanging hooks (which combine an angled nail and a hook) are another alternative that offers a stronger hold and easy installation. Hold the hanger by the hook and hammer the nail into the wall; then use the hook to hang the frame. A padded back prevents scrapes and scratches on your wall.

For Heavy Artwork:

Mount heavier pieces with specialty curved hooks that use the weight of the art to keep the hook in place. To install these hooks, simply use your hands to push the long end straight into the drywall, twisting upward until it rests against the other side of the wall and only the small hooked end is showing. Mount the art on the hook using the hanging hardware or wire on the back of the frame.

Framed art that's heavier than 20 pounds may need additional reinforcement. Use a stud finder to locate a stud behind the wall and secure your hanging hardware of choice into it for a more secure hold. Drywall anchors are another easy-install option that can better support heavy wall art. Choose wall anchors that are heavy-duty enough to support the weight of your artwork. Press the anchor's tip against the wall and use a screwdriver to screw it in until it's flush with the surface. Place a screw inside the anchor and tighten with the screwdriver. The anchor will split and grip the back of the drywall to lock it in place. Use the screw head to hang the frame from its hook or hanger.

How to Hang Art on Plaster Walls

If you live in a home with plaster walls, hanging pictures and artwork gets a little trickier. You can't just hammer a nail straight into the wall as with drywall. Plaster is a much harder surface, so trying to forcibly pound in a nail could cause the plaster to flake or crack—or simply bend the nail in half.

For Artwork Weighing 5 Pounds or Less:

The easiest method here is to use adhesive picture-hanging hooks. Check that the hook's shape and size will accommodate the wire hanger or picture loop on the back of your frame, and choose a brand that's designed to adhere to plaster walls. Before mounting the picture hanger, clean the wall's surface with a nonabrasive cloth and a solution of warm water and mild dish soap to remove any dirt or oils. Once the surface is dry, follow the manufacturer's instructions to attach the adhesive pad and hook to the wall, pressing firmly to secure. Hang the artwork from the hook using the hanger or loop on the back of the frame.

If you prefer to use nails, you'll need to pre-drill a hole in the plaster wall before hanging. To help prevent plaster pieces from flaking off, place a small piece of masking tape or painters tape over the area you plan to drill through. Using a slightly smaller drill bit than the nail, drill into the wall at a downward angle so the nail can function as a hook. Picture-hanging nails, which include an angled nail and an attached hook, are another hanging option that can be used for frames weighing up to 30 pounds. For a more secure hold, drill into a stud and use a screw long enough to fasten into it for your hook.

For Heavy Artwork:

The heaviest art pieces will require sturdier support for proper hanging on plaster walls. Toggle bolts, the strongest variety of wall anchors, work well for hanging heavy pictures and art in spots where you can't use a stud for support. For traditional wing-style toggle bolts, start by measuring its width with the wings folded up against the bolt. Use a drill bit with that diameter to pre-drill a hole. Place the bolt into the bracket and thread the toggle (the wing piece) onto its end. Fold the wings back and insert the toggle bolt through your drilled hole. The spring-loaded wings will open up on the other side of the wall and lock in place. Pull the bolt back until the wings catch the wall and screw the bolt into the bracket. Use the bracket to hang your art for the hanger or loop on the back.

How to Hang Art on Brick

Hanging artwork on brick poses an additional challenge. For a mess-free solution, use brick hangers that clip into the mortar joints (no tools needed). Most of these hangers can support framed art up to 30 pounds. You can also purchase plastic hangers that are designed for hard surfaces like brick and concrete, which feature three small nails that you can tap in with a hammer.

If you need to hang something heavier (or if your brick isn't suitable for clip-on hangers or hooks), you'll need to drill a hole into the mortar using a masonry bit. Place a wall anchor inside the drilled hole; then add a screw or picture hook to use for hanging the frame.

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