When you’ve had your artwork professionally framed you’ll be eager to display it on your wall for all to see. Hanging a picture frame so it looks great and stays in the best condition is relatively easy. Follow our top tips on what to do and mistakes to avoid.
1. Tool and materials
Before you start, gather the kit you’ll need depending on the weight of your picture and the wall you’re hanging it on.
- Tape measure
- Spirit level
- Small hammer
- Picture hanging hooks
- Drill (for heavier weights, brick and concrete walls)
- Rawlplugs and screws (as above)
- Electronic wire and pipe detector (if worried about what might be beneath the plaster)
2. Avoid these locations
To keep your artwork safe and in good condition, consider these factors when deciding on the best place to position your frame.
- Sunlight: Don’t hang your picture frame in direct sunlight. Prolonged exposure can cause colours to fade and paper to discolour. You can consider using specialist UV barrier glass to slow down this process.
- Temperature: Ideally pictures should not be hung above radiators and fireplaces. Extreme temperature fluctuations can cause frames to warp and paper to dry out.
- Humidity and damp: Avoid hanging pictures in areas like bathrooms or poorly ventilated kitchens, and on damp walls. This can cause paper to ripple, frames to warp and fungus to grow on the back of frames, causing paper discolouration and damage.
Though conservation framing can slow these effects it’s better to avoid hanging pictures in such conditions altogether.
3. Decide the ideal height
A good rule of thumb is to hang your frame so that the centre of the picture is at eye level, usually between 145cm and 152cm (57 inches and 60 inches) from the floor. This is what museums do.
If you have a particularly big picture, you may want to come down a bit. Or, if everyone in your household is exceptionally tall, go up a bit. Use your own judgment and, if possible, enlist a second pair of eyes to help you determine whether the frame is too high, too low, or spot on.
Hanging your picture above furniture? The frame should ideally span two-thirds of the space with the bottom of the frame around 20cm to 25 cm (8 inches to 10 inches) above the furniture. This way, the art will be visually connected to the furniture and not floating high above it.
And remember to use a spirit level to ensure your frame is straight. A wonky frame can be distracting and spoil the overall look.
4. Choose the right wall fixings
The type of fixing you’ll need to hang your picture securely will depend on its size and weight, and the type of wall you’re hanging it on.
Your picture framer may be able to supply the appropriate fixings or your local hardware store will stock picture hangers for all sizes and weights of frame. The labels on the packaging usually tell you the maximum weight each one is designed to hold.
When hanging lighter pictures, a single picture hook with one or two pins is usually all that’s required. You can also use two of these hooks on the wall to support bigger pictures, each set about a quarter of the way in from either side of the picture.
A heavier picture can be hung on a plasterboard wall in good condition if you use a plasterboard rawlplug and screw to hang the picture from. Similarly, it’s best to use a normal rawlplug and screw instead of picture pins when hanging on stone, concrete or brick walls.
Very large or heavy pictures may need to be fixed to a wall stud behind plasterboard in which case you’ll need a stud detector to locate the studs. You may also need to use a supporting mounting bracket. Again, your picture framer or hardware store can advise.
Where safety is critical such as in children’s bedrooms, ask your framer about security fittings and glazing.
5. Secure your picture to the wall
Once you’ve decided where you want to hang your picture, it’s wise to check for any pipes or cables using an electronic detector. Then follow these easy steps to fix your picture on the wall.
- Hold the frame against the wall and use a pencil to lightly mark a tiny line on the wall where you want the top of the picture frame to be. Or, draw the line on a small piece of removable masking tape if you have some.
- A professionally framed picture will likely have D-rings and cord attached already. Pull the hanging cord taut by hanging the cord on a finger (or two if using two hooks). Then measure the drop from the top of the frame to the cord.
- Go back to the centre mark on the wall and use the drop measurement to mark the wall where the fixing position will be.
- If using a picture hook, lightly hammer in the pins supplied at an angle without hammering in the last 2mm – simply leave the hook a bit loose on the pin. Aim to have the bottom of the hook cover your pencil mark, not the pin itself.
- For heavy pictures, we recommend using a heavy-duty disc hanger with a rawlplug and screw. Drill a hole at the fixing point and push the wall plug in, making sure that it’s flush with the wall surface. You may need to lightly tap it with a hammer to do this. Then insert the screw with the disc hanger and tighten it until it’s firm.
Good to know: masonry drill bits need to match rawlplug and screw sizes. For example, a red rawlplug needs a 6mm masonry drill bit and a size 6 or 8 screw. Ask your local hardware store if you’re not sure.
6. Hang and straighten up your picture
To hang your picture on the fixing, put your middle finger on the hanging cord and push towards the wall whilst supporting the picture at the bottom in the middle. Once you’ve hung it on the fixing, look around the side of the picture to see if the cord is safely located on the hook.
If you find it difficult, or if the picture is wide, then ask someone to help you. Once secure on the wall, stand back and check by eye that it’s hanging straight. Or use a spirit level if necessary.
Good to know: if you are using two hooks spaced apart for a wide frame, use your middle finger to locate the cord onto the furthest hook first. Let the weight of the picture rest on it, and then locate it onto the second hook. Gently slide the picture left or right to level it up. Have someone on either side for really wide pictures.
A professional picture framer will fit cork, felt or foam bumpers on the rear bottom corners of your frame. Not only will these protect your walls and improve air circulation, but help prevent your picture from moving.
Finally, all that’s left to do is stand back to admire your handiwork and your prized artwork.