How to Hang Art like a Pro

So, you’ve invested in a beautiful piece of traditional or contemporary Indigenous art from Yarn Gallery, now what? Although hanging artwork can be quite fiddly, with a little practice and the right toolkit you’ll have your home full of unique masterpieces! To help you get started, we’ve created a list of tips and tricks below:

People hanging artwork. Courtesy of University of Alberta Alumni, 2018.

Where do I hang it?

Firstly, you need to consider where your artwork is going to hang. Often people purchase a painting with a particular space in mind, or they purchase it in the hopes that it will change the atmosphere of a space. Or, you may already have an Indigenous artwork in your home but it’s just been sitting somewhere gathering dust. In that case, you should take your time deciding where in your home this piece would work the best. If you need some inspiration on how to go about this, you can read our blogs: How to Style Indigenous Art in Your Home and How to Style Indigenous Art in Your Home Pt 2.

Things to Avoid and Consider

Once you have decided on a space, there are some practical considerations. Avoid hanging an original acrylic or oil painting on stretched canvas in a damp environment like a bathroom as the moisture in the air can cause the frame to expand or crack, putting strain on the painting and creating ripples in the paint. You also want to avoid hanging the artwork where it will get direct sunlight as this will cause the paint to fade and the varnish on the wooden frame to discolour. Likewise, don’t hang the work near open fireplaces or heaters as the excessive heat can cause the paint to bubble or crack, and the wooden frame to weaken or warp (Stella Art Conservation, 2021).

The material your walls are made out of and the size, weight and shape of the painting you’re hanging all need to be considered before you even go near a hammer and nail. Think, can I drill into tile or brick? Will my plaster walls even hold paintings, and how do I find studs in the walls? (Architectural Digest, 2017).

Tools to hang an artwork. Courtesy of Shutterfly, 2020.

Gather the Hardware

Before you choose the hardware, you need to find out the maximum weight each piece can hold. You can find this information on the hardware’s packaging. To find out the weight of the art piece, you can try weighing yourself on a bathroom scale whilst holding the piece, then subtract your weight from this number (Today’s Homeowner, 2021).

To hang an artwork on plaster or drywall you’ll need these tools to start: a hammer, measuring tape, a pencil and painter’s tape. Lightweight, small paintings can be safely hung with screws or nails for sawtooth and D-ring picture hangers, and traditional metal picture hooks work better with frames fitted with wire hangers. If the hanging hardware needs to be attached to a wall stud, any hanger rated for the weight and type of frame will do. For larger paintings that require more than one person to hold it against the wall, you will need to consider using toggle or molly bolt wall anchors on plaster or drywalls with no stud present. Do not use nails or screws if you’re hanging on tiles as you’ll need strong, low-profile adhesive hooks, and if you’re hanging on brick, use brick clips/clamps. (Architectural Digest, 2017).

Positioning the Artwork

One of the most common mistakes people make when hanging artwork is hanging it too high or too low. This mistake can really alter the feeling of the work and the space. By hanging it too high, the art piece will look like it’s floating and won’t feel connected to the interior decor of the room. When hung too low, it can really make a room feel like it’s closing in on you. The standard rule of thumb for hanging an artwork is to line up the midpoint of the painting at eye level. Since the average height is 57,” you will need to measure: 

57” average height +  ½ the height of the painting = hanging height from the floor for the hook/nail

Or, to make it simpler, hang your artwork so the centre hangs at 60-66” up from the floor. This eye-level height is standard for galleries as it is comfortable for the majority of people. By using these methods, the painting will have room to breathe against the wall, and will be integrated into the room as a whole (Affordable Art Fair, 2017).

Woman hanging artwork. Courtesy of Shutterstock, BearFotos, 2021.

When you’re hanging artwork in rooms such as the personal office, dining room or living room, you’ll need to judge the position and height of the artwork from a sitting position. The best way to do this is to sit across from where you’ll be hanging the piece and have a helper hold the artwork against the wall, moving it around so you can decide where it suits best. The piece should hang low enough so that you can enjoy the work from where you’re sitting, without having to back up or strain your neck looking up (Under The Roof Decorating, 2021).

Positioning the Artwork above Furniture

Hanging your acquired artwork above a couch, set of drawers or dressing table is an excellent way to create a focal point in your living room or bedroom. The general rule of thumb is that your artwork should not be wider than the piece of furniture itself as it will overwhelm it rather than enhance it. To create balance in the space, the bottom of the art piece or its frame should hang 8-10 inches above the back of the sofa and at least 4-8 inches from a table top. The length of the painting should also be close to two thirds of the length of the item of furniture (Under The Roof Decorating, 2021).

If, for instance, your couch is positioned off-centred on the wall, the painting should still sit centred above the couch and not the wall, so as to create a lovely focal point in your living room. If done otherwise, the entire furniture arrangement would look completely out of balance (Under The Roof Decorating, 2021). Refer to the diagram below for the aforementioned tips:

Pikilyi Jukurrpa By Selina Napanangka Fisher - Original Painting - 122X61cm. Courtesy of Yarn Gallery, 2021.

Marking the Wall

Step 1: Once you’ve positioned the artwork on the wall, mark the top and bottom edge of the frame with a strip of painter’s tape on the wall, making sure the frame is sitting straight. Remember, if you’re hanging a heavy piece that requires support from a wall stud, make sure you use a stud-finder to position the work.

Step 2: Mark each edge of the frame on the tape and remove the picture. Find the width of the frame and divide that by two. Then, measure this distance in from the painting edges and mark these points on the tape.

Step 3: To find the centre of the painting, split the difference between these two marks that were just calculated.

Step 4: Turn the painting over and use your tape measure to measure from the top of the frame to the point in which the painting will hang. For works with one hanging point and a hanging wire, hook the metal end of the tape measure onto the centre of the hanging wire. Pull upwards until the hanging wire is taut, then measure the distance to the top of the frame. This measurement will be for the hanger location on the wall.

N.B - if you will be using sawtooth or D-ring hangers for your painting, hook the measuring tape onto the top of the frame and measure straight down to where the wall hanger will be attached.

Step 5: Go to where the centre point of the painting was marked on the painter’s tape on the wall. Then, measure down to where the hanger location will be, using the measurement calculated in step 4.

Step 6: Next, use a level to make sure that this hanger location mark is sitting flush to the strip of tape.

Mina Jukurrpa by Pauline Napangardi Gallagher - Original Painting - 152x107cm. Courtesy of Yarn Gallery, 2021.

Hanging the Artwork

Step 7: If you are hanging onto a plaster wall or stud, always drill a pilot hole first to prevent the plaster from cracking. Then, screw the screw into the pilot hole, leaving it to protrude enough so that you can loop the saw tooth or frame hanging wire over the screw, the same way as you would with a nail and hammer. If this is not an issue, then you can just hang your frame as per usual with a good-old hammer and appropriate-sized nail - and voila!

N.B - It is important to note that the hanging location marked on the wall and the location that you actually attach the wall hanger onto may differ. This is because the frame hook extends down from the screw or nail holding it. To prevent mispositioning the painting, mark the lowest point of the hook at the hanging location mark before screwing or nailing in the hardware to the wall.

Step 8: After suspending the painting on the hanger, remove the strips of painter’s tape, and use a carpenter’s level to make sure the painting is sitting straight.

We hope these tips of how to hang your artwork like a pro have inspired you to hang up your gorgeous paintings, or to even consider incorporating First Nations art into your decor, whether at home or the office. By doing so, you are not only celebrating one of the oldest living cultures on the planet, you are  communicating respect and recognition for the First Nations artists who put their heart and soul into these magnificent works. 

You can browse the beautiful collection of Indigenous artworks on Yarn Gallery here. To find out more about Yarn Gallery, check out our previous blog here. For further inspiration, check out Yarn Gallery's Instagram here!

For further enquiries about the acquisition of an artwork, simply call or email our Customer Service team and we can forward you to Yarn’s Art Consultant.