Picture Perfect: How to Hang in There!

Looking to Rearrange the Art in Your Life?
Simple tips for getting artwork on the straight and level

Does your living room or bedroom need a quick makeover? Before you give in to the urge to repaint, you might just try rearranging your artwork. There's no faster way to give a room a new feel than by changing out what you've got hung on the walls.

When we first decorate our homes after a move, we hang our photos, posters and paintings and then, over time, we no longer see them. When something is hanging in the same place for a long time, it kind of disappears. Now is the time to take a fresh look at your living space.

Take everything off the walls and re-examine all of the art that you own. Perhaps there are photos, posters or other works of art stored in one of your closets or in the attic. Maybe there is a poster or photo you have been thinking of purchasing. Maybe you bought a poster at a museum shop and then forgot to frame it or hesitated because the local frame shop charges so much money. If you like to shop flea markets, antique stores or garage sales, you may be able to find inexpensive old frames that can easily be painted or cleaned. These will be a fraction of the cost of purchasing new custom frames. And putting a piece of art or photo in a new frame can totally change the look of the work.

Once you have assembled all of your pieces, look at them in a new light and think about placing each piece someplace it has never been. Take a number of your smaller pieces and try grouping them together. If you have a collection of plates that you particularly love, get some wire plate hangers at your local home improvement store and make an arrangement of them on your wall in the dining room or kitchen. Take a favored piece of your child's art off the refrigerator, frame it and hang it in a prominent place in your home.

Let your imagination run wild and be creative. There is no harm in trying something new.

However, before you pick up a hammer and start making holes in the walls, test your new arrangements. Here are some ideas for figuring out where and how to hang your art.

  1. Though there are endless ways to display pictures, generally speaking, most pictures look best when hung at or slightly lower than eye level.
  2. The secret to hanging pictures is balance. Do not put everything on one wall and leave the other walls bare. The idea is to create one central focal point but to also balance the entire room.
  3. Create a focal point by grouping together a collection of different frames. You can put the frames on the floor and try out different arrangements. Then, to see how to arrange a grouping of frames, make a template of each picture by tracing the frame on kraft paper and cutting it out. Mark the place where the hook should go to hang the picture. (Pull the wire taut and measure from the top of the frame.) Use low-tack drafting tape to hang each piece of paper on the wall. When you like the arrangement, place the hook on the spot you have marked and hammer the nail through the paper. Rip off the paper and your hook should be in the exact perfect position.
  4. To hang individual pieces, it always helps to have someone there to assist you by holding the picture in the desired location as you look at it from a distance and from different angles. Once you are satisfied, mark the top edge of the frame to help you determine where to put the hook.
  5. Generally speaking, it is best to use real picture hooks that are inexpensive and come in many different sizes for different frame weights. A single nail will, of course, hold up a picture but if brushed up against, the picture can fall off. This is less likely to happen with a hook and is even more important when hanging heavy frames with glass.
  6. Hammering picture hooks into plaster walls can often cause small pieces of the wall to chip off, so it helps to apply a piece of masking tape over the marked spot and embed the nail directly through the middle of the tape. The tape can also help prevent the wall from chipping if, for some reason, you have to extract it later. (How to Fix a Small Drywall Hole)
  7. Brick walls in particular are difficult to hang frames on. If you face a brick or masonry wall, you will need to use a wall anchor. Create a hole with a proper drill and a special masonry bit and insert a plaster or metal wall anchor. Then drive in a screw. Like picture hooks, these anchors and screws come in many different sizes. Make sure that the anchor fits snugly in its hole since the function of the screw is to expand the anchor, thereby pressing it out against the sides of the hole and creating a firm, secure hook (in this case, the screw head, which you don't completely tighten against the wall so there is space for the frame's hanging wire to catch it.)
  8. Consider lighting to highlight your art. If you are hanging art in a dark corner, no one will see it. Conversely, glaring or harsh light will do no service to your art. The light focused on your art should be subdued and not produce any glare.
  9. If you are hanging something very heavy like a huge antique mirror, it is best to call in a professional. In the end, you don't want to create a potential hazard by improperly securing a heavy object to your wall.
  10. If you find your picture is slipping to one side, try twisting some tape around the hook or nail. Or use earthquake putty on the corners of the upper frame to secure the piece in place.

Now that your artwork has found new places to live in your home, here are some additional tips for keeping them clean and attractive.

  1. Don't apply cleaner directly to the glass on a picture frame, since it could seep through around the edges to the back and possibly damage your photo or art. Instead, apply the cleaner to the cloth first and then wipe the glass.
  2. For items framed in Lucite or plastic, it is imperative to only use specially formulated cleaners as regular glass cleaners can damage the plastic. These special cleaners can also help remove scratches, to which plastic can be prone.
  3. Clean picture glass with denatured alcohol or vinegar on a tissue. Wipe dry.
  4. Clean wooden frames with furniture polish. Apply to cloth and then wipe the frame.

Look around your room; doesn't it look like a different place now that you have re-hung all of your art? Why not celebrate with a gallery opening? Invite your friends over for some wine, cheese and talk art!

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