Hanging Artwork in the Home

Hanging artwork in your home

In this time of self isolation we are spending a lot of time in our homes, why not spend an afternoon re-hanging your paintings to change the atmosphere and vibe of a room?   We don’t live in art galleries with pristine walls.  When we hang an artwork in our home, we have to negotiate differing wall to ceiling heights, electric sockets, pipes, furniture and curtains. It is a mixture of creativity and practicality and can sometimes seem a daunting task.  However once you get the hang of it (no pun intended) it can transform your living space.  Here are some useful tips.

What you will need
- Some good quality picture hooks suitable for the weight of your painting.  Always test the hook by bending it with your thumb; if it moves it is not suitable for heavy weight glazed works.  You will need better quality hooks.
- nails and panel pins
- a small hammer
- measuring tape and level

Don’t bang in a single picture hook or nail before you have made the final decision about where to hang your painting.  You do not want to punch a hole into your wall only to find it is the wrong position.
Place the painting against the wall below where you would like it to go (ideally with some protective packaging around the frame) and judge the position with your eye.  If you have more than one painting or are trying to integrate a new painting amongst older one, the same applies, but might be easier to lay them out on the floor so you can decide exactly how you want to position them. Or plan it on paper as below. There are no hard and fast rules but here are a few ideas to get you started.


1. a line of paintings with the largest in the middle fanning out to the smallest, each centered with each other.


a line of paintings with the largest in the middle, next to two small ones on top of each, next to 2 medium ones level with the focal point

3. a cross formation with 2 large paintings 2 medium paintings on top of each other, small paintings on each side at a lower level


4. a cross formation with 4 medium sized paintings and 4 smaller paintings either side


5.all paintings level with each at the top - a quite contemporary look



6.All painting level with each other at the bottom


7.a deliberately staggered way of hanging pictures, particularly effectively in a stairwell or hallway, or in any other structured environment as it adds contrast.

Datum Line
Once you have decided on positioning decide how far from the ceiling you want the highest painting to be.  You can do this by holding the painting up to the wall, while someone else finds the right position.   This will be your datum line and is usually between 20-30cm from the ceiling.  mark a horizontal line with a pencil - it will be covered by the top of the frame when you hang the painting.

If there is going to be furniture underneath the painting such as a sofa or console table, you might want to consider hanging the painting midway between furniture and ceiling. Say this measurement is 130cm and divide this by 2 = 65cm  Then add on 1/2 the height of the painting eg. 65 + 43 = 108cm.  Measure this upwards from the furniture to mark the height of the painting.   Or to measure downwards 65 - 43 = 22cm, measure this distance downwards from the ceiling to give you the height of the painting.

It is easier if there are two people; one to do the hanging and the other to assist, but not impossible by any means if you are on your own (although climbling ladders is not recommended).
At this point your paintings are still lined up against the wall where you want them to go, or lying on the floor.  They are well spaced out.   Measure the spaces between the paintings while they are still on the ground and make a note of it.
You are ready to hang your first painting.  Choose the largest one first, or the one that will be the focal point, or the one in the middle.  Let’s say your painting measures 86 x 86cm including the frame.
Reach behind the painting and pull the string firmly upwards in the middle.  Now measure the distance between the pulled string and the top of the frame, eg. 22cm.
Now measure the mid point of the width of the painting ie. 86cm ÷ 2 = 43cm and mark this with a pencil as far up the wall as you can.
You have all the measurements you need.
Remove the painting so that you can move your ladder or step into position.
Add the ceiling to datum measurement to the string measurement ie. 30 + 22 = 52cm.
Measure this down until it meets the midpoint measurement marker.   This is where to put your fixing.   
Bear in mind a picture hook fixing is above this point.  It is the hook that should be 52cm down not the pin.  Once the fixing is in place and you are ready to hang, either lift the painting above the hook and lower it down, or use one hand to hook the string over.   As it is a twisting motion it is advisable to have a helper if you suffer from back problems.

What do I do if my painting doesn’t have a string?
Many contemporary paintings are not strung but are meant to rest on 2 screws or pins.  This is so that they will sit flush on the wall.  The good thing about this is that once they are on the nails or pin you can slide the painting left or right to get the right position.   The bad thing is that both your nails or pins must be absolutely level or the painting will look crooked.

What should I do if there is an electric socket underneath the midpoint of my painting?
If there is a electric socket immediately under the centre of the painting you have to presume that there might be wires coming up from it, so don’t take chances and put a picture hook in the middle.  You will need to put fixings either side.   If the painting is not strung there is no problem.  If the painting has a string you will need to measure it differently.  Pull up the string firmly with two hands on either side of the centre and then measure the distance between the string and the top of the painting - you might need help with this.  Then place the fixings either side of the centre making sure they are level.

When do I need professional help to hang a painting?
If you have a very heavy painting and crumbling walls, you may need to get a builder to drill into it.  There are special fixings available too for heavy paintings.  You may also need a builder if the painting is particularly large or is to be hung in a high up position.

I’ve hung the first painting - where do I go from here?
You’ve decided the layout and made a note earlier of spacing.  Working your way from the centre outwards take the next painting.   Measure the width, divide by 2 and add this to your spacing measurement.  eg.  your painting is 43cm wide including the frame, divided by 2 is 21.5cm add this to a 20cm spacing = 41.5cm.   This is how far your fixing should be  from the main painting.  Do the height as described before.  Just keep going.  

Everytime I come in the room my painting is crooked
This isn’t your fault, it is not the way the painting has been hung but the way the painting has been strung.   To stop this happening either fix some blue tack to the bottom corner of the painting to keep it in place, or better still, put in a small panel pin adjacent to the bottom corner, whichever one will least show.

My Painting leans forward at the top
Again, this is not your fault.   The string has been attached too low down on the back of the painting.  To remedy this take the painting off the wall and lay upside down on a blanket. Using a bradawl and screwdriver re-string the painting with the string about 3/4 of the way up and try and make the string as taut as possible.

I hope this has been helpful.  Now each time you buy a painting, and build on your art collection, you may feel energised to revise all the paintings in that room and do a re-hang without feeling daunted.  


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