Have some art to hang on your walls but don’t know how to get started? Here’s the full and complete guide to how to hang a picture on any wall!
Hanging things can be intimidating.
I started to say it’s hard, but, honestly, it’s not! It just seems hard. It requires planning and prep work and patience and I’m generally short on all three of those things, so sometimes it’s a project that can feel hard when it’s really very simple.
I recently asked on Instagram what your most burning super simple DIY questions are. The kind of questions you’d be almost embarrassed to ask because it just seems like everyone already knows the answer but you.
There were tons of fabulous questions that rolled in, but there was one in particular I saw over and over.
How do you hang a picture?
There were dozens of variations on this question. How do you ensure art is straight? Where should I hang things? How do I make sure it doesn’t fall off the walls?
So, here we are. Let’s do a deep dive on how to hang a picture, along with all of my favorite tools and tricks to make the job easier!
Here’s a detailed video tutorial I shared over on Instagram for how to hang a picture. It’s about 9 minutes long, and walks you through every part of the process, including the math! This is great if you’re a more visual learner, or if need to hear someone explain it out loud to you.
Picture Hanging Tools
Here are some of the things I recommend having on hand if you plan to hang things. You won’t need all of these for every hanging job, of course, but if it’s your mission to fill your home with art, shelving, and more, you’ll probably want everything on this list at one point or another!
- LEVELS: If you want to hang something straight, you’ll need a level. I recommend having both a long level and a small level at your disposal so you can use whichever one works best for your specific purpose!
- A DRILL: This is a must-have for most hanging jobs. It’s not required for hanging a picture, but it can certainly make the job easier. Click here to learn how to use a drill. This is the drill I like to use.
- A STUD FINDER: Ideally, whatever you’re hanging should be drilled into studs whenever possible (more on this in a bit). A stud finder will help you find them behind the drywall! We like this simple magnetic one (which is the perfect option for plaster walls, too), but this is a great option as well.
- WALL ANCHORS: This is another topic I’d like to do a deep dive on someday! But, if you aren’t able to drill your screws directly into studs, you’ll typically want to add a drywall anchor. This helps prevent whatever you’re hanging from pulling out of the wall (because drywall isn’t very strong!), and allows you to hang something on the heavy side without going into the studs.
- HIGH & MIGHTY HANGERS: These tool-free hangers don’t work for everything, but if they’re compatible with what you’re hanging they make the job SO EASY! I also adore this option.
- THIS HANDY HELPER: I haven’t personally tried this picture hanging tool, but my dad swears it makes picture hanging much easier, so I’m including it here!
How to Hang a Picture
Now that you know what tools are good to have at your disposal, let’s dive into the specifics!
I’ll note that my experience is specifically with hanging artwork and picture frames in drywall. If you have plaster, brick, or other types of walls you’ll have a slightly different experience. I’ll address that below, though, so no stress!
The first thing we’ll do is a very general overview of the process for hanging art. This will apply to pretty much anything, though, so once you know the basic steps you can tweak them to meet your specific needs!
STEP ONE: Determine Where to Hang it.
Of course, your first step is always to figure out where you want to hang something. There are no hard and fast rules for where things should go, it’s just a matter of what you like. But, I can give you some general guidance to get you started.
If you’re hanging something…
- ABOVE A COUCH, it should be hung around 6-8 above the back of the sofa, and ideally the art should span around 1/2 to 2/3 the length of the sofa.
- ABOVE A TABLE/CONSOLE, it’ll look best around 4-6 above the piece.
- ALONE ON A WALL, the center of your art should be around 57″-60″ from the ground.
- ABOVE A BED, aim for 5-9″ above your headboard.
- IN A GALLERY WALL, you’ll want your spacing between photos to be anywhere from 1.5″ to 3″.
Of course, in general, rules are made to be broken! Use these numbers as a starting point, then hold the art up to the wall and see what you think. If you think it needs to go up or down, go with your gut. You’re the one who has to look at it all the time, so make sure you like it!
STEP TWO: Measure and Mark
Next up, you need to measure all the things to determine where to drill the holes for your piece.
Start by figuring out the general placement (see step one), and then using your stud finder to find out where the studs are. Use a pencil to lightly mark where the studs are in the walls. Remember, if you want to hang something where there isn’t a stud, that’s usually fine! It just depends on the weight of the picture. A lightweight picture can be hung right in the drywall – I’d recommend one of these monkey hooks for the best results. A heavier picture, however, will need to either be drilled into studs or hung with an anchor!
If you have some wiggle room with where you place it (for example, if you can scoot your console table down three inches so that the art lines up perfectly with a stud), then I’d recommend adjusting so that you’re able to drill into a stud. if not, no worries, we’ll address that in a minute!
Now, you could do a whole bunch of measuring, marking, and stressing about where to drill your holes. Or, you could use the easy method.
The painter’s tape hanging methoD
Grab a piece of painter’s tape and place it across the back of your art. Then, grab a pencil or a screwdriver and poke holes in the tape where the screws will need to go. Poke as many holes in the tape as there will be screws.
Once you’ve marked where the screws will need to be, pull the tape off the piece and place it on the wall at the correct height. To find this, you’ll need to determine the height of the top edge of the frame using the guidelines from step one. Then, subtract the distance from the top of the piece to the hanging mechanism.
Let’s say you’re hanging a piece of art at eye level (around 57″), and the art itself is 36″ tall. You can calculate that the top of the art needs to sit at 75″. Why?
- The center of the art needs to be at 57″, as we already determined.
- Half the height of the art is 18″.
- 57″ + 18″ = 75″
Now, let’s say the hanging mechanism on your art sits 3 1/2″ down from the top of the art. Subtract that from 75″ to determine that your screws need to sit at 71.5″.
Once you know how high it needs to be, place the painter’s tape on the wall at the correct height and the spot you want the art to hang. Use a level to make sure you place it level on the wall.
Then, move on to step three!
STEP THREE (NO STUDS): Add Anchors
If you’re just hanging a piece of art that weighs less than a couple of pounds, you’re fine to use a screw without an anchor (even if you can’t hit a stud!). But if you’re hanging something on the heavier side (or something you want to be positive won’t fall off the wall), anchors are a good idea, unless you’re able to drill into studs.
I won’t get too into the details here because it varies depending on the anchors you’re using, but I recommend that if you’re a beginner you stick to something like these anchors that you can drill directly into the wall using your drill!
Just drill the anchors directly through the tape and into the wall. Then, you’re ready to add screws!
STEP THREE (STUDS): Pre-Drill Holes
If you’re drilling into studs, you’ll want to pre-drill holes in your wall to make things easier. Grab a drill bit that’s about the same width as the screws you’re using and pre-drill a hole in the wall in the spot you’ve marked. Be sure to drill all the way until you can feel that you’ve gone into the stud a bit!
STEP FOUR: Add Screws and Hang!
Now, all that’s left to do is add some screws into the holes you’ve drilled (or into your anchors), leaving them sticking out enough so that the hanging hardware can catch on them, and hang your art!
Common Hanging Hardware
I think it’s worth mentioning that I’ve started playing around with these super simple picture hangers and these monkey hooks a lot. They’re really easy to use! They don’t work with all art, but I’d keep some on hand, and if you can use it, DO IT!
You literally just push it into the wall where you’d normally place a screw (like, with your hand – you don’t even need a hammer!), and hang your art. It takes three seconds and it holds up fabulously. This won’t work for every art piece, though, so I think it’s worth knowing the full process too!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a good rule of thumb for height?
I shared a bunch of great measurements earlier in the post, but generally speaking, 57″ is a great spot for the center of your art.
How do I hang a gallery wall?
There are no rules here, but I recommend about 1.5-3″ spacing between each piece of art. I recommend cutting pieces of newspaper or butcher paper the same size as your art and taping them to the wall in the arrangement you like before you put a single hole in the wall. Then, use the painter’s tape trick to mark the holes for them!
How about oddly-shaped objects or really heavy things?
Oddly-shaped objects: If there’s a hanger on the back, it’s no different than anything else! Use some painter’s tape, mark the locations of the holes for the hanger, and hang that bad boy up! Oddly-shaped objects feel intimidating just because they’re different, but the process is exactly the same!
Super heavy objects: Use anchors that can handle it! Most will have a label indicating how much weight they can hold – for example, these can handle up to 75 pounds!
What if it doesn’t have hanging hardware?
But, if it’s a lightweight object, I’d honestly just recommend sticking with some Command adhesive strips! The velcro strips can usually hold up to 16 lb (around 7 kg) and they hold up really well over time!
What if my art is REALLY heavy?
Use anchors that can handle it! Most will have a label indicating how much weight they can hold – for example, these can handle up to 75 pounds!
How do I hang things on plaster walls?
I had to do a little research myself for this one as I’ve never worked with plaster walls. They’re often found in older homes, and can be a tricky wall surface to work with.
Here’s what I learned: most light art can be hung in plaster walls using just one simple screw. Nails + plaster aren’t usually a good combo, so stick to screws! If you have something heavier, you’ll need to use anchors, just like with drywall. The key difference is you don’t want to use self-drilling anchors with plaster walls. Grab the kind that require you to pre-drill a hole and tap the anchor into place and you should be good to go!
I also recommend considering adding a picture rail if you have plaster walls! It’s a great way to add some really beautiful visual interest and can make hanging things so much easier.
What about brick walls/exterior walls?
You’ll need a masonry bit to pre-drill your holes if you’re drilling into brick or concrete. I’d recommend using these anchor screws. If possible, drill into the mortar and not the brick (it’s easier to drill into, but it’ll also hold up better).
Isn’t there a simpler approach?
Sure! For most lightweight art, you can just hammer a nail into the drywall and hang it from that. I’ve done this with small pieces over the years and it works just fine. But, if you have something a little more heavy duty or want to be sure it really stands up over time, you’ll want to use the method I outline above.
Command Strips can also be a really great tool for smaller, lightweight art (and they’re super renter-friendly!).
I made a mistake! How do I patch my drywall?
I wrote a post all about how to patch small holes in drywall right here – I promise it’s simple! But, to be honest, if the art you’re hanging will cover up your mistake, it’s fine to leave it and wait to patch until you take the art down someday. No one will know it’s there!
Now, go hang some photographs or art on your walls!