So, you’re the proud owner of some new art, or perhaps you’ve moved house, or got some new office space and you have a collection of art to arrange and hang all over again. Maybe you’re wondering where to begin, how to hang the art, or how to best plan and arrange it. We have all the tips you need right here!
The first thing to do will be planning where and how to arrange your art. You can decide to have a theme per room, or you may have one theme for your overall home or office space. One idea might be to have one really outstanding vibrant work of art as the centre of the collection and arrange your other pieces in a way that they draw the eye to your main work.
Take a moment to choose
You may have accumulated many photos of your family and holidays over the years, or have a collection of small prints of your favourite animal, perhaps elephants. Not every photo or piece of art deserves to be boldly displayed in your living room. Some do, but quirky subjects or blurred photos that have sentimental value may be better adorning the walls of your study or bedroom. Or not displayed at all.
Standard gallery practice is that artwork should be hung at eye level, with the centre of the picture positioned 57 inches (roughly 145cm) from the floor. This is based on a person of average height looking at the art in an average-sized room with a ceiling 8 feet high. If the pictures are going in a child’s room, their eye level will be lower so the art might be hung correspondingly lower.
A group of pictures should be thought of as one, so visualise the centre of the group and take that as the eye level point.
What you hang and where also depends on the type of art. Photos and prints typically contain detail best viewed close up, so hanging them on a wall behind a large table or piece of furniture would be unwise. Abstract art, on the other hand, is best appreciated from a distance, so it should be hung on a wall where the viewer can step back and enjoy it.
The words ‘balance’ and ‘weight’ are often used when discussing how to hang art. As you look at something, your eye is naturally drawn to any unusual features. For example, if you look at a sheet of white paper that is blank except for a black blob in one corner, where do you automatically focus? On the blob in the corner.
When you are arranging pictures on a wall, the same is true. Anything out of the ordinary, or that throws out the symmetry, will attract the focus of the viewer. That might be a large painting among smaller ones or a colour photo among black and white ones. This is not necessarily a bad thing and can be used to achieve interesting results. In fact, by changing the balance or weighting of size and colour, you can influence how the viewer looks at your art collection.
Another consideration before even planning where to hang your art is to consider the lighting. To prevent your artwork from fading we recommend keeping it out of direct sunlight. You can light the artwork with separate lighting that is ceiling mounted, wall mounted or even frame mounted. Avoid the use of halogen lighting as that will also affect the paint and colours over time. You can use UV filters over the lights if you have no other choice. The best practice at this time is to use LED lighting directed on the artwork.
When you hang your art, you want it to be visible but glare coming in through windows can make good viewing impossible. You might consider aiming spotlights or lamps to draw attention to a group or a specific picture. If you do, ensure they highlight the picture but do not cause reflections off the glass, if there is any. This site has a useful guide too, for more information.
One way around the problem is to use non-reflective glass. This reduces reflection and allows a clearer view of the picture on sunny days or under bright lights. The downside is that it can change the colours slightly and obscure very fine detail.
When planning and hanging art it certainly helps to have another person with you, not just for the practicalities of hammering picture hooks, but also to help in the grouping of art, measuring distances and a second opinion can always come in handy, too!
If you are hanging it all by yourself, another trick to use is to place the art where you think you want it temporarily (use the picture hooks that have adhesive putty strips that can be removed) and hang the pictures then take a cell phone picture and look at it as if it was a layout in a magazine. See if you really like the arrangement. Do the themes or colours go together? Does it look crowded or too high or low on the wall?
Ideally art should be placed at eye level. If you are hanging a group of paintings together, then treat the entire group as one, to determine the central point. This central point should be at eye level with the other pieces arranged around it.
The best things to use to hang your works permanently are picture hooks. They are designed for this purpose and are kinder to your walls than screws or nails would be. It is highly recommended to use a levelling tool or spirit level if you’re using more than one picture hook, so mark your hook placing and then check they are level before you start putting holes in the walls. Also if you are hanging a group of paintings together, a levelling tool will keep them all straight and aligned.
When determining the height of the picture hook you’ll need to measure the distance from the taut wire to the top of the artwork and take that into account when measuring the distance from the ground. If you simply measure from the top of the painting your numbers will be off and the height will end up not being eye level (about 145 cm from the ground).
In some rooms, 145 cm may not be the best position. If your ceilings are really high or really low you’ll want to take that into account, too! The suggestion would be in those cases to measure the height of the wall, and divide it by four. Your artworks should be mounted in the third quarter up from the floor.
Before hanging your paintings, check the condition of the frame, the mounting hardware and the picture wire. You need to be sure that the hardware can support the painting. If you feel anything loose when you test the wire and the mounting screws, you’ll need to replace it. If you have art with old original frames you’d also be wise to check the integrity of the wooden mouldings. If needed, cracking can be repaired with coloured putty, but if you see serious issues with the frame we’d suggest taking it to a professional framer for repair.
Unless the picture is very lightweight, you’ll want to use 2 or even 3 hooks to support the weight and to make it easy to keep the picture level. If you are mounting the art on plasterboard walls, we’d recommend using wall anchors that are designed for this surface. You don’t want the picture hooks to pull through the wall, or the painting to fall off the wall! If you have some extremely heavy art you may want to invest in a professional to hang it for you.
A good general rule is to have larger pieces of art rather than small pieces. It is easier to mount a single large artwork than a lot of smaller pieces. If you have small art, have lots of it and group them together in themes. Spacing the pieces is also important. When grouping art have 10 to 15 cms between pieces, though this may vary according to the size of the pictures. You might want to crown a lot of small pieces together on a wall that runs up the side of a staircase. Generally though, you don’t want them to look crowded.
If you’re placing the picture above a piece of furniture like a sideboard it is also important to centre the painting across the width of the furniture. You don’t want to be looking at a sofa and a painting above it that’s off centre.
You don’t absolutely have to hang your art from the walls. If you’re in temporary accommodation, or you’re someone who loves to rearrange their home often it’s becoming popular to have art leaning against the walls. If you’re planning to do this, it’s a good idea to get some self-stick rubber dots and put them on the back of the frame wherever the painting will be touching the wall. This both protects the wall and helps prevent the painting from slipping or sliding.`
You don’t have to hang art in expected places either. Everyone expects to see paintings in the main rooms of the home, but it’s a treat to find art in unexpected places, such as above a front door where it can only be seen while descending a staircase, or in a hallway where it can be seen from some angles and not others. Art is for everyone’s benefit, so don’t forget to hang some where you can see it while cooking, or while soaking in the tub.
Don’t wait to hang your art. You don’t have to have matching frames, matching sizes, and symmetrical paintings. You don’t have to follow this guide either, if you don’t want to. Art is a treat for the soul, and needs to be displayed and shared to be seen. We hope you get great enjoyment out of hanging your art!
While researching this article we came across a few other great articles with some comprehensive information and tips to help you hang your art, such as this great system for adding multiple images such as in an art gallery https://www.stasgroup.com/en/hanging-art.