Hanging a painting can be a daunting task, so much so that many collectors might opt to "perch" their paintings, often atop a tall piece of furniture, in lieu of nail-to-wall (or screw-to-wall). In the sections below, we'll break down the art of hanging a painting so that even the most hesitant will feel comfortable putting a painting on the wall - where it should be!
Hanging an artwork on drywall (nail or screw)
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Hammer and Nail
- Tape Measure or Ruler
- Level (most smartphones have a level feature)
- Optional: Painter's Tape
Where and how high should you hang it?
It’s your call: trust your design sensibilities! (If you don’t have those, a good rule of thumb is to hang works 5 feet from the floor.) When hanging above large furniture, aim for three or four inches above the top of the couch/dresser/table/whatever it is. Be sure to center it relative to the furniture below (unless you are hanging your work as a series or diptych, or intentionally off center, in which case, do your thing!).
Working with studs.
You may want to consider finding where the studs are in the wall and hanging your painting on the stud. (By this we don't mean there are some handsome dudes hanging out behind your drywall; studs are vertically-run structural wooden boards that drywall sheets attach to, usually about 2 inches thick.) If you nail or screw directly into a stud, you will have much more support for your artwork. For heavier pieces, this is essential and cannot be overlooked. Studs can often be found by tapping on the drywall and listening for whether or not the resulting thud sounds hollow or dense. A dense sound means that likely you have located the stud. There are machines that find studs as well, for those who are having difficulty (they can be found at hardware or home improvement stores).
Marking the top corners.
Once you've measured where your painting should be placed, hold up the work and, using your pencil or painter’s tape, mark the wall to denote where the top corners of your painting will go. If you have a partner, friend, or roommate sitting around watching Netflix, consider asking them for a hand!
The finer points of nail (or screw) placement.
For works with sawtooth hangers or hanging wire, you’ll need to find the center - that’s where the nail goes! Easy enough, right? Divide the width of the painting by two, and measure that distance from either of your top corner marks. Since you’re measuring across the top at this point, make a little mark to denote the center, and it’s time to measure down.
How far down? That depends on the artwork. For a sawtooth hanger, simply measure the distance from the top of the painting to the sawtooth. For a hanging wire, hook the wire with the measuring tape and pull it taught to simulate the wire resting on the nail - that’s your distance. Then, measure down from the center mark you just made and mark your nail placement.
For corner brackets or D-Rings (typically large works), you want to apply the same rules. Measure down from the top of the frame to where the nail will sit, and mark the wall accordingly using the corner marks for reference. Don't forget to do this for each side though!
How to put a nail in the wall.
Once you’re good and ready, hammer and nail in hand, best practice is to situate the nail at a slightly upwards angle for better support. The nail should stick out a little bit, enough to catch the hanging mechanism, but generally speaking, the deeper into the wall the better. You do not want there to be ample room for the nail to catch the canvas and potentially puncture the art - so make sure your nail is just poking out of the wall a tiny bit - no more!
And that’s it - you’re ready to hang your artwork!
Wait - I have a plaster wall!
Plaster walls are harder and more brittle than drywall, so the best practices are a bit different!
First, screws are preferable to nails when working with plaster walls - even for lighter items. Behind the plaster exterior is a series of horizontal wooden boards called laths. When screwing into plaster, you’ll notice that the screw “catches” better and feels more secure once you hit the lath. That’s great, because that’s a little more security and holding power!
For heavier items, the same rules apply - even with screws: find and screw into the stud. This will provide significantly more load bearing capacity.
I don’t want to put a nail (or screw) in the wall!
You don’t have to! If you don’t want to commit to a nail (or screw) in the wall, temporary wall hooks are a great alternative. For lighter paintings, 3M's Command Sawtooth Picture Hangers are a great option. For heavier works, consider the Jumbo version of 3M's Sawtooth Picture Hangers - and possibly using multiple hooks to distribute the load of the artwork. This is also a great option if you are trying to find the perfect place to hang a painting; simply pull the tab to remove the hook from your wall. Easy!