Tips for Hanging Pictures Perfectly

Man hanging a picture on the wall as directed by a woman
Man hanging a picture on the wall as directed by a woman.

Figuring out where and how to hang a picture is an art in and of itself. There isn’t just one correct way to do it.  A quick Google search will reveal any number of ‘how tos” along with video for hanging pictures.  Whatever method is chosen, the object is to get our photos, posters, and artwork on the wall satisfactorily to make a visual impact and enjoy our pieces. 

Here are some tips to hang pictures successfully.

Decide on Placement

Paper template taped to wall – Photo: mrgeiger

Deciding on picture placement can be difficult.  Making paper templates of the pieces to be hung helps with this process.  Any kind of paper or cardboard will work but something of color is nice if one is working with white walls.  Trace around the frame, cut out, and name the cut out to identify the piece.  It is also helpful to note on the template with arrows whether it is to be hung vertically or horizontally. Place the template(s) on the wall using blue painter’s or green FrogTape®. (Painter’s or FrogTape® will not damage or leave marks on the walls.)  Placing the template(s) on the actual wall helps one visualize if the space works, space needed between groupings, best height, and overall placement.  This also allows for lots of ‘playing’ or moving various pieces around without any wall damage.  The template(s) can also be left in place for a day or two for help in deciding if the placement feels right.

There are no hard and fast rules, but some aesthetic principles to consider in placement include:

  • The center of the piece should be at eye level, approximately 60” from the floor.
  • Allow at least a 3” to 6” space between the top of a sofa and the bottom of the frame, and 4” to 8” inches from a table top.
  • A grouping of pictures should be treated as a single unit.
  • Center the piece or grouping within the available wall space or over the piece of furniture below it.
Measuring for hardware placement – Photo: mrgeiger

Check the template’s final placement with a level or ruler or tape measure, measuring from a corner, doorway or ceiling.

Choose Appropriate Hardware for Hanging

Once the placement has been determined, determining how the piece will be hung or the type of hanger that is appropriate for the piece. The weight, size, and shape of the piece to be hung as well as the wall material needs to be considered first and foremost. There are various options for hanging including screws, nails, picture hanging hardware, pins, or adhesive strips.  If the piece is small and light weight, pins or adhesive strips may work.  Pieces with more weight will require something more substantial.  If the weight is not too great, it might be possible to use a small nail or picture hanger hardware put directly into drywall.  Larger or heavier pieces may require a drywall anchor to adequately support it.  If the piece is really heavy, consideration should be made to placing the piece where there is a wall stud.  While you can nail or screw directly into drywall, always drill a pilot hole first in plaster to prevent cracking. Brick and concrete walls also require drilling a hole with a special masonry bit then either hammering in a masonry nail or using a plastic anchor and screw.

Determining the hanging point – Photo: mrgeiger

Determine the Hanging Point

Before putting any type of hanger on the wall, the hanging point needs to be determined.  Locate the frame hanging apparatus on the back of the frame.  Some pieces may have two hanging points on each side of the frame. Measure the distance from the point of hanging to the top of the frame. If the hanging apparatus is a wire or a loop below the top of the frame, pull the wire or hook taut towards the top of the frame to get the correct measurement. In some cases, the hanging apparatus may be decorative and extend above the top of the frame.  In that case, the measurement is taken from the hanging point above the frame to the frame top.

Mark the Spot, Apply Hardware, and Hang

With the template still in place on the wall, mark on the template the distance from the top of the frame to the hanging point centering the mark from side to side.  If the hanging point is above the frame, make a small pencil mark on the wall or on a piece of tape; make sure the mark is centered. Apply the chosen hanger to the wall.  If a pin, screw, or nail will be used, the marked point is the designated location.  If picture hanging hardware is used, the point will have to be raised appropriately for the hanger size so that the loop of the hanger lands on the marked point. Remove the template and hang the piece.  Grab a level and check the work. Voila!  A picture perfect hang! 

Using pins to invisibly keep pictures for shifting on the wall – Photo: mrgeiger

If over time, you notice that the piece moves slightly from right or left with vibration in the home, pins pushed into the wall directly under the frame near the corners or on the lower sides will prevent this from happening and be nearly invisible, too.  To prevent frames from marring the wall, apply self-adhesive rubber bumpers to the bottom corners on the back of the frame before hanging. Sometimes the rubber bumpers are also enough to keep the piece from moving on the wall.

To save frustration, time, and unnecessary holes in your wall, take time to consider placement and appropriate hardware for the piece and the wall. And lastly before taking hammer and nail to the wall, grab a tape measure.

Updated February 2024, mg.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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