Hang A Picture Correctly The First Time

With a little knowledge and the right tools you can hang that picture exactly where you want it.

We’ve all been there. You nail a picture hook on the wall only to find it needs to move up a couple of inches. Or, left an inch, and then another nail hole, and another. Now the wall looks like Swiss cheese. Here’s how to hang a picture right the first time and be satisfied with the results.

1. Gather your tools

To get started you should have: a 12 ft. tape measure, a roll of blue 3/4” painter’s tape like Scotch #2090, a small bullet level, a hammer, a drill motor (if hanging on plaster or brick), a screwdriver, picture frame hardware, a stud finder, and wire cutters. This may seem like overkill, but bear with me for a moment while I explain the process.

2. Choose your location

Step back and examine the room. Which is the best location for the art, photo or poster? If it’s on a blank wall, the center of your frame should be at eye level. For most adults that means 60” from the floor. If hanging a frame over a sofa, leave a gap of at least 6” from the top of the sofa, and at least 8” from the top of a side table.

3. Get a friend to help

A second pair of hands will really help. Have your friend hold the frame up to the wall while viewing the location from six or eight feet away. Does the frame need to be centered over a piece of furniture? Or, does it need to move up, left or right on a blank wall? Once decided, outline each of the top two corners by placing two 3” or 4” strips of blue tape at each of the top corners. Check your eye level again. If the art is 48” tall, the top of the frame needs to be 60” (eye level) plus half of the 48”. In other words; 60” plus 24” equals 84”. Adjust your taped corners if necessary.

4. Choose the right frame hardware

If the framed art came with hanging hardware, you’re ready to go. To buy your own hardware there are a number of options available to you. How heavy is your art? If it’s lighter than 10 lb. almost any hanging hardware will work fine. For framed art of 20 to 50 lb. or more, be certain to use hardware rated for that weight. Most packaged hardware will clearly state the weight rating on the front.

A Quick Hanger is the simplest hanging hardware and looks like a nail with a small 1/2” disc on it. Depending on the size, they are rated for frames from 10 lb. up to 40 lb. An important feature of the Quick Hanger is that the round disc sits at a 45-degree angle from the nail, holding the picture frame wire against the wall and preventing it from slipping off.

The “J” Hook is the hardware is most common and sometimes referred to as Picture Hangers. These are available in most hardware stores and art supply stores. They’re manufactured in sizes from an inch to two inches and rated to handle anything from 10 lb. to 100 lb. The nail sits at a 45-degree angle.

Self Leveling Picture Hangers are the next option. These look like a small metal bracket with a saw tooth bottom edge. They attach to the frame with two small nails at the center of the top edge of the frame. These are best used on frames under 10 lb. D-Ring Hangers and Eyelets are the options for attaching picture framing wire to the back of the frame. Like the other hardware mentioned, both are available in multiple sizes for frames from 10 lb. up to 50 lb. And picture hanging wire; which is typically braided wire and will also be rated for the weight of your framed art.

Don’t skimp on the hardware and wire. Always use hardware rated for the art.

If attaching D-Rings or Eyelets for picture hanging wire, these should be mounted 1/3 down from the top of the frame. Cut the picture hanging wire 1-1/2 times the width of your frame, pass the wire through each eyelet, and securely wind each end six to eight times around itself to safely attach the wire. Leave about 2” of slack in the wire. It should stretch half way up to the top of the frame. Always keep the wire below the top of the frame to hide nails and hooks.

 5. Measure twice hammer once

Once the corners are marked with blue tape, mark the location of the hook or nail. Use a piece of white scrap paper taped to the wall slightly below the top edge of the frame for pencil marks and adjustments. Find the center of the frame on the wall and mark that point. With a bullet level, mark a vertical line down several inches. Then, on the back of the frame, measure the distance from the center of the picture wire to the top of the frame. Add this measurement to the vertical line on your wall. If you are using a “J” Hook, notice that the bottom of the hook is where the wire hangs. Place the bottom of the hook at the mark to hang the frame at the correct height.

Now you’re ready to attach your hook to the wall. Nail and check the frame against the taped corners. Level the frame with a bullet level.

Add self-adhesive cork or felt circles to the bottom two back corners of the frames. It keeps the frame level and prevents the frame from scuffing the wall. One package is enough for several picture frames.

6. Hanging on different surfaces

House or apartments with plaster walls instead of drywall will need pre-drilled nail holes. Plaster is brittle and tends to crack and crater when nailed. So, save yourself additional headaches and drill first then nail. Remember to drill at the same 45-degree angle as your “J” Hook.

Brick and masonry offer the same challenge as plaster. There are brick hangers that fit between the bricks for hanging frames. Or, pre-drill a slightly larger nail hole in the grout and epoxy the nail in place. Remember to drill down at the same 45-degree angle as the “J” Hook.

7. Heavyweight art

If the art is unusually heavy, mount it into the wall studs. An inexpensive stud finder is the tool for this. If there are no studs in the right spot, use a wall anchor, molly bolt or toggle bolt. They can be used on both drywall and plaster. They are easy to install and durable for heavy weight solutions.

With a little planning you can hang your art like the experts and be satisfied with the results.

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