Hitting the Nail on the Head

by Caroline Cohoon | March 18, 2008

Hang artwork like a pro to give yourself a gallery at home. Hanging art is not usually a fun chore. You end up making a mess, banging up the walls, and it just doesn’t always end up the way you thought it would. There is no real secret to hanging art, it just requires a little thought and some patience.

The first step is to pick the right pieces for the right wall. Apply the Goldilocks method… This one is too big, this is too small, and this one is JUST RIGHT. If you hang a small piece on a large wall or around other large pieces such as a sofa then it can get lost and be ineffective. On the same token, a piece that is too large will appear cramped and make your space look and feel smaller.

If hanging artwork over furniture, like a bed headboard, the length of the art should not exceed the width of the bed. The art piece should be just slightly smaller to provide some balance.

If you have several small pieces, consider grouping them together to fill a larger space. You can use a collection of little pieces to create one large unit. Mix and match different sizes to make a creative and eye-appealing display.

Before you start putting holes in the wall, plan out your arrangement on the floor. You can also use butcher paper to cut out pieces the size of your artwork and use them to visualize on the wall. When arranging different pieces together be aware of how the frames fit together and the color schemes of the images. You want to create a cohesive unit.

The pieces need to balance each other out, the edges of the entire piece don’t need to create a perfect rectangle, but do make sure there aren’t any awkward pieces or spaces. Pay attention to the environment around the display, is there a desk or chair against the wall, maybe a floor lamp… Take these factors into account when designing the arrangement.

Now for more technical details. You need to use the right hardware for hanging. Usually traditionally framed pieces have a wire across the back for hanging. You could put this right on a nail but for more security, use an actual hook. The OOK brand picture hooks are sturdy and come in the right sizes for different weights. Larger pieces may need two points to hang on the wall, this will also help to keep it level. Each point should be 1/3 of the distance from the edge of the frame.

Choosing the right height. This can be a point of contention for many people. Some say pieces should be centered at eye-level, but whose eye-level? Galleries typically hang with the center of the piece between 60" and 66" from the ground. This applies to pieces that are on an open wall. When hanging above furniture, you want the pieces to flow together. In that case position the bottom of the artwork anywhere from 3" to 8" above the piece, whatever looks most natural in the room.

Once you’ve determined the center point on the wall, now you can figure out where to place your nail. The easiest example to give is based off of a smaller piece that needs only one hook. For pieces that need two hooks just use this same technique, but marking the two points, each 1/3 of the distance from the edge. You will probably need an additional pair of hands to help with this.

Measure the width and height of your picture and using a soft pencil, lightly mark the center point on the back for reference. Pull the wire tight from the center with your finger, representing how it will hang on the hook. Measure the distance from the center point to your finger. Let’s say that turns out to be 4". Add that to the center point on the wall you have determined. If you chose 66" then you will place the nail at 70" from the floor.

When you buy a gallery wrap canvas from Canvas Press, it comes with hangers and hooks already attached to the frame. Use the same center-point principle to measure to the hangers, and then place your hooks on the wall. Standard stretch canvases can be professionally framed, and they will include the wire and cover the back. If you buy an open back frame and do it yourself, you will need to get canvas clips to attach the piece to the frame (very simple) and a wire hanging set to screw into the back of the frame. Then hang it as described above.

Now that you’ve spent time getting the artwork perfectly and professionally on the wall, consider highlighting it with a spotlight. You can get an art lamp that hangs directly above the piece, or have track lighting strategically aimed to light up pieces.

Finally, don’t forget to use a level to make sure everything is straight!

Photography, fine art printing and decorating news and advice

Tips-n-Tricks #304

As part of a birthday celebration, make it part of your tradition to get a similar portrait of the birthday girl/boy each year. This can make for a great timeline in an album and is a great way to document your family history.


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