5 Wrong Ways to Hang a Picture

Hanging artwork at first might seem straight forward, but over the years as I watch my family and friends try to hang pictures, I realized it can be a little tricky. Here is a list of the top 5 wrong ways to hang a picture, and how to solve the problem.

How not to hang into a brick wall

1. The Dangers of Hanging Pictures on a Brick Wall

Everyone loves exposed brick walls. Many newly renovated urban homes and apartments take advantage of an accent brick walls, but it can make hanging artwork a nightmare. Brick walls will easily crumble when screwing or hammering in a nail allowing the hardware to easily slip out. Additionally this process leaves a hard to repair hole in the face of the brick. Also older plaster walls have the same problem as brick. With a little research, it isn't difficult to hang pictures on brick. Here is one way to install artwork onto this type of surface.

How to Hang Pictures on a Brick Wall

Hanging artwork on brick requires using plastic anchors and pre drilling holes. The holes need to be the same size as the hardware that is going to be used. The holes should be drilled on the mortar (the grey part) and not on the face of the brick to protect the integrity of the exposed brick. Click here for an example of plastic anchors and screws that can be used for this project. After pre drilling the hole to match the size anchor, place the screw into the anchor and screw it into the hole. Let the screw hang out of the wall 1/2"-1" (1-3cm). The screw is now ready for artwork.  Taking the artwork by the wire, place it onto the screw.  For heavy artworks use two screws placed 8" (20cm) apart to hold the additional weight.

2. Using a Large Level on a Small Picture

Leveling artwork is something that frustrates a lot of first time art owners. Everyone has had the experience of going back and forth, questioning what actually is a straight, and sliding the picture back and forth across the wall. The easiest way to level a picture is to use a bubble level. However, levels come in many sizes and weights. Using a large heavy level on a small picture will only result in an unpleasant experience, and can damage the picture frame.  If you are someone who hangs a lot of pictures, we suggest having both a small and large level. If you hang only a few pictures a year, there are other methods to get your pictures straight.

How to make a picture straight without a level.

A simple way to make sure a picture is straight without a level is to measure. Using a tape measure, measure up from the floor on both the left and right corners of the picture frame, and adjust the artwork until both sides are equal distances from the floor. If you are hanging in an older building, the floor might not be level, but this method will give a good starting point. Alternatively, instead of using traditional wire mounted hardware, a french cleat (two interlocking pieces of wood or metal) can be used. For the french cleat, the first piece is attached to the wall, and then leveled. The second piece is fixed onto the artwork, and if the first piece is mounted correctly, the artwork will always hang level. This will not allow for shifting over time like with wired artworks.

3. Blindly Hoping the Wire Catches the Hook

Thinking back to hanging artwork during my early years, I would hold a picture straight against the wall and rub it up and down until the wire on the back would catch the hook or nail. This is poor technique, and if a frame has a paper backing, this can punch a hole in it. Also with this method, it can take a long time for the wire to actually catch the hook, screw or nail.

Correct technique for hanging a picture.

After properly mounting the hook to the wall (see #4 for instructions on where to place the hook), put the picture face out against the wall on the ground below where the picture is going to hang. Pull the top of the picture forward and grab the wire on the back with your alternate hand. Hold the picture by the wire, and move the free hand to the bottom of the frame. Bring the artwork to the hook, and place the wire securely into place. If the picture is large, and there is enough space on the side, look behind the picture to see where your hand is to help with hanging.

4. Measuring by Eye

Brave, but reckless people will quickly hang pictures by arbitrarily punching a hole in the wall for the hook. This can lead to pictures in unflattering places, and leave extra holes in the wall for adjusting with a guess and check method. Additionally, if there is more than one picture on the same wall, most likely they will not line up. Measuring by eye, and using a guess and check method can yield decent results, but measuring work best.
How to hang artwork like a gallery.
Galleries hang artwork centered on the wall between 58"-63" (147-160cm). For ease of calculations we can use 60" to hang artwork as eye level. For the picture to hang at eye level we will need to find the center of the picture to match with our eye level position. To do this, measure the heigh of the entire artwork, and then cut it in half. To find where to put the hook, we will need to find the distance from the center of the picture to the wire. Holding the wire tight as if it were hanging, measure the distance from the wire to the top of the picture. Finally, subtract this measurement from half the height of the picture. This number will equal how much we will need to add to our center eye level of 60". This will be where we will need to put the hook to hang the artwork. It may seem complicated at first, but once the method is understood, it is easy to hang pictures efficiently. Also this will keep your walls from having too many holes in it.


5. Pushing Thumbtacks through works on paper

Want to hang artwork without a frame, or put up prints and works on paper at a workshop or school? Don't even think about punching holes through them with push pins to hang them up. This is unnecessary, and amazing artworks during an artist's early years are often damaged by thumbtacks. There is a very simple way to hang works on paper with thumbtacks without damaging them.

How to properly hang artwork with thumbtacks.

To correctly hang artwork with thumbtacks, we are going to use four tacks on all four corners. With the artwork safely away from the hanging area, punch two tacks where the bottom of the picture will rest. Put the tacks into the wall about 90% of the way in. Then take your artwork and have it rest on the metal pin of the tacks. Push the two tacks it in the rest of the way. The artwork will be pinned by the head of the tack without making a hole in the artwork. While holding the top of the picture, pin the two top corners just outside of the paper. The artwork is now safely hanging with thumbtacks through the pressure of the tacks.


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