The How To of Hanging Wall Art

How to Hang wall art and wall decor

Whether you’re hanging one large piece or a lot of small ones, determining the proper placement of your artwork can sometimes seem daunting. Here’s a guide on how to hang artwork to make the process a little bit easier, and maybe even fun.

How to Hang wall art and wall decor

Tips and Tricks

  • A fireplace is always the focal point of a room. When hanging art over the fireplace, it’s a good idea to make the art grouping about the same size as the fireplace opening. One large piece or several small pieces that appear as one unit is a great solution.
  • A great way to test an arrangement before putting hammer to nail is by laying everything out on a table or on the floor. Move the pieces around until you have an arrangement that you like. Laying the pieces out on a large piece of kraft paper or wrapping paper is an even better method, as this allows you to trace around each piece and mark the hanging points. Then, tape the paper to the wall and hammer in the nails. Remove the paper, and voila!
  • Choose smaller pieces for narrow walls and larger pieces for big walls.

The middle of a piece of artwork or grouping of artwork should be at eye level

  • As a general rule, hang the artwork so that the center point of the piece or grouping is at approximately eye level; think of groupings as a single unit. For example, you may want to consider hanging art slightly lower in a dining room, since you are sitting down when you are looking at it.

Art hung over a piece of furniture should not be wider than the width of the furniture, a general principle being that the art should be about 75% the width of the furniture.

  • Art hung over a piece of furniture should not be wider than the width of the furniture, a general principle being that the art should be about 75% the width of the furniture.

Scenarios

Spacing between artwork groupings

Spacing for Even Numbers

Tight spacing = 1-2”
Normal spacing = 4-6”

Large Spaces:

A tightly grouped even number of pieces works great to balance out a large space or a high wall. Note that large spaces can handle slightly larger spacing than small spaces.

Small Spaces:

A tightly grouped even number of pieces in a small area, such as a stair landing, is perfect and gives a window effect. Light colors enhance this effect.

Use your hand as a general guide for spacing pieces of artwork

Hanging Pieces Horizontally

Perfect for a hallway or sofa wall, hanging art horizontally allows you to achieve some volume without appearing crowded. For this scenario, an odd number of pieces is more attractive to the eye and is visually balanced; a normal spacing of 4-6” is recommended.

Tip: Use your hand, fingers closed, to determine spacing in this scenario.

Use shelving to create a symmetrical arrangement on your wall

Symmetrical Placement

Great for pieces that are similar in size, shape, and subject matter, this method allows you to create a grouping that has visual balance and is perfect over large furniture collections or fireplace mantles.

Like this? Check out our shelving options and other wall storage.

Asymmetrical Placement

This is a great solution when you have a group of prints that aren’t necessarily the same but share at least one similar element, such as subject matter or color scheme. You can asymmetrically arrange the pieces so that they still achieve a nice ‘organic’ balance.

If you have two larger pieces, try staggering them by hanging one lower than the other, so that top and bottom don’t match.

Grouping larger and smaller pieces helps to create interest and energy. The same is true for vertical and horizontal pieces in the same grouping.

Hanging artwork and shelving on a wall

Multiples and the Vertical Line

When you are grouping four or more pieces, one above the other, you should consider a vertical line, meaning that the art should be visually balanced on both sides of an imaginary vertical line. Too much ‘weight’ on one side or the other will make the group seem awkward and unbalanced. Again in this scenario, it is a good idea to make sure the art is similar either in color scheme, frame style, or subject matter.

Hanging a grouping of asymmetrical artwork on a wall

Wall Types

Woodwork or Solid Wood Paneling

Wood is the ideal surface for hanging almost anything. Hanging hardware in this case is most often a supply of wood screws. With their pointed ends and sharp grooves, wood screws are easy to install with just a screwdriver.

Drywall and Plaster

For surfaces other than wood, an ordinary nail or screw is usually inadequate. Most walls are actually hollow, with relatively soft plaster or drywall covering their sturdy lumber framework. The boards, or studs, behind such a wall provide adequate support for any object that is hung on the wall, but they can be difficult to locate and may not be spaced where you want them. The hangers below, specially designed for hollow walls, readily solve the problem of surfaces too weak to hold a nail or screw. Most hardware stores stock them in various sizes.

Masonry and Brick

For concrete block or brick walls, use lead wall plugs, similar to the ones shown on the following page. You’ll need a power drill with a carbide tipped bit to create a hole for the plug. Tap the plug into place and insert the screw.

Hardware dealers can recommend the correct screw and bit sizes.

Hardware

Recommended for smaller plaques and average-sized picture frames on drywall or plaster.

Wall hook for hanging artwork Picture Hanger Recommended for smaller plaques and average-sized picture frames. The configuration of a picture hanger’s angled nail and metal hook will provide adequate support for most framed pictures. For larger frames, it is often advisable to use a pair of hangers.

 

Wall Anchor

Made of plastic or nylon, wall anchors function as sleeves into which a screw can be tightened. Refer to the product’s packaging instructions for the correct size of pilot hole to drill.
Recommended for drapery rod brackets and other lightweight brackets on drywall or plaster.

Wall anchor for hanging artwork Once you have drilled a hole, tap the anchor in with a hammer until it is flush with the wall. Place your object or bracket on the wall, insert the screw, and tighten. Tightening the screw causes the anchor to expand inside the wall, anchoring your bracket to the wall.

 

Expansion Bolt

If you do not have a drill, you may want to look for an expansion bolt (sometimes called a “molly bolt”), which can be hammered into the wall.
Recommended for mirrors, shelf units, brackets, and other heavy objects on drywall or plaster.

Expansion bolt, used to hang wall art Once the sheathed bolt is in the wall, turn it clockwise with a flat-head screwdriver. When it will not turn any more, turn it counter-clockwise to secure its collar against the inside of the wall. If necessary, the bolt can be removed to put it through the object or bracket you’re hanging. When attaching a two-holed bracket to the wall, you may want to use an expansion bolt for the top hole, but a wood screw will suffice in the lower hole.

 

Toggle Bolt

As with wall anchors, toggle bolt installation begins with drilling a pilot hole and then lightly tapping the toggle bolt into position. Good for heavier jobs, toggle bolts have spring-activated “wings” that fold out once inside the hollow wall.
Recommended for mirrors, shelf units, brackets, and other heavy objects on drywall or plaster.

Toggle bolt for hanging wall art As you tighten the bolt with a screwdriver, the wings expand and are drawn against the wall. Note: Once installed, removing the bolt from the wall will cause the wings to detach and fall behind the wall.

Click here for a printable PDF version of this article.

Learn how to pick art and more on our blog, or browse all of our wall art online.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

 
How to Decorate Team

How to Decorate Team

We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.

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148 Comments

  1. Reply

    Luanne

    January 19, 2017
     

    I have a wall that is almost 6′ wide (70 1/2″) and 7′ tall (chair rail molding at 3′ of 10′ ceiling). It is in a hallway between a side door and my kitchen area. I love the canvasses by Rick Reiert that you offer, but I am not sure what size I need for that area. Should I go with a vertical or horizontal canvas?

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      June 8, 2017
       

      Luanne,
      We would love to help you with choosing the right size! We offer a free design service in which our interior designers pick out furniture, fabric, and accessories! Just send your question along with a photo of the space here, and a designer will reach out to you with your design plan!

  2. Reply

    Janet Johnson

    January 17, 2017
     

    Hello team, awaiting you’re expertise advice regarding our two similar Thomas Kinkade’s paintings. Wanting to finish bedroom decorating. Thank you.

  3. Reply

    Janet Johnson

    January 17, 2017
     

    Hello, we have a boring dilemma . We purchased two Thomas Kincade paintings same size and same wood frame color (dark perhaps mahogany). The painting are a stepping stone cottage and a garden gazebo scene. Together they flow like a front of a house and an up close backyard scene. It is a large wall behind a queen size bed. The paintings are 23 1/2 x 21 1/2. How would you suggest they are hung on the same wall? So appreciate your assistance.

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      June 8, 2017
       

      Janet,
      We would love to help you with hanging these beautiful paintings! We offer a free design service in which our interior designers pick out furniture, fabric, and accessories. Just send your question along with a picture of the room here, https://www.howtodecorate.com/send-us-your-own-decorating-dilemma/ and a designer will get back to you with your design plan!

  4. Reply

    Dianne Lapidot

    January 15, 2017
     

    I need decorating advice. My family room is about 40 ft. long, rectangular, and divided into two sitting areas. One half has a slider, leather sofa, round coffee table, area rug and two small chairs. The art above the sofa (on the outside wall) is a collection of 6 rectangular framed pieces encircling a round metal piece. The other half of the room has a curved sofa, larger chair, two tables, area rug and 55″ TV. The sofa and chair face towards the TV, which is on the outside wall. A lamp sits on a table halfway up the long (outside) wall, just before the low 60″ TV stand. The walls are about 14 ‘ tall on the outside wall. The outside wall also has no windows. A large window is on the shorter wall opposite the slider. How would you suggest decorating the wall around the TV and the corner where the long wall meets the wall with the large window? This room is open to stairs and the second story, on the wall opposite the outside wall.

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      June 8, 2017
       

      Dianne,
      We would love to help you design your family room! We offer a free design service in which our interior designers pick out furniture, fabric, and accessories. Just send in your question along with a picture of the space here, and a designer will reach out to you with your design solution!

  5. Reply

    Arda Straub

    January 10, 2017
     

    I have two similar pictures one is slightly small than the other I plan on hanging them over the sofa. Should I stagger then or hang them so they are level on the bottom or level on the top. Thank you

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      June 8, 2017
       

      Arda,
      We would love to help you hang these pictures! We offer a free design service in which our interior designers pick out furniture, fabric, and accessories. Just send in your question along with a picture of the space here, and a designer will reach out to you with your design solution!

  6. Reply

    Amy

    December 1, 2016
     

    Hello, We need some advice. We currently have 3 of our 4 children’s canvas portraits in our living room above our formal sofa, all identically framed. Recently, we acquired our 4th child’s portrait, and are unsure about how to now group them. If we continue to place them all side-by-side, the grouping will be larger than the length of the sofa. Another issue is that 2 of the portraits are in a field, and the other 2 are with similar tree backgrounds. Do we continue to place them in a row, in varying backgrounds, or do something else? It’s the largest wall in the room, and the focal point from the front entry. Thank you for your advice in advance.

    • Caroline McDonald
      Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      December 2, 2016
       

      Amy,
      This sounds like such a great focal point in your space! Family photos make fantastic wall decor. My suggestion is simply to hang them in a grid of four over your sofa. That way, the frames won’t extend past your sofa. Because the backgrounds are different, consider hanging the similar backgrounds diagonally across from each other.
      Best of luck. I’m sure it’ll look great!

  7. Reply

    claudia

    November 23, 2016
     

    i need assistance in what to place over my large sofa in a very long and narrow room.

    • Caroline McDonald
      Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      November 23, 2016
       

      Claudia,
      We totally understand — that large space over your sofa can feel so expansive and empty. Our general rule is to look for something at least two thirds the width of your sofa. That should give you some idea of the size you’ll need. After that, it’s just up to you to find something you like! We also like to use the colors from our rug as the direction for the color palette of our artwork.’
      Hopefully that helps!

  8. Reply

    Johnny McCarron

    November 16, 2016
     

    I really like your advice to consider the different kinds of material you will be hanging your artwork on. Not only does that impact the kind of nail you should use, but also the kind of picture that should go in your home. Do you have any other tips about getting art work for your home?

  9. Reply

    Donna

    November 12, 2016
     

    Help! I have 4 framed pictures I want to Gand on a wall over a sofa. The sofa is not centred on that wall, but to the right with a table and lamp on the left side of it. Do I hang the 4 pictures evenly left to right on the wall! Centred over the sofa in a square? Or centred on the wall in a square? Or across the top of the sofa?

    • Caroline McDonald
      Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      November 14, 2016
       

      Donna,
      It’s hard to say without seeing a photo of your space, but we would suggest centering the art over your sofa rather than on the wall. If you hang the pieces and the space looks unbalanced, consider adding weight to whichever side feels off. A large lamp for example, drapery panels, maybe a tall bookcase. This will help lend balance, while keeping the art centered over the sofa as your focal point.
      Best of luck!

  10. Reply

    Karen

    October 31, 2016
     

    HI,
    I have 2 oil paintings that I want to hang on a wall. I don’t know the exact dimensions but they are, square, medium sized – one bigger than the other. They will be on a wall behind 2 chairs. I also have to find a place for the large dog print I bought from Ballard. Should I put them together? Or will that look crowded? Thank you!

    • Caroline McDonald
      Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      November 15, 2016
       

      Karen,
      In general, we love the idea of hanging different paintings together. It creates a layered look we find very cozy. In terms of your specific paintings, we do think there should be a metaphorical thread that links your three paintings together. Maybe they all have a similar frame, a common theme in terms of the subject, or perhaps a similar color palette. If that ‘thread’ is there, we say go for it!

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