Category Archives: hanging art

Keys to Successfully Hanging Art on the Wall – Part 2: Hanging Two Pieces of Art

In this segment of the series, we’re going to address hanging a pair of art pieces.  This assumes they are hanging together.  If there is something large between them like a window, a door, a mantle or bed, etc., treat them as individual pieces and refer back to  Keys to Successfully Hanging Art on a Wall for those tips.


Key #1:  Treat the Pair Like a Single Composition.

You want the two pieces to complement each other and be seen together as a single composition.  The way to do that is to keep the distance between them proportionately small relative to the size of the art.  We’ll talk about what that distance should be in the hanging instructions, but the goal is to allow the eye to see them as a unit.

Here you see how the small distance between the two paintings creates a single visual composition.

Pair of images that read as single composition

Here, where the two paintings are placed further apart, they are seen as separate, to be viewed individually:

When placed with too much distance between them art pieces are perceived as individual, separate pieces.


Key #2.  Make Sure There is a Clear Relationship Between Pieces

There should be something the two images share in order to be successful as a composition.  The two examples above are also helpful in demonstrating this.  The pair in the first example is similar in size and is related by subject matter, color and painting style.  The second pair doesn’t share any clear visual relationship, so again, is seen as two separate pieces to be viewed individually.

Other examples of related elements could be color,  texture, shape, or perhaps having the same kind of frame.   The art  can be anything that can hang on a vertical surface, whatever suits your fancy.  Just remember their relationship must be clear.  Here are a few examples:

In this first example, the subject and the frames are related, as are colors and textures.

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Here are two variations of a theme, sharing the same frame and size.

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Here, color, sensibility, subject, size, all relate to each other.

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Key #3  Use The Relationship to Help You Arrange Your Art

You want your art pair to be seen as if the two are “speaking” to one another.  Look at the focus, or movement, or color flow, or lines, etc within the art pieces themselves.    There are two principle ways you’ll see this.

Movement:  Pretty much every piece of art contains movement depicted in some way.  It could be the strokes of the paint brush, the way color flows through the image, the texture, or orientation of shapes.  Look  at them – feel them if it’s not obvious – and lay them out to see how the two will move toward, rather than away from, each other.

In these two pieces, you can see that the horses seem to be moving toward one another.

Asian Horses from High School

In the paintings below, you can see how the branches of the trees seem to flow from one piece to the other, connecting them visually.

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Rhythm/Repetition:  Another type of arrangement might be based on how the image repeats itself in a rhythm. This is used more in a collection of images, but it can be noticed in just two as well.

Here the repeated element is the shoreline and the presence of a cove in the lower half of the images.

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Here the keys are not only facing one another, but the pattern within their design repeats – the curving shapes leading down to the vertical line anchored by a nob at the bottom.

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Key #4  Create a Relationship Between Your Art Pieces and the Rest of the Space

Where you hang the art is also important.  As I discussed in Part 1 of the Series, keep in mind the overall composition and how the art relates to it.  Everything in a space affects everything else and the overall feeling you get when you’re in it.  We are sentient beings, and can feel a space more than we see it.  Our bodies work as a sort of antenna to help us navigate through our environment safely.  The overall ‘sensibility’ of a space is determined by the relationships among all the elements within it – whether they are in harmony with one another, or in discord.

Here is a graphic example depicting on the left, how a chosen piece of art can appear out of place, or ‘off’ if placed on the wall with no relationship to other elements in the room, and on the right, how that could be done (somewhat) better.  This shows only one piece, but the the same is true regardless of the number of pieces you are hanging.

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Notice below how the art is off balance with the rest of the arrangement.  The two pieces feel like they’re hanging out in space relative to the furniture.  The overall composition would feel more balanced if the art was centered over the sofa and there were two lamps connecting them to the furniture pieces. Also, art over a sofa should not be larger then, nor extend beyond it.

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TIP: Art over a sofa is best proportioned in relation to it when it is between 2/3 and 3/4 the width of the sofa.

If you have an empty space adjacent to a piece of furniture or a grouping of such, make sure the art relates to that in a pleasing and cohesive way.

In this example the art is on an adjacent wall, but still feels like it belongs to the arrangement of the dresser and the vignette created on it.

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Art can also act as a visual extension of furniture, and placing them close together will successfully evoke this feeling.

In this example the art becomes the focal point in an otherwise monochromatic and potentially boring setting.  The dramatic nature of the art is enhanced by the neutrality of the sofas and invites you to come close and be part of this scene.

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TIP: Balancing act… Be careful with this.  In this space, there needs to be something dark to anchor the drama of these paintings.  A dark coffee table (smokey stone would look awesome), or a rug with a strong geometric pattern.  Balance is critical. (A story for another time…)


Key #5.  Pay Attention to Scale

Not only do the two art pieces need to relate to each other in scale (one tiny one with one huge one would look silly), but the composition they create should also relate in scale to the space in which it is placed.  Go back to the earlier examples and notice how the wall art fits into the visual context of the room.  The more of the space they take up, the more important they become. When they are small relative to their surrounding space, they can get lost, look skimpy or become unimportant.  Your eye isn’t drawn into them, but instead wanders across the scene looking for something to settle on.

Below, the green wall draws your eye  more than the pictures do.  If the wall were white, those pictures would be lost on it.  (Coloring accent walls is another way to create context, but that’s a subject for another post.)

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This image is a great example of what NOT to do with art on the wall.  Too high, to far away from everything, to small and completely unrelated to anything else in the room.  Your eye goes right to them, but for all the wrong reasons.

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Here again, the art is very small.  Too small even for this mantle vignette. They would better serve the overall effect by being placed on the mantle on easels as part of a cohesive composition.  Overall, this vignette is scattered and unrelated.

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Key #6  Create a Relationship Between  Your Art and YOU

Not only do you want your art to relate to what is around it, but it also should relate to YOU.  Your perspective of it will either enhance your experience of it or detract from it based on where you place it on the wall.

Hanging art above your line of sight detracts from your experience of it.  Larger pieces placed too high make you feel insignificant and small.  Small pieces placed to high become insignificant in themselves and are typically ignored.

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Here is this photo again.  Need I say more?

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Here’s the  key to how high to hang art:

Set the center at eye level (in general about 57″- 60″ off the floor).

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If there are people of considerably different heights in your home, average out their eye levels and place the center of the art or grouping half way between that of the tallest and shortest people.

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If the pair of art pieces are tall, and are aligned next to one another,  place the focal point within them at eye level, as in this image.

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If you have two pieces hanging over one another, the center of those two pieces should be at eye level.

In this image, due to physical constraints, the art is hanging at proportionate distances from the floor and the ceiling on an empty wall, treating the entire wall as a frame for them.  You may run into these constraints, and the rules can always be set aside for a grander vision of the composition as noted in Key #4.
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Exceptions to the rule! 

When there’s a piece of furniture below the area in which you’ll hang the art, go back to the images above and note their relationship to those objects.  Notice where art is hung relative to a table and a lamp; a sofa or a chair.  The most visually pleasing and harmonious relationship among all the pieces including the art, is the height at which you should hang it.  The height above a sofa or chair is typically 8″, but you should determine what looks best and feels most harmonious in your space.  Generalities sometimes don’t apply. Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 10.13.22 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-03 at 10.11.57 PM Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 10.17.49 PM


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Key #7   Determine the Best Way to Align Your Art

You can do as you see above, aligning the pieces horizontally.   But they can also be aligned vertically if space allows,

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Or you can offset them.  Notice how the devil and angel sculptures nest into each other in the photo below, expressing their relationship (I like how the angel is higher, too… perhaps an unconscious affinity expressed by the person hanging them?).

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This works well with non-rectangular pieces,  and can also be utilized to hang two pieces of different sizes or proportions.


Be careful though.  Sometimes Relationship and Alignment can be stretched beyond the limits of what works as a pair. The photo below demonstrates this. The two images really aren’t having much of a conversation.  They have two entirely different sensibilities.  This is a hard factor to quantify but you can usually ‘sense’ the difference.  Also, the offset doesn’t enhance your visual experience f the pair.

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So, now that you’ve got the design factors all settled, it’s time to actually hang these pieces on the wall.  I’m only going to address framed art in this post, as this is where a smallest mistake can make the biggest difference.  But if you have other objects you want to hang and need help, post an image of them in the comments section below.  It’s likely that other readers will benefit from your question and the answer.


Key #8.  Hang Your Art in Perfect Alignment

If you are hanging two pieces horizontally, and the tops are aligned, perfect alignment is essential.   When the pieces are off, by even 1/8″, it will be jarring to your eye. Even if your eye doesn’t pick up this level of difference, your inner sense of balance will.  So let’s get down to brass tacks about how to accomplish this.

You’ll need:

  • A long level (long enough to reach across at least half of each image.
  • A tape measure
  • A pencil (test in an inconspicuous place to make sure your pencil marks will come off with an eraser,  a ‘magic eraser’, or a sponge. )
  • A Hammer
  • Adjustable picture hangers (available online here as well as other sources.  Search “adjustable picture hangers” to find them).  They ‘re long, between 3’ and 4″, so make sure your art will allow for this behind the picture without showing above the top.  If this won’t work, you’ll have to be even more careful that the hooks you use are perfectly placed when hanging the images.  Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 2.11.33 PM




  1. Measure the height from the floor at which the center, or focal point, of the pictures will hang and draw a horizontal mark on the wall (about an inch long).
  2. Then measure from the center point on the picture to the top of the frame.  Measure that distance up from your mark on the wall and make a second horizontal mark there.
  3. Place your level (making sure it is level) at this mark and draw a line across the wall long enough to reach at least half the total width of your two pieces. This will be the line you will be using to make your adjustments on the hooks.Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 2.29.18 PM
  4. Now it’s time to determine how far apart you want them to be.  To get this dimension, lay your pieces out on a table or the floor and visually note how they will best speak to you as one.  The distance you choose will depend on the size of the pieces and the space in which they’ll hang.  The larger they are the farther apart they can be; 1″ being minimum and 6″ being maximum – 2″ to 3″ being most common.
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  5. Now, look at the space in which you’ll be hanging them to determine where on the wall they will best fit into the overall composition of that space.  Remember Key #4.Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 9.59.46 PM
  6. Measure the width of the space in which you want to hang the art pieces. and find the center point of that space.  Mark that with a vertical mark on the level line.
  7. Measure the overall width of your two pieces, including the space you’ve determined between them and mark the outside points of that dimension on the wall  with vertical marks on the horizontal level line.
  8. Lean the art pieces agains the wall to double check that their width will be proportionate in size to the width of the space in which they’ll hang and that they are in good relationship to the other objects in that space.  Make adjustments now.
  9.  Next, you need to determine how far down from the top  of your pictures, the top of the adjustable hook will be when hanging.  To do this, using your hook, pick up the picture by the wire and measure from the top of the hook to the top of the picture.  If the two are off by a little bit, you’ll have to make adjustments on the hooks once the images are hung.  Using the shortest of your two measurements, measure down from your horizontal level line and draw another one of similar length at that point.  Again, assuring your level is level.
  10. Now measure the width of each piece individually.  Divide that dimension in half and add HALF of the amount of the space between.  For example:
    1. Total width of framed piece = 24″
    2. Half of that is 12″.
    3. Space between them is 2″.
    4. Half of that is 1″.
    5. So in this example your next measurement will be 13″.
    6. Measure out the actual distance you calculate from the center line you drew across the lower level line in both directions and make vertical marks at each point. This marks the center TOP of the adjustable hook you’ll be hammering into the wall.
  11. Place the center top of of the hook where these lines cross for each image and attach according to the directions on the package.  Hold them as steady as possible so they don’t move while you’re hammering the nails into the wall.
  12. Erase or wash off the lower level line and the center of the top level line.
  13. Hang your pictures and adjust the hooks to make sure their tops are in perfect alignment!

If your images are small and lightweight, you can alternatively use removable Command hook and loop hangers to hang them.  In this case, you’ll draw all your centering marks on the TOP line and skip steps 10, 12 and 13.

TADAA!!!  You did it!  Your pair of art pieces are hanging in perfect alignment, in perfect placement on your wall and you have created an overall composition in your room that is really lovely.  Congratulations!

If you have questions, or want to post an image of your success, or want to add anything to this post, please do so in the comments below.  I look forward to hearing from you.


The final post in this series will be “Keys to Successfully Hanging a Grouping of Art on the Wall”.  Check back soon!



Keys to Successfully Hanging Art on the Wall #1 in the Series

I get a lot of requests for help hanging art on the wall. It seems to be challenging to get it right; where it should go, how it should relate to the rest of your room, how high it should be, and how to actually do the hanging.

We’re going to start here with hanging ONE picture on the wall.  In this post we’ll cover all the why’s of hanging art, so we can focus on the ‘art’ of arranging it in later ones.  Then we’ll move on to a row or column of art pieces; and then to groupings.  Finally, I’ll show you lots of unconventional options for displaying your art including some guidelines for making that work.


Let’s say you just found a piece of art your really love; and you want to hang it up right away.  You have a wall in mind, but you’re not sure if it will be right in that spot.

Here are some things you will want to consider:

  • What colors are in the art?  Do they coordinate with the colors in the room?
  • Will this be a focal point, or is there something else in the room that draws most of the attention?  If so, will this art support that other object or compete with it?
  • What else will be around it?  Lamps, draperies, cabinets or furniture that stand away from the wall?
  • How big is the wall upon which you want to hang it? Does the art fit the wall?


The most important thing to remember about good design is that everything, EVERYTHING, is related.  Nothing exists in isolation.  You might find something you love in a store only to bring it home and discover it is all wrong in your space. (TIP: take photos of your rooms with you when you go shopping to help minimize this.) So, let’s go through the list above one at a time to make sure you’re choosing the right place to hang your beloved art.


Does the color in your art reflect or coordinate with what you already have?  It doesn’t have to match, but it should relate.  There should be a color in it that is carried through in some way to other objects in the room.

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In this image, the grays of the rocks relate to the gray sofas. The overall impression of the colors in the art enhances the color scheme of the space.


A focal point is the one thing to which your eye is most powerfully drawn in a space.    Here are two examples in which the art is the focal point.  Which one feels better to you?

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My eye is so drawn to the image on the left that I would have a hard time giving my full attention to the people in the room.  The one on the right is better proportioned for the space and for human interaction and comfort.  These are examples of scale, another aspect of how how things relate to each other in a space.

Here’s an example in which the art isn’t the focal point of this room during the day.  At night it would be.   Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 1.17.28 PM

What catches your attention in this space first?  That’s the focal point. For me, it’s the windows. During the day, my eye would be drawn to the view through them. At night, my eye would go to the well-lit painting.


As noted, nothing exists in isolation.  Often you have other things on the same visual plane with the art you’re wanting to hang.  This is not a bad thing, and is the norm in most styles of living. (Urban and Minimalist styles are the typical exception.)

In this image, there is a lot to look at; lamps, pillows on the sofa, accessories on the table.  The art here coordinates with the color, scale and placement of all the other objects.  Your eye is drawn to it as the focal point but there are other things of interest to look at as well.

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Does it feel good to you?  Are the other objects distracting or do they support the art and vise versa? (Hint: there is one object that feels out of place. Can you identify it? What makes you choose this object?)


Now to the crux of the matter.  Does your art fit the wall upon which you want to hang it?  Is it too big, too small or just right?  The next step is to determine the relationship of the size of your image to the space it will occupy.  It should fill between 1/3 – 5/8 of the space.  Anything smaller than that feels lonely.  Larger feels crowded if not given room to ‘breathe’.  The more dramatic the art the more true this is.  More subtle art can be bigger and not feel overwhelming.

Here are some images that will help you SEE what I’m talking about:

This oneis deceiving, but expresses scale well.  The picture is hung at about the right height, but looks too high due to the extremely low sofa and the change in wall color above. It’s more of an eyesore than an effective focal point.  It also makes the art look too small on the wall.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 1.08.13 PMWould you feel comfortable in this space? Does it feel balanced and pleasing?

Here the image is clearly too small for the space and appears lost, having no relationship with anything around it.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.09.56 PMHow would you change this (assuming it’s the art you’re in love with) to make the picture fit better in the space?

This image shows art that is too big; and in which the subject matter exacerbates the problem.  The larger-than-life human reference overpowers the room.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 1.13.15 PMDo you agree, or do you feel that the power of the image sets the tone for the room?

Here, the picture, although small for the wall upon which it is hanging, demonstrates good scale between the lamps that flank it.  it would be better if the lamp shades were more interesting; a unique shape, something painted on them, some way to draw your eye other than just their whiteness and linearity.Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.06.45 PM

What would you to to improve this space?  It’s a great start but falls short of great design.

Ok, so now let’s assume you’ve figured out the best location for your art.  Next , I’ll help you determine where on the designated wall to hang it.


  • Draperies
  • Moldings
  • Cabinetry
  • Furniture
  • Light Fixtures
  • Centered or not?

First – measure the width of only the blank wall.  Do not include anything that your eye will not see, or that is interrupted by an object like lamps or moldings (or even a change of plane or color).

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Measure here from drapery edge to drapery edge,not window to window.

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Measure here between the drapes and the corner.

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This example shows what happens when the draperies are not factored in. Do you see how the painting looks crowded into the corner?

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 2.39.56 PMMeasure here from the outside edge of one  molding to the outside edge of the other to get the space between them. Notice how the window molding is wider than the door molding.  If you measure frame to frame, the picture would end up off-center just a little bit, which would be very disturbing in such a small space.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 1.14.47 PMThis one’s pretty obvious.  Measure the plane/color upon which the art will hang.

Sometimes there are cabinets, bookcases, corners, etc. that surround or are adjacent to the space upon which you want to hang your art. Similar measuring rules apply, but may need a little extra clarification.

Hanging a piece of art in a  corner like this is tricky because one rarely sees it straight on.  In this case, because it’s over the sink, it’s appropriate to hang it on center, so measure from the wall to the cabinet to find that point.

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In this image, there is a deeper cabinet to the right, and upper cabinets to the left, and the viewpoint changes as one moves through the room, so locating it’s best spot is challenging.  Measure from the upper cabinet to the larger one and find center.  Try it out with help while you move through the space and center it where you’ll see it most of the time.  Also, keep in mind balance.

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Here is a great example of a challenge we sometimes come up against, but is rarely considered.  There’s a door that opens against the wall upon which this art is hung, and a cabinet to the right.  Consider whether the art is viewed when the door is open or closed (as in a bathroom). Here,  as the door is mostly open, measure from the end of the open door to the cabinet and center it there.

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In the case of the bathroom, it might be viewed mostly when the door is closed, so it would not be a factor.


Do you want to hang your art as part of a grouping of other objects in which it won’t be hung in the center?  If so, you need to find balance in the space between what is next to it and the opposite end of an object that is ‘grounding’  the composition you’re creating; a table or a sofa or a carpet.

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In this image, the balancing object is the lamp on the right; and the grounding object is the table.   Find the center between the visually heaviest aspect of the balancing object (in this case the lamp base) on the side and the end of the grounding object. You may need to make adjustments for visual balance, so be willing to experiment a bit until it feels right. Creating vignettes is more of an art than an engineering project.

Anything that is asymmetric is always a balancing act.  Vignettes that are asymmetric are more interesting and graceful than perfectly symmetrical ones.  I’ll be covering this in greater detial in an upcoming class on arranging accessories and creating vignettes.


Most of the time, your art should be placed so the most important aspect of it, the focal point within it, is at eye level.  For most people this is approximately 5′ off the floor.  If you are very short of very tall, there is a danger of hanging the art too high or too low in relation to the rest of the room.  Use the 5′ measurement unless there is a compelling reason to raise or lower it.

One reason to raise it might be that there is a molding, a fireplace or paneling below, or picture rail above, that makes the 5′ placement feel awkward, or simply not fit at that height, as shown in the two images below.                                                                                                                                   Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 1.07.25 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-15 at 6.36.42 PM






A reason to hang art lower than the 5′ normal height is for the purpose of incorporating it in a vignette, as shown in the off-center image above, or if you’re hanging art in a child’s room (another subject for another blog.)


Here’s the skinny on how to actually hang that art, now that you know exactly where it should be hung.

Step 1.  Once you’ve identified the center of the space, or the location you want to be the center of the image (if off-center on the wall), place the art against the wall at the height you’ve determined will be best and draw a light pencil line on the wall at the top of the art at about the center.  If you can get help with this, your helper can hold the art on the wall while you smile and point and tell them to move it up  or down until you’re satisfied that it’s right.

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Step 2.  Mark the center point of the  wall, ( or the center of the art if hanging off-center) with a light vertical pencil line.  You can hold a small level vertically and draw the line down a few inches from the horizontal line marking the top of the art.

Step 3.  If the art is light weight and only needs one hook, hang the wire on the end tab of a tape measure (resting it lightly on the instep of your foot for support) and measure from where it’s hanging to the top of the art piece.  Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 7.47.30 PMStep 4. Measure down that distance from the horizontal line along the vertical line you drew on the wall, and make an X..  This marks the BOTTOM of the hook that you’ll use to hang it .

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Step 5. Hold the hook firmly agains the wall and slide the nail into the angled slot.  Tap gently on the nail so it makes a depression in the wall.  Keeping a firm hold, tap again to get the nail engaged in the wall and then hammer it in, making sure the hook doesn’t slide down as you’re hammering.


Step 1. Divide the width of the art by 3 and mark these lightly on the back paper about 1″ above the relaxed wire.

Example:  The width of the art is 24″.  24″/3=8″.  Mark two points on the back of the art paper, one at 8″ and one at 16″ from one side.

Step 2.  Divide the distance between the hooks by 2.  Measure that distance in each direction from center to find the location of the two hooks.

Example :8″/2=4″.  On the wall, mark one point 4″ to the right of center and one 4″ to the left of center.

Step 3.  Hold the wire at the two points with a ruler in one hand, pick it up slightly off the floor, resting it lightly on the instep of your foot for support, and check the dimension between one of the hanging points of the wire and the top edge of the art.

Tip: Measure twice to make sure you’re done it right!

Follow Steps 4 and 5 above, only instead of 1 center point, you’ll make an X at the 2 points you made on the wall.

Hang your art and level it using your level along the top edge and checking the little bubble to make sure it’s centered in the window.

So, there you have it.  Getting this right might seem daunting at first, but after you do a few of these you’ll get the hang of it (pun intended) and it will go more quickly and come more naturally.


If you need more support with anything I’ve addressed within this post, please ask in the comments below!  There are so many different situations that you might encounter that I haven’t covered here.  Others might be helped by whatever clarification I can add before we move on to the next level of hanging two pictures along a horizontal or vertical line.