Articles > The "Hang" of picture hanging

15 Sep 2006

Here are some pointers to help you get the “hang” of grouping pictures on your walls.

1. Pictures should be hung where they can easily be seen i.e. lower in a family room or dining room where people are usually seated and higher in hallways where people stand. An arrangement of favorite, framed photographs, wall art, and collectibles can add personality and warmth to any room. When done correctly, wall art can change the focal point or the entire look of any room.


2. Choose your composition carefully. Your grouping arrangement should be seen as a single unit with respect to Balance, Scale and Rhythm. Divide them into two or more rows. Align the tops of the top row and the bottoms of the bottom row---and the sides as well---to set a variety of shapes within a compact “box”. With same-sized pictures keep spacing consistent.


3. Up a staircase, pictures should be hung to duplicate the rising levels of the stairs. It looks best to keep throughout a uniform distance between the center of the edge of a step next to the wall and the center point of the picture directly above. As for how high to hang, start off with the center point of the art about 5’ from the center point of the step. Measure out the exact amount of wall space you have to work with. Work out the arrangement on your floor by using the actual art pieces, or trace each picture on paper, making a template of each piece. Once you have your pieces arrange on the floor, tape (painter’s tape) each template to the wall and see if you are happy with the arrangement. If not try re-arranging them until you achieve the look you desire. When happy with you arrangement affix nails or picture hooks into the wall through your paper template and then remove it. Remember to account for the distance each nail should be up from the center point of each picture.


4. Hang art at eye level. As a rule, the center of the picture should be approximately 5’6” above the floor. However, this can be lowered or raised if it doesn’t seem quite right.   


5. To properly display a larger work of art or a cluster of pictures, allow the right amount of space. This is usually 3’ to 5’ on each side, or perhaps a whole wall.


6. A group of pictures framed alike and hung close together can have big impact! You can give a small room with low ceilings or a large room with high ceilings desired drama by hanging pictures a little lower or higher accordingly.


7. Pay attention to "balance" in your entire room. Be careful not to put everything in one part of a room. Leaving the other walls bare will throw the balance of the entire room off.


8. When hanging art over furniture it should be no wider than the furniture because then it will look top heavy. The space between the top of a mantel and the bottom of the picture is most pleasing in a range from 3” to 7”. Over a table or sofa from 4” to 8” is a good range.


9. Use your hand width as a guide for spacing between each picture- about 4-5 “. Too much space between each piece disrupts the graphic effect.


10. Dark mats on paintings tend to look better against lighter walls and lighter mats look better against dark walls. However, light mats are classic and do not make pictures or frames look outdated as quickly as colored mats.


11. Add rhythm by combining large and small squares, rectangles and circles or ovals. Smaller pictures should be about one-half to two-thirds the size of  their larger counterpart. In other words, the surface area of two smaller pictures should equal that of one large picture.


12. Protect your art from its enemies. When getting pictures framed always request that acid-free conservation materials and uv glass be used. Never hang your valuable paintings in direct sunlight; it is the greatest enemy of fine art work.


13. Correct scale is important in decorating. Size of objects used together is important; for example, a tiny picture over a large sofa is incorrect scale


 14. It is better to use picture hooks rather than nails because hooks are designed to redistribute the weight suspended from them. Hooks push the weight of pictures into the wall and then down, rather than just down as with nails.  Nails tend to give way; and it takes a larger nail to support the same weight that a smaller picture hook will. Hooks usually come in packages that list the weight its hooks will hold. Always use the right size.