Tips for Hanging Artwork

Do your artwork justice by hanging it properly

Credit: Courtesy IKEA

Treat many small pieces as part of an art collection and hang them together

Hanging artwork? Follow a few simple rules to get it right

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but if it isn’t hanging properly on your wall, it may not be saying a thing.

Framing expert Kent Southwell of Kent Picture Framing says there are a few basic rules and a great deal of personal preference involved in perfectly displaying your wall art. 

Q. What should I consider when selecting a frame?

A. The saying is “Frame for the piece, not the space,” but you need to at least get a sense of the owner’s personal taste, and then strike a balance between the two. It’s also about proportion, so consider the size of the piece, the size of the mat, and the visual weight of the frame, which also needs to be physically strong enough to hold the piece.

Q. What is the proper height for hanging a picture?

A. Museum height is 57 to 60 inches at the centre of the piece, but do adjust for both the height of the homeowner and the area the piece will hang in. If most people viewing a piece will be sitting down, hang it lower. And remember, mats are generally cut with the lower part being slightly wider than the upper part as most pictures lean forward slightly from the top, creating an optical illusion of a smaller bottom.

Q. What if I am hanging a collection or an object?

A. You want a balance between art and wall, so the pieces shouldn’t crowd the wall, nor should they look like they are floating in space. If you have many small pieces, lay them out so you can treat the collection as one piece. If you are hanging something made of fabric, don’t hang it in high traffic areas or where there’s a lot of direct sunlight.

Art Display Tips

  • Hang larger, main pieces first; it’s easier to place smaller objects on smaller non-focal point walls.

  • Use D-rings and hooks to hang heavier pieces or use a French cleat for a very heavy object. Make sure your wires are all the same length for a perfectly level series of pictures.

  • Be prepared for what lurks behind your walls. Research the best way to mount hooks on steel or wood studs, drywall or plaster.

  • If a piece has any value at all, consider using conservation glass to reduce fading.
  • Use a mat or spacers; these create a separation between the art and the glass, which might otherwise stick together, causing damage over time.
  • To reduce costs, re-mat a tired piece. It can make a huge difference.

Contact an Expert

Originally published in BC Home magazine. For monthly updates, subscribe to the free BC Home e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the bi-monthly magazine.