The right way to hang a picture

When you want to hang a special framed photo, or even create your own gallery wall, all you need to do is evaluate the wall surface type of your walls, determine the best hardware for the job, and get as creative as you’d like with your placement. 

You can hang lightweight art and photos with picture hooks and a nail straight into the wall. For hanging heavy art on the wall, use a stud finder to locate a wall stud that can support the weight of the art. If where you want to place the frame doesn’t line up with a stud, learn how you can safely hang heavy wall art with other methods.

woman hanging multiple framed pictures

Table of contents

How to choose the right hardwareDetermine your placementWhat you’ll needHow to hang your picture in 5 easy stepsHow to create a gallery wall

How to choose the right hardware

First, evaluate the hardware that came with your frame. Small frames will typically come with a sawtooth attachment—a small metal piece with a zig zig pattern designed to catch the head of nail to hang from the wall. Medium frames usually come with a standard picture hook, but you may need to upgrade to a wall plug anchor if you are not hanging the frame on a stud. Larger frames typically have d-rings on either side of the frame with hanging wire running through them. If your frame does not have hanging hardware, you’ll need to take care of this step yourself before you begin measuring and marking.

Determine your placement

There are no rules on the right way to hang artwork or photos, but there are some best practices. It’s perfectly fine to hold the picture up to the wall and eyeball it! But if you want a more exact approach, 57 inches is considered “museum height,” or the height where the eye naturally lands. Measure up 57 inches from the floor on the wall where you will be hanging art, and mark with a pencil.

To place a single piece of artwork centered on the wall at eye level, measure the distance horizontally across the wall, and divide this number in half. Where the halfway point intersects with your 57-inch height mark is where the center of your frame should be. Mark the intersection spot and then measure from the top of the frame to the bottom, and divide this number in half to find the center. Measure up that distance from the intersection point on the wall so that you know where the top of the frame should land, and mark with a pencil.

To center a single piece of artwork over a piece of furniture, follow the same process but measure along the length of the furniture instead of the wall.

What you’ll need

  • Measuring tape

  • Hardware of your choice

  • Picture hangers or wall anchors

  • Pencil

  • Drill or hammer

  • Drill bit

  • Level

  • Screwdriver

How to hang your picture in 5 easy steps

  1. Locate the hanging point on the wall and lightly mark it with a pencil following the method above.

  2. Drill a pilot hole. The size of your pilot holes will depend on the hardware you chose.

  3. Install the hardware.

  4. Hang the frame wire over the hanger.

  5. Check with a level, and adjust as needed.

Hanging a gallery wall is easiest when you take the time to do some visual planning. Rather than following technical measurements, creating a gallery wall is more about eyeballing and mixing a variety of frame sizes and styles and artwork colors and styles. 

Map out your gallery wall by cutting newspaper to the size of each frame and taping up on the wall using painter tape. Painter tape is easily adjustable so that you can rearrange your newspaper templates until you get a look that you like. 

Make pencil marks to note the top and side of each frame and label your artwork and templates with a letter or number so that you easily know what goes where when it’s time to hang.

If you’re not ready to put any holes in the walls, there are plenty of other ways to display art and photos. You can lean frames against the wall on top of furniture, try adhesive hooks for lightweight frames, or hang frames from a picture rail if you live in an older home with this feature.

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