Basics: which picture hanging fixture should I use?

Written by chris pink on July 4, 2014 in Picture Framing

Back when all you needed was a hammer and a nail, hanging a picture was a thing of simplicity. That doesn’t always seem so in the modern age, where one foul move can have you bursting a pipe, ruining some complicated electrics or destroying some cutting-edge plaster-board!

This week’s blog post covers all the basic fixtures you’re likely to use. So you don’t accidentally do that bad thing we just mentioned.

When a hammer and nail is appropriate

Let’s start with the picture framing staple of them all. The good news is that this technique is still just as effective as it ever was. You can bang a nail into brick, concrete, or any other hard surface which is solid all the way through (you should not use them in plaster-board…even if does sound thicker than usual! See below illustration).

The advantage of using a nail, of course, is that you can hang pretty much anything off it. That list includes everything from watercolours to canvases, clip frames and large oil paintings. Just watch out for any concealed electrical wires or pipes!

 Plaster-board fixtures explained

These fixtures can seem daunting, but in reality they’re simple devices designed to safely spread the load across a wall. For the most part, they come with 3 to 4 prongs that need to be banged in, securing themselves in place.

Best plaster board fixturesThis illustration shows 2 examples of nails used in plaster-board. The first is obviously a bad idea, but the second seems better. While there may be more to hold the nail/screw in place and some success may be had with the second technique, we would always advise you use the proper fixings for that particular type of wall.

Always be sure to check how much they can hold and use a hammer that is easily manageable to put them in. Not to mention, reading the instructions is a good idea!


The screw has long been viewed as something which can be used in any situation. In fact, this is wrong, as we’d hope most people would know by now! For a screw to be able to work effectively, it needs a good, solid foundation (for example, ancient brick won’t qualify). Unless you have that, there’s very little point wasting your time drilling.

That said, screws can be very helpful, and will be beneficial for hanging a large, heavy picture. Of course, wherever screws are involved you will need to be certain about the position of the art-work, so that’s always something to bear in mind!

Other techniques

Along with all the common ones listed in this blog, there are likely dozens more concepts that are coming out all the time. As the building industry progresses and creates new materials, the picture framing industry does its best to keep up. So, if you’re unsure what kind of wall you have, always ask an expert first. That way, you can hang your picture with the knowledge that you’re doing something that won’t get you into trouble.

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