A complete nightmare.
You walk into your perfectly curated space. You've chosen every piece of furniture, every color, every bit of hardware. It assembles to form the most beautiful vision of living room bliss you've ever laid eyes on... until you see the art.
It's crooked. It's off-center. The height looks wrong somehow. It's just... not right.
How do you avoid this all-too-common problem? Follow the steps below to get the perfect hang, every time.
1. Gather your tools.
You will need:
- a tape measure
- a pencil
- a piece of paper or notebook
- eye hooks of an appropriate size to hold the weight of your painting
- hanging wire
- a drill
- wire cutters
- needle nose pliers
- a picture hanging hook
- a hammer
2. Prepare the painting.
First of all, take the measurements of the painting. You want to know its overall dimensions, then you need to mark two spots on the inside of the stretcher. For the sake of simplicity, we're going to talk about a painting on a gallery wrapped canvas, so we're just dealing with the wooden canvas stretcher, but if you're dealing with a framed piece, the same principles apply, just use the overall measurements of the framed piece.
Using your tape measure, measure down from each top corner 1/3 the overall height of the piece. Mark the spot on the inside of the stretcher with your pencil, so that the eye hook will stick inward towards the middle of the painting, not outwards towards the wall.
*Note: if you're using a frame instead of a gallery wrap, you may need to use a D-ring instead of an eye hook, so that the painting lies flat on the wall. Use your best judgment.
Now, take your electric drill. You want to use a bit that's about as wide as your eye hooks. Drill a pilot hole, being careful not to punch straight through the other side of the stretcher. You probably only need to drill in an inch or so. Try to make the hole as straight as possible.
*Note: if you don't have access to a drill, I have also used an awl. But the drill is easier and quicker.
Screw in your eye hooks. I like to use needle nose pliers for this, to save my fingers.
3. Add your wire.
Measure the wire about 1.3-1.5 times the overall width of the painting. Put the ends through the eye hooks, but don't tie anything down yet. Use your tape measure, as demonstrated above, and measure the wire so that when you pull it tight (like when the painting is hanging), the top of the wire will be three inches from the top of the frame.
Once you've pulled the correct amount of slack into your wire, tie your wire ends around the eye hooks as demonstrated below.
You should have a few inches extra wire at each end. Wrap it tightly around the length of the wire leading in towards the middle of the painting. This builds in redundancy in case your knot fails, or there's a weak spot in the wire. If you don't have enough left over wire, start over with a bigger piece.
4. Prepare the wall.
The standard hang height for a painting is about five feet, or sixty inches, from the floor to the middle of the painting. With that in mind, get out your trusty tape measure once more, and measure from the bottom of your painting to its middle. Make the spot on the frame with your pencil.
Now, hold your wire taut again the way you did when you measured your three inches. This time, measure the distance between that middle height and the bottom of the middle of wire. Write the distance down.
Add that distance in inches to 60. That is the height for your hook.
I could (and probably will) write a whole other blog post about how to place a painting horizontally on the wall, so for today, let's assume you already know where you're hanging it. Measure the correct height, and hammer in your hook. I recommend something like this.
5. Hang it up
Hang it up, and you're done! The slack we built into the wire should allow you to hang it pretty easily. Simply slide the wire along the hook to level the painting out.
*Note: This method works for pieces up to 48" in width. For a wider painting than that, you will need two hooks, in which case your height measurements had better be perfect!
Elizabeth Shanahan is the artist owner behind Shanahan Fine Art.Her writing demystifies and decodes the art buying and home decorating processes. Shanahan lives in North Carolina with her husband and their two year old daughter, a quivering spotted cattle dog, and a chronically disgruntled orange cat.
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