Be a Good Storyteller
When you engage in the placement of a piece of art, you are setting out to tell a story. Artwork that has been hung correctly will not only show the piece better but can set the mood and tone for the room as well as direct attention to a specific focal point. Did you think you were just hanging a picture?
Layering the space strengthens your story. Photo CC: Erin Williamson
Technical Knowledge You Need
One rule, with exceptions, of course, is to have all artwork centered at eye level, regardless of it's height. Eye level is most commonly set to 60 inches. Determining where to hang your artwork to center over this sight line can feel a bit like a puzzle. There is a simple set of steps that will help, regardless of the size of the art. If you have several pieces of art in the room and hang them at eye level they will feel harmonious, no matter the overall size, style or subject of each piece.
- Measure from the floor to 60 inches up the wall and mark this spot.
- Measure the height of the item you want to hang and determine it’s center. The center point will be placed at eye level.
- From the point you marked for eye level, measure up the half the overall height of the art. Make a small mark on the wall to show where the top of the art will hit.
- Pull the wire taut on the back of the artwork. Measure the distance from the top of the artwork down to the top of the taut wire.
- Return to the mark you made on the wall showing the top point of the art. Now measure down a distance equal to where the taut wire would hit. This is the point where the bottom of the hook will rest.
Make Room for Nuance and Subjectivity
There are several additional things to take into consideration beyond this sight line. For your story and before you hang your artwork answer three key questions: what, where and how. What is around the art, where will it be viewed from and what is the intended impact on the room. This will lead to some subjective choices but there are a few key concepts that can help you when reviewing your options.
If you are hanging art over furniture it should never be wider than the furniture. The ideal ratio is 75% of the overall width.
When hanging your artwork over the fireplace create a strong focal point by selecting artwork that is the same size as the fireplace opening and center the art above it.
Perhaps the artwork is for an area such as the dining room where the site line will be lower. Hang your artwork lower but if it is above a sideboard remember to leave space below it for things like bottles and glasses that may be present when you're entertaining.
Over a couch? Follow a similar rule, leaving 5-10 inches of clearance so anyone sitting on the couch will not hit the art with their heads. Use taller work if you are in a room with low ceilings when placing art over a couch or chair. It will carry the eye up and create the illusion that your ceilings are higher than they are.
This "Super Sized" mirror makes the room appear larger and, placed behind the installation of coral fans, gives the viewer an experience of limitless space, such as one would feel seeing them on the ocean floor.
Photo CC: Burns and Berries
Art Groupings & Collections: A Special Magic
In this group the black and white art is a backdrop to the pink chandelier. Photo CC: Erin Williamson
Hanging a group of items together can have visual impact and it's a great way to create a 'large piece of art' since a group of pieces is treated as a single unit. For storytelling it can be especially useful: family photos or any grouping that centers around a collection of things or a similar theme will make a strong statement. If the pieces are the same size and you want to do a grid of images follow a simple rule of thumb. For small images hang them with about 2 inches between them. For larger images maintain a 4-inch space between the frames. The same spacing should be maintained horizontally and vertically.
In all gallery style groups, where work is not similar in size or shape, mark the area on the floor with tape at the same dimensions you will be working with on the wall. Play with placement before starting to hang any of the artwork. Once you have an idea of how you want to present it, measure the groups height to determine the center. Begin hanging the group starting with the piece that will hang at eye level and the vertical center of the group and then work out from there.
Practical Notes for Hanging Artwork
Aside from the esthetics there are a few practical considerations. Use two hooks for added stability. White picture (hanging) putty on the bottom back of the art frame will also keep it stable. To protect your walls use small discs of felt on the bottom back corners of the frames. These can also be used on the bottom of ceramic art so furniture is not scratched.
The next time you want to hang a picture think of the story you are telling and, before you make any new holes in the wall, answer each of the three questions: what, where and how. These tips will help you hang art for yourself or a client. There will be more pleasure in the result and the artwork will always show at it's best.
A good story makes even a small area one you want to linger in. Artwork: Patzer, Photo CC: Erin Williamson
What You Need
- Tape Measure
- Artists Eraser
- The Appropriate Hanger
- Picture Tack
- Felt Dots
- Masking tape
What is the appropriate hanger?
These hangers are for hollow walls. If you have any type of masonry or stone consult with a hardware specialist. Following is a general guide.
10 Pounds Single Hole
30 Pounds Single Hole
50 Pounds Double Holes
100 Pounds Three Holes