How to Hang a Picture ('Cuz You're Probably Doing It Wrong)

Beautifully hung artwork is the definitive finishing touch to any well-designed room. But how to make your wall art look professional, even if you’re, well, not? Get schooled by these two design gurus — and get ready to bust out that hammer.

The Decorating Mistake Nearly Everyone Makes

California-based interior designer Kerrie Kelly sees it all-too-often: Wall art hung way, way too high. Not only is it harder to view a piece hung this way, the balance of the whole room can seem off. “You want your eyes to rest right in the middle area of a piece,” she told Yahoo Makers. Jay Sacher, one of the authors of the book How to Hang a Picture, agrees: “I feel like people hang art like it's a basketball hoop—so high up there. Bring it down! Let it interact with other design elements in the home,” he told us.

One Simple Rule All Design Pros Know

Eyeballing height accurately is tough, though, so as a rule of thumb, refer to a guideline used by curators worldwide: Hang your artwork at 57” on center. “On center” means that the middle of the artwork is always 57” from the floor.

Here’s how (it may look complicated, but we promise it’s not!)

  1. Measure and mark 57” on the wall with a pencil.

  2. Measure the height of your wall art and divide by two (this is the center).

  3. Measure the top of your picture to its tightened wire

  4. Subtract the tightened wire height from ½ the wall art’s height—this will tell you how far above your initial 57” mark you should place your hook. (For example: a 20”-tall photo with a tight wire located 2” below the top should have a hook placed at 8” above the mark. 10” – 2” = 8”; the hook should be placed 65” off the floor.)

  5. Mark your hook height, and hang your art.

“This isn’t a hard rule, but it works when you just want to guarantee that your piece will look good,” says Sacher. Other design experts argue that anywhere between 56” and 60” is a good eye height as well, so use your judgment—just keep it consistent throughout your home for best results.

Apply Your New Skills to a Tricky Gallery Wall

This same 57” on center rule applies to groups of images or gallery walls—just think of the group as a single piece of art, start with the central piece or pieces hung at 57” on center, then surround it or them with the rest.

“Don’t be afraid to mix photos, original art, and kids pieces,” says Kelly. “You can unify the look by selecting one frame type for all pieces.” In fact, there’s tons of different unifiers you can utilize, say, theme, color, type of media, etc. Just remember that going too matchy-matchy reads a little catalogue-y—or just too basic.

When you have your curated set ready to go, use butcher paper to make paper templates of each frame or item, recommends Sacher. (Don’t skip this—it’s fun and a time-saver, too!) Mark where each picture hook will go directly on the template, then, stick ‘em to the wall with painter’s tape and arrange to your taste. When you’re satisfied, place your picture hooks or nails directly over the hanging marks, and hammer through the paper. Tear it away and replace with your art. Done!

Finally, Invest in the Tools of the Trade

I always have a level, finish nails, screws, my Dewalt drill and some 3M double-sided foam tape,” recommends Kelly. Quick tip: If you don’t want to purchase a level, there’s an app for that: the uber-useful free iHandy level turns your smartphone into a level in seconds. Other smart items to have on hand: drywall anchors (here’s a handy guide for installing them) and a variety of screws.

And Sacher has one final piece of advice: “There’s no one ‘right’ way to hang art. You should always go with your gut over some home decor expert’s rules and regulations.” Amen!

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