How to Hang Art (and How to Figure Out Exactly Where to Put the Nail in the Wall)


Gallery wall we installed for a client in the Rice Military district.

Whether it’s decorating a new space or staging a home for sale, hanging art can be a stressful challenge. Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what doesn’t feel right, but often the issue is either art that is disproportionally-sized for the space or art that’s been hung too high. But fear not! We’ve compiled a list of helpful tips, along with a Magic Formula for nail placement that will alleviate the stress of hanging and arranging artwork.

Common sense disclaimer: This is not intended to be a cure-all answer for every single art-hanging situation you may have in your life. While it’s been our experience that these tips work in many houses we’ve staged, they may not work in all situations.

  • Gather your tools. A tape measure, a level, a hammer, maybe a drill, and the appropriate hanging hardware are necessary for most jobs. Heavier pieces may require more than a simple nail. Floreat hangers and Monkey Hook picture hangers are two of my favorites for hanging large art and both leave minimal damage to walls.
  • Use chalk to make marks on the wall — it comes off SO much more easily than a pencil mark!
  • Since eye level is a bit of a generalization (even within a single household “eye levels” may vary considerably), many art galleries and interior designers recommend using around 5 feet from the floor as the centering point for artwork. This is a bit lower than where many people naturally tend to hang their artwork. Choose your midpoint (I like 60″), and stick with it. Keeping a consistent midline for the art in your house will create a more harmonious, cohesive feeling throughout the house. One exception: When you’re hanging art over a sofa or a headboard, don’t hang it more than 12” or so higher than the furniture. Keep the art visually connected to the furniture not floating high above it.
  • When hanging multiple pictures, treat the entire grouping as one piece of art. Whether it’s 2, 3, or 4 pieces, lay out your arrangement (I usually do this on the floor) to find the center point of the entire cluster and build out from there.

How to Figure Out Where to Put the Nail in the Wall

  1. Measure the height of the entire art piece (X) and divide by two. This will give you the center point of the art.
  2. Add 60 inches.
  3. Next, measure the distance between the top edge of the art and wherever the nail will sit (a hook or the lip of the frame). If you’re hanging a piece that uses a hanging wire, pull it up as taut as possible and measure the distance from that point to the top of the art. We’ll call this distance “Y”.
  4. Subtract Y from the total amount you calculated in Step 2 to find the exact number of inches from the floor where you’ll need to hammer in your nail.

I know it looks like algebra, but this formula is actually pretty simple and it WORKS for hanging art “just right!”

For example: For a 36-inch painting where the nail hook/stretched hanging wire is 3 inches below the top of the frame (see our example), you should place your nail in the wall 75 inches from the floor so that the artwork’s center will be at 60 inches. Using the steps above, you can see that we calculated 36 inches (length of the art) divided by 2 is 18; add 60 inches to get 78. Then subtract 3 inches (see Step 3), leaving a total of 75 inches, the distance from the floor to where you need to hammer in the nail.

A Few More Tips

  • Keep spacing uniform between individual pictures in a grouping, only a couple of inches apart, for a more cohesive look.
  • Remember scale when selecting artwork to hang over furniture. Your picture or art grouping should be roughly 2/3 the width of the piece of furniture.
  • Step back and take a look at your arrangement. Nudge, scoot, adjust as needed.

If you still need help getting your artwork “just right,” Three Bears Home Staging can help! Call us at (832) 377-0785 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

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