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How to correctly hang a picture on the wall

Updated on June 13, 2014

How to hang a picture on the wall

So you've finally found the perfect piece of artwork to match the living room, the colours look great and match the sofa! You hammer in a nail and hang the picture, bang! The picture slams to the floor in an explosion of glass and wood! ooops

There is a surprising amount of work involved in correctly hanging a picture on the wall; this ranges from selecting the right height on the wall through to knowing what to tools to use. When done incorrectly you'll often find your expensive work of art is now a damaged piece of junk! This article outlines some of the steps involved in doing the job properly so that your picture stays on the wall and looks great!

Hanging a picture on a wall

Scarlet Skies
Scarlet Skies

Step by step details on how to hang a picture properly

1. The preparation

How high do I hang the picture?

Art galleries worldwide use a standard rule of thumb of 60 inches (152cm) from the floor to the geometric centre of the art. This brings the focal point of the picture to eye level for most people. Positioning your central piece according to this rule will generally work well and will make the most appealing presentation.

Next ensure that the art will actually look good in the space selected, every furnishing in the room has its own space and you should be careful not to over clutter a room. Make sure the space on either side of the picture is equal. Try asking a friend to hold the art work in the desired place to make sure it will look good there, failing this a cardboard cut-out is also a good alternative.

While you think on these things, collect all necessary materials and place them so that will be easily reached.

What you will need:

Measuring Tape

Picture Hangers


Common Nails (if a heavier picture)


Spirit Level

Bronte Pool
Bronte Pool

2. Install the right picture wire


Even if you had your picture framed professionally, take a good look at the back. Check to ensure that the picture wire is strong enough to support the weight of the frame. Make sure the wire is securely anchored to the frame. The 'screw eyes' driven into a wooden frame or 'sliders' made for metal frames should be located at least two thirds of the way up from the bottom of the frame. Gently pull the wire upwards from the middle, the wire shouldn't be above the top of the picture. If you are wiring it yourself then follow these instructions: Cut wire 1 - 1/2 times the width of the frame. (If you are uncertain of the wire's strength, use twice as much and double it through. Fold the wire in half to find its center. Feed it through both screw-eyes.

Tip. Stick a small felt pad available from most DIY stores on the inside corner of the picture to protect the picture and the wall.


3. Mark the spot

Hold the picture wire in your fingers, with your fingers placed exactly in the middle of the wire. Notice how much 'slack' is used up by holding the wire, then make sure the picture is at the height you want. With a pencil, mark a dot on the wall of exactly where your fingers are.

An excellent way of locating where the nail should be placed is instead of using your fingers, while holding the picture in one hand, hang the wire over a pencil, when suspended you will then be able to mark a dot precisely in the right place.

Blue Horizon Printing
Blue Horizon Printing

4. Hammer in the nail

For light to medium weight pictures:

Buy some picture hooks at your local hardware or craft store. The hooks come in packages with small nails readymade for them. Place the hook to the wall then line up the nail with the pencil mark. Hold the hook and nail steady with one hand and use a hammer to gently tap the nail into the wall.

Tip. A number of strong nail free options are now available for light weight pictures such as photos on canvas. These are a great alternative to nails especially in rented premises and can be bought in hardware or craft s stores.

For heavy pictures:

For heavier pictures weighing 10 pounds or more, use nails instead of hooks. To support the picture's weight evenly, use two or more nails evenly spaced from the center and level to each other. For best results hammer the nail in at a 90 degree angle with the head of the nail facing upwards.

Photo on canvas
Photo on canvas

5. Hang the picture

Your picture is now ready to be hung.

Pick the picture up carefully by the sides of the frame. Suspend the picture up higher than the nail or hook, and then let it down gently until the hook or nail catches the loop of wire. The wire should be centred as much as possible and the picture should hang straight down. Place your spirit level on the top or bottom of the picture and make sure that it is straight.

About the author

Gary Klungreseth runs Blue Horizon Printing in Bondi, Australia specializing in printing photos on canvas and selling canvas art work. Email him on or call on 1300 632 332.

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