How to hang picture frames in a home space or gallery

Written by chris pink on April 18, 2014 in Picture Framing

How you should not hang picture frames

A poor example of picture-frame-hanging…it’s just too busy…and that plug-socket? Oh dear…


Looking around a room, it often appears that the picture frames hung themselves – that they are a part of the room that have always been there. Inside a gallery, for example, or within the home of a collector with years of experience in exhibiting their pieces, the appearance of frames and art can look effortless. This being the case, it can seem like there is nothing to learn when hanging one’s own pictures. That all that is needed is some enthusiasm and a bit of common-sense.

Yet when executed badly, an exhibition can verge on looking ridiculous. In this handy tutorial, we’ll explain how to avoid the picture frame hanging no-nos and create an exhibition in any space that looks the part.

Step 1: Organising what you’d like to hang/show

It’s a fact that it’s hard to keep adding art to a room and keep it looking good – particularly if all the frames are different sizes. So, to start with, it’d be good to hang at least one painting on each wall. Two is preferable. It will allow you to visually judge the weight of the paintings within the space and make vital comparisons (looking at the negative space between paintings is often the best way of doing it).

So, you’ll need to gather together all the framed works-of-art that you’d like to hang. If they’re a similar size, great, but if not, don’t worry too much now.

If you’re completely starting from scratch then it may be wise to try and use framed-art that is one of two or three sizes. This will allow for proper consistency and make your life a lot easier.

Step 2: Now you have your art, you need to make a sketch of where you see the art hanging

Hanging picture frames is a greatly debated thing. There is no true right or wrong (although there are things which many people strongly believe are right…and wrong!). Because this is a home exhibition you are doing, don’t worry too much about what the done thing in general is. Follow the guidelines, but remember that you’re the one who has to look at it in the end!

Making a sketch is always a sound idea because it enables you to accurately gauge the space. You can do this by eye, or you can measure the walls and work out how much space will fit between each picture. It goes without saying that you need an equal space wherever possible between the horizontal and the vertical sides of the frames.

A very important note, too: it sounds very obvious (and it is!) but you want to see your frames (the majority of them, at least) at eye-level. That is, you want the centre of the picture to be around eye-level. If you only have a larger piece, use this. If you only have two smaller pieces, then it’s OK if the upper one is slightly above your eye-level, and the second one is slightly below.

Step 3: Be wary of going overboard…

If you have a lot of paintings and not much space, it can be incredibly tempting to try to fit them all onto the wall. And with enough time spent, you probably can. But does that mean you should? Probably not, actually. You don’t want the room to be crowded to the point where 50 paintings or photographs are vying for your attention!

There are always exceptions, however. One would be that if all your paintings are the same (or similar) style, and they are reasonably small, you can probably get away with hanging quite a lot (as long as they are in discernible rows). But remember, the larger the piece, the larger the space needed around the piece!

Lastly, never hang paintings too close to the floor. They simply can not be appreciated this way, and besides: the frames are destined to get scuffed.

Hanging picture frames advice online

This illustration depicts a much better idea! While there is a slight issue with some of the paintings not being a similar size, the consistent space between the frames (and far nicer location of the plug-socket) means that the viewer can focus on enjoying the art


Step 4: Balancing colour

Colour is a critical consideration when you prepare to hang your pieces. It will dictate not just the look but the feeling of the room…and, thus, the effect it has on you and your visitors over time.

So you’ll need to give this some thought. If you have strikingly contrasting paintings, you may wish not to hang them together – unless the entire theme is abstract art and the clashing colours is what gives the theme its identity.

Otherwise, try and fade colours in as and when appropriate (as with more traditional paintings).

 Step 5: Other considerations

Will all your pieces have glass? Will the frame widths be different sizes/finishes? If so, try to separate them as best you can into certain styles. Equally, ensure that you can hang paintings all the way around the room and that plasterboard or pipes will not be a problem (plasterboard will dictate that only a certain weight of painting may be hung, while pipes may mean you have to alter your current plans).

Step 6: Unusual styles

Nobody’s saying you have to hang paintings in strict rows. You could stagger them diagonally, hang them in circles or other patterns. As ever, the key is consistency. Get this right and the rest should follow.

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