How to Hang Your Pictures Like an Art Gallery

Being an artist, it was only natural that my first job was working in the university art gallery. It was a fascinating experience for me, and while it included a somewhat painful amount of math for me, it taught me all there was to know about attractively hanging pictures. I warn you that there will be some mathematical formulas, but given that this is your home and not a business that is bound by certain laws, they are not mandatory to follow. Overall it boils down to a handful of basic rules and a fairly simple process. I’m not going to cover the process of setting up to hang a row of pictures on an entire wall, because if I am honest I do not remember the mathematical formula. Instead I’m going to focus on the rules and how to hang a picture at a specific height.

Note: These rules apply regardless of the whether you are hanging your pictures in a row or a column.

  • Rule 1: The centers of your pictures must line up. Not the tops, not the bottoms, the centers.*
  • Rule 2: There should be the same (visual) amount of space between each picture. This will change a little bit depending on the respective positions of the pictures, so your eye, rather than the ruler is law here.*
  • Rule 3: There should be more space between a picture and the corner/end of the wall than there is between pictures. Adding a little extra breathing room will keep the picture from feeling squished into the corner.

*Clusters of pictures may break these rules with the pictures outside of the cluster, but must follow them within the cluster.

That’s about the size of it, naturally the pictures should be level  and hung according to their orientation (portrait or landscape), but I figure you know that already. These rules exist to minimize anything that may distract from the picture and maximize the attractiveness.

Now, let’s say you want to hang a picture at a specific height. In a gallery, you measure from the center of the picture, since you want it to line up with the other pictures. This height is usually around 60 inches (this allows people in wheelchairs to view the pictures comfortably). The math for this one is pretty easy.

  • Step 1: Measure the desired height from the floor. In this case, 60″. Mark the place with pencil.
  • Step 2: Measure the height of the picture, then divide by 2. Let’s say the picture is 24″, so 12″.
  • Step 3: Add the two numbers, and keep note of the answer. 60″ + 12″ = 72″.
  • Step 4: Look at the back of the picture and find whatever hardware you are going to be hanging the picture from. Wire, hook, etc. Measure how far this is from the top of the picture. If it is a wire, be sure to pull it taught. Let’s say this picture’s hanging hook is 2″ from the top.
  • Step 5: Subtract this number from the previous number you got. In this case 72″ – 2″ = 70″. The number you arrive at is the height you want to drive the nail in the wall.
  • Step 6: Measure to the new height from the 60″ mark you put on the wall earlier. Drive the nail in here and hang the picture from it.
  • Step 7: Straighten the picture and see if it looks good. If it does, you are finished. Repeat these steps with each picture until you finish hanging them all.**

**If your floor has a slant to it, you will have to adjust the height of the pictures after going through the steps to ensure the centers line up. Use the measurements as a guide, rather than a rule.

Those are the basics. I may create a separate post to deal with how to attractively hang clusters of pictures, or to address any questions about this topic that require in-depth or more complex answers. That’s all you really need to know to get started hanging your pictures and other wall decor attractively though. If you’re not a perfectionist like me, you may even enjoy the process. Happy decorating!


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