Read This Before You Hang Up New Artwork

Read This Before You Hang Up New Artwork

By Kate Reggev
These seven tips will teach you how to create a home gallery like a pro.

Whether you’re hanging artwork in a new home or adding recently acquired pieces to an existing collection, doing it just right requires a careful eye and a bit of finesse. Follow our pointers below to create a polished display that requires no patching or further adjustments.

1. Consider the Composition  

Before putting hammer to nail, work out your arrangement in terms of content and visual distribution. It’s a good idea to lay everything out on a flat surface to help decide what you hang, and where. If you’re hanging multiple pieces, you’ll want to keep an eye out for things like color or subject matter to ensure balance throughout the composition.

2. Do a Mock-Up on the Wall

Consider doing a mock-up of the visual distribution of your artwork, whether it’s a single piece or multiple items. The easiest way to do this is to grab some painter’s tape, a level, and a tape measure, and sketch out the height and arrangement of your artwork on the wall. Using painter’s tape will ensure that your walls aren’t damaged as you remove and re-adjust the layout, and a level will keep everything even and square. 

3. Look For Unity and Balance

A Wilfred armchair by Jardan is accented by pillows from Penelope Durston and L.O.T.S. Artwork is by Rachel Castle, and walls are painted in Waterworld by Dulux. Photo by Phu Tang.

If you're hanging multiple items, the best way to make sure that they visually read as a grouping is to keep a consistent amount of space around them. Generally, this means two to three inches of space between items, but a little bit more or a little bit less can also work well depending on the size of the pieces and wall space.

4. Center Compositions at Eye Level 

David Baird designed the custom sliding doors with materials and hardware from Home Depot. The doors also act as a makeshift critique wall for Bo and Sky’s artwork.

If you’re hanging something above a fireplace, it might be slightly higher than eye level, and if you’re hanging something behind a dining table, it might be slightly lower to accommodate someone sitting down. Otherwise, however, most artwork should be hung so that it's within an adult viewer's natural gaze.

5. Proportion Is Key

When it comes to placing artwork, think about the wall area available and the best size of artwork for that space. In general, pieces should be in proportion to the backing wall. For large, open walls, a large grouping of pieces or a single large item work well, while smaller, narrower pieces are best for more modest canvases. 

6. Don't Forget the Frame-to-Hook Distance 

Once you’re ready to commit to a layout, measure the distance between the artwork’s hook or hanging mechanism and the top of the frame. This lets you know exactly where to drill holes for screws or hammer your nail. This step is critical -- it’s important to remember that you won’t be hanging your picture from the top of the frame, which can be anywhere from a few inches to a foot above the hanging mechanism. Not taking this measurement into account can alter the height that you hang a picture from, so take the time to double check this.

7) Double check your wall type for the correct mounting hardware.

If your wall is made out of plaster or drywall, you'll want to use a different type of screw, nail, or mounting method than if it's made out of concrete, concrete block, wood, or brick. Using the correct type of mounting hardware will have important consequences, making sure that artwork will be securely fastened to the wall and won't damage the surface or compromise the integrity of the wall.


Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.