Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

How to Hang Pictures Right the First Time

By:

Painting hung over mantel

Framed paintings and photographs add a splash of color to a room and give it a unique personal touch, but some homeowners are reluctant to tackle the job for fear their walls will end up resembling aged Swiss cheese. With the right hardware and know-how, you can approach your next picture hanging project with confidence.

Finding the Right Location

The first step is to decide where you would like the picture to hang. Recruit a helper to hold the picture on the wall while you evaluate its placement using the following guidelines:

  • The center of the picture should be at eye level, approximately 60” from the floor.
  • Leave at least a 3” to 6” gap between the top of a sofa and the bottom of the picture frame, and 4” to 8” inches from a table top.
  • Treat a grouping of pictures as a single unit.
  • Center the picture or grouping within the available wall space or over the piece of furniture below it.
  • Position pictures away from direct light and high humidity.

Deciding on a location for one picture is fairly simple, but arranging several pieces in a single space can get a bit more complex. The answer is to make paper templates with arrows on them to indicate whether the piece will be hung vertically or horizontally. Tape the templates to the wall, using easy-release painter’s tape, and rearrange them until the grouping is to your liking.

Once you’ve decided on the perfect spot, use a stud finder to identify wall studs and mark their location with Post-it Notes or painter’s tape.

Marking wall even with edge of frame

Marking the Wall

While holding the picture in place, put a strip of painter’s tape on the wall with the bottom edge even with the top of the frame. Mark each end of the frame on the tape then remove the picture.

If the picture will have only one wall hanger, find the width of the frame, divide by two, and measure this distance in from the marks on the painter’s tape. Split any difference between the two marks for the center.

Mark wall at center of painting

For added stability on wide frames, use two hangers that are equidistant from the center point. If the frame has a hanger on each side, measure in from the outside edge of the frame to the center of each hanger and transfer these measurements to the tape.

Next, turn the picture over and measure from the top of the frame to the point the picture will hang. For pictures with a hanging wire and one hanging point, hook the metal end of a tape measure under the center of the wire. Pull up until the wire is taut, and measure up to the top of the frame.

Measure from wire hanger to top of frame

For frames with a wire that will have two hanging points, pull up on the wire at both points simultaneously then measure up to the top of the frame.

Measuring wire to top of frame for double wall hangers

For pictures with D-rings or sawtooth hangers, hook the tape over the top of the frame and measure down to the spot where the wall hanger will be attached.

Transfer the hanger location on the wall by measuring down from the bottom edge of the painter’s tape.

Measuring wall to frame hanger location

Then use a level to make sure it is plumb with the mark on the strip of tape.

Use level to measure down to hanger location

Choosing Hardware

In order to select the right hardware to hang your picture, you need to know:

  • The approximate weight of the picture.
  • The type of hanging hardware on the frame.
  • The wall material.
  • If the wall hanger will be attached to a stud.

Types of wall hanging hardware

There are a number of hardware options for hanging pictures, with the label on the package usually giving the maximum weight each one is designed to hold. To find the weight of the picture, weigh yourself on a bathroom scale while holding the picture then subtract your weight from it.

Traditional metal picture hooks work well for lightweight frames fitted with wire while screws or nails are a better choice for sawtooth and D-rings hangers.

Standard wall picture hanger hardware

If the hanging hardware will attach to a wall stud or solid wood paneling, just about any hanger suitable for the frame and rated for the weight of the picture will do. If the picture is heavy and a stud isn’t present, you’ll need to use a wall anchor on drywall or plaster walls. Self-tapping threaded anchors are suitable for attaching all but the heaviest pictures to drywall.

Anchors that spread out behind the wall—such as toggle or molly bolts—provide the most holding power and help keep plaster from cracking.

Wire hanger picture hanging hardware

The latest innovation in picture hanging hardware is a thin curved spring steel wire sold under brand names such as Heavy Duty Wall Hanger, Hercules Hook, and Monkey Hook.

To use, simply twist the sharpened point through the drywall and push the wire into the wall cavity until it locks in place.

Wire hangers will only work where there’s not a stud or other obstruction in the wall. They are quick to install and remove, leaving a very small hole that is easy to spackle and paint over.

The PowerHook is a more robust hanger than a wire hanger that works on the same principle but can hold up to 120 pounds, though it leave a larger hole in the wall.

Installing Hardware

Keep in mind that the spot marked on the wall and the location you attach the hanger may differ since the hook often extends down from the nail or screw that holds it. To make sure you get it right, position the lowest point of the hook at the mark before attaching the hardware to the wall.

While you can nail or screw directly into drywall, always drill a pilot hole first in plaster to prevent cracking. Brick and concrete walls require drilling a hole with a special masonry bit then either hammering in a masonry nail or using a plastic anchor and screw.

Hang Picture

To prevent your picture from marring the wall and keep it hanging level, apply self-adhesive rubber bumpers to the bottom corners on the back of the frame before hanging. After suspending the picture on the hanger, remove the strip of tape, and use a level to check your work.

Further Information



Please Leave a Comment

19 Comments on “How to Hang Pictures Right the First Time”

You can follow comments to this article by subscribing to the RSS news feed with your favorite feed reader.

  1. Rick Schlais Says:
    January 18th, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    My patented tool can save people a lot of measuring and time. Using my tool it only takes between 1 and 2 minutes to perfectly hang a picture.

  2. All About Me Photography Says:
    January 30th, 2008 at 12:34 am

    A great Idea for hanging pictures

    … Danny Lipford’s blog on hanging pictures right.

    I have a new answer. Monkey Hooks. They are cheap, work amazing, and you can find them Amazon if they don’t have them at your local Home Depot.

  3. Sandy Allen Says:
    January 30th, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Monkey Hooks – these are fantastic. Using them in my studio – thanks for the tip!

  4. rosemary Says:
    August 2nd, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    we have plaster over brick walls (20″ thick. How can we hang our pictures, please?

  5. molly Says:
    February 22nd, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I have recently redecorated a very small guest bath (has no tub or shower or window) the wall behind the entry door right now is very bare.In one corner I put a container with tall grasses which fills it with some height. Would it look too awkward to hang a picture that is more wide 30X12 which would fill up that wall when the bathroom is in use and the door is closed. My husband says it looks too weird when the door is open and part of the picture is behind the door.

  6. Robert Bias Says:
    January 17th, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I am having a real problem. First I am a dummy when it comes to figuring stuff out. My wife and I bought an older house, and I just can not figure how to hang pictures on the wall behind our couch. It is a 17′ bare wall. we want a family picture wall there. I have tried paneling nails, screws, and someone told me to buy concrete screws(expensive) and they still did not work. I thought the wall was concrete, but now think it is mortar and slats. PLEASE tell me how I can get this project done. We have maybe 100 pictures to hang. Thanks in advance

  7. Grow A Wall « TAIYYABKHAN.COM Says:
    August 8th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    [...] watering, a vertical garden can be fairly heavy. If you have questions about how to hang it, this article has comprehensive [...]

  8. jessica Says:
    October 9th, 2010 at 7:18 am

    When finding the middle of wall, if there is a light outlet near the wall’s end, do you measure from the light outlet or the end of the wall?

  9. Kat Bell Says:
    May 20th, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    I found a really terrific hook to use for heavy pictures in drywall. It’s called the PowerHook. You just punch a hole in the wall, insert the pointy end of the hook and press it flat. Found it on Ebay. Also, it has a really cool design on it! Try it, you’ll like it~

  10. Ken Says:
    February 8th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks for your article it was just what I was looking for, it helped me with this issue, thanks again Ken

  11. mary jane barr Says:
    April 23rd, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    my question is– I recently bought a painting which consists of three separated panels making one picture. /There is about a once inch space between each panel. It has the d rings on back for wire, but when i attach the wire and hang the picture , the wire shows through between the panels. What should i be using to hang the picture instead . Thank you for your help with this little problem

  12. Carole Says:
    June 2nd, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I have a powerful picture on my dining room wall. There’s enough room to put something on both sides, but I’m wondering if that would take away from the picture. Can you tell me what you think?

  13. Susan Says:
    August 31st, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Great advise on which picture hooks to use, but how can I be certain that the picture wire on the wall hook and not on the nails that hold the wall hook when hanging a very large picture. I’m hanging a 36″x 42″ 25 pound picture on a hook that is over my head. I can’t see if the wire is on the hook. I don’t have help. Is there a way to do this?

  14. MarkK Says:
    December 5th, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    There’s actually an App for that!!
    We used a cool app recently for the iphone and ipad called “Hand-a-Pic”. Made it super easy to hang a series of pictures across the wall without having to figure out where the nails go to make things even. We used it a couple of times already, once for hanging pictures and the more recently to hang 4 plates on the wall. Walks you through through the steps and tells you exactly where every nail goes for evenly spaced pictures across the wall. Worked perfect and made it really easy! The app did all the calculating for us!

  15. 'BB Says:
    November 2nd, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Hang a picture so that the center of it is eye level is tricky in our house. I am 5’2″ and my hubby is 6’1″ tall. Whose eye level should be go with?

  16. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    November 2nd, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Good point BB! Unless you’re hanging artwork in a kid’s room where you would want it closer to their eye level, I’d use an average height of 5’6″ to 5’8″ as the standard for height.

  17. Trish Says:
    October 24th, 2014 at 7:13 am

    Can a wall collage of frames that are being hung over a mantle go wider than the length of the mantle? Pleeeeeeeeease reply

  18. Rudy Violante Says:
    December 2nd, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I’m trying to weigh a heavy mirror on my bathroom scale but with no success; so I stood on the scale and weighed myself satisfactorily. To concentrate the weight of the mirror in one location, I placed a roll of duct tape on the scale, but to no avail. How can I allow the weight of the mirror to be read by my bathroom scale?

  19. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    December 2nd, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Hi Rudy,
    If the mirror isn’t too heavy, try weighing yourself, then weighing yourself while holding the mirror, then subtract the two weights from each other.

We want to hear from you! In addition to posting comments on articles and videos, you can also send your comments and questions to us on our contact page or at (800) 946-4420. While we can't answer them all, we may use your question on our Today's Homeowner radio or TV show, or online at todayshomeowner.com.

Click to check out all our great giveaways!