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Mistakes Most People Make When Hanging Picture Frames

Every measurement you need to know to arrange pictures on a wall: how high to hang frames, how to hang a gallery, and how to get scale right.

decorating mistakes people make when hanging pictures

Hanging a piece of art or a group of picture frames on a wall seems like the easiest decorating task you could ever do. How hard can it be to hammer a nail into the wall and stick a picture on it, right?

But really it’s a dilemma I’ve seen a lot as a frequently asked question in the Bless’er House Budget Decorating Facebook Group. (You can subscribe here to get into the free decorating group.)

We’ve shared a LOT of gallery walls and art over the years, so I thought it would help to gather all of the art hanging tips in one place.

How high to hang pictures?

How far apart to hang art in a grouping?

How high should pictures be hung over furniture?

If any of those tricky picture frame hanging measurements have ever stumped you, this is definitely the post to save for the next time you start putting up wall decor.

black and white gallery wall going up stairs

Common Mistakes People Make When Hanging Picture Frames

Here are some common mistakes people make when hanging picture frames and how to avoid them.

1. Hanging Artwork Too High Above the Floor

One of the most common mistakes when hanging picture frames is not measuring properly. There actually is a specific number most professional decorators use to make sure artwork is hung at the correct height every time!

how high to hang picture from the floor

How High to Hang a Piece of Art

You want the very center of the picture frame or artwork to be 57 inches to 60 inches from the floor (or 145cm to 150cm).

This is universally considered to be “eye level”. Even if you have very tall ceilings, this measurement should still be the same. You could always raise this number slightly if you have a taller than average household, but you only want to raise it slightly.

how high to hang pictures in a pair

How High to Hang Picture Frames in a Group

The same rule applies to a grouping of picture frames. Treat the art grouping like one large piece of art. The very centers of the frames in an art grouping or gallery wall should still be approximately 57 inches to 60 inches from the floor.

Tip: Use the “Toothpaste Trick” when hanging art. Dab a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the hanger/hook on the back of the picture frame and press it to the wall. The toothpaste will transfer to the wall marking exactly where you need to place your nail or screw.

toothpaste trick to hang pictures

2. Hanging Picture Frames Too Far Apart

If frames have too much space between them, they lose relationship with each other and no longer feel like a collected group.

If frames are hung close together, the grouping can feel too crowded.

how to arrange pictures in a gallery wall
how far apart to hang pictures in a grouping

How Far Apart to Hang Picture Frames

When hanging a gallery wall or group of picture frames together, there should be 2 inches to 6 inches of space between each frame.

Be sure the spacing in a grouping is all consistent between each frame to maintain symmetry.

It’s important to measure the space where you want to hang the picture frames, use a level, and mark it with a pencil before you start drilling. This will help ensure that your picture frames are centered and level.

how far apart to hang pictures in a gallery wall

Tip: Trace your picture frames on leftover wrapping paper and cut them out to tape onto the wall to practice layouts (mark the nail holes on the paper too while you’re at it). Use the cut-outs to move the frames around until you’re happy with the layout. This will allow you to “try on” your gallery wall without making any accidental nail holes in the wall.

When deciding layouts in a gallery wall, start by hanging the largest picture first. Then, fill in around the large picture with smaller pictures.

how to arrange pictures in a gallery wall
how to arrange pictures in a gallery wall

3. Hanging Art Too High Above Furniture

The last important measurement to know when hanging artwork or frames is how to use your furniture as a guideline for height.

how high picture should be hung over sofa

How High to Hang Wall Art Over Furniture

When hanging above a sofa, dresser, or headboard, the ideal space should be 6 inches to 8 inches between the top edge of the furniture and the bottom of the frame.

In some cases, like if you have low profile furniture that sits lower to the ground than average furnishings, it’s hard to know how high to hang art so strike a compromise with Rule #1 by hanging art between 57 inches from the floor and 8 inches from the top of the furniture.

how high to hang picture over furniture

Tip: If your frames tend to hang crooked set on a single nail on a sawtooth hanger or get knocked sideways frequently, use a little museum gallery sticky putty to always keep frames level.

4. Not Considering Scale

What Size Art to Pair With Furniture

In the same relationship with Rule #3 between art and furniture, make sure you’re hanging artwork that isn’t larger than the piece of furniture underneath it. A small dresser with an extra wide canvas hanging above it will feel top-heavy and awkward.

Hanging a dinky small piece of art above a large sofa would seem off balance too.

For a general rule of thumb to decide the right scale, stick with art that is roughly two-thirds the width of the piece of furniture underneath.

DIY art hung above a dresser

What Size Art For a Blank Wall

If you have a large, blank wall in a room, you want to highlight it with a large statement-making piece of art to match its size.

If you try to hang a small picture frame on a large wall, it will seem out of place. (Sometimes you can break this decorating rule, but it’s tricky to do well.)

DIY large wall decor made from a shower curtain

5. Using the Wrong Hanging Hardware

Multipurpose Hanging Hardware Without Nails

Hands down the absolute best hanging hardware for picture frames in most cases are these 3M Claw Drywall Picture Hangers (believe me, I’ve tried them all). They are the best solution if you need to know how to hang pictures without nails or big nail holes but Command hanging strips aren’t heavy duty enough to do the job.

Best Hanging Hardware for Heavy Mirrors or Wall Decor

If you need to know how to hang a heavy picture or mirror beyond 45 pounds, a Hangman French Cleat does the job for us every time.

hanging a picture frame with claw drywall picture hangers

Light Hanging Hardware

We do sometimes use Command hanging strips on very light picture frames without glass, especially since they’re so easy to use for a gallery wall. Just be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging that requires you to press the strips to the frame and wall for 30 seconds each and set up with zero weight on them for at least an hour. (Most people miss that step.)

Use your best judgement, and when in doubt, especially when hanging art above a headboard or sofa that could potentially harm someone if it fell, go for the heavy duty hardware.

family gallery wall on a staircase in black and white frames

Hanging sentimental photography and art is the BEST way to make your home personally curated to exactly your style. The more you shop art secondhand on Facebook Marketplace, in thrift stores, and in antique shops, the more unique your home will be.

It just takes knowing the art hanging measurements professional interior decorators use to make your wall decor look completely effortless. Once you know the magic numbers for decorating your walls, all you have to think about is the fun part: picking pretty art you love!

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7 Comments

  1. Good informaation for a neglected topic. I do have one suggestion for your readers though. I used to hang pictures for the design firm forwhich I worked. There is a simple way to make sure that your pictures stay straight on the wall. I used a torpedo level to mark two places to put the nails. It is a good idea to equally tilt the nails upward as you nail them into drywall as the real strength of the nails is their ability to resist the shear force of the item in a downward direction. (FYI: a common straight pin can hold up to nine pounds if slanted while inserting into the wall and the picture wire is flush up against the wall.) Two nails keep the picture level. The distance between them doesn’t need to be a lot, but it should reflect to some extent the width of the item being hung. Try to find at least one stud for very heavy items like mirrors. At the typical distance between studs you can find some small leeway in hanging items at their middle. Remember that minor miscalculations will be hidden behind the item anyway. Often you can fill the hole with toothpaste or a dab of drywall patch. Do your math and try to anticipate potential problems and you should be just fine.

  2. Great in-depth post on picture hanging. The toothpaste trick is genius.
    The only time I broke the β€œrules” was I hung art, on either side of the window in my bedroom, a touch lower so it could be better appreciated from bed and seemed the right height over the slipper chair.