DIY : Pro Art Hanging Guide for Pros, or Where to Hammer the Nails

Hey so you want to hang an artwork in an art gallery, or host a DIY pop-up exhibit, or you just bought a piece from a friend that’s going to hang over your bed or your desk. Hanging it should be easy, right? Well, almost. Unless we’ve way way way over-complicated things (which is a possibility), here’s Pro Art Hanging Guide for Pros, a somewhat essential guide to hanging art and figuring out where the nails go, from your friends at Centerfold 😇.

If you want to hang like a pro, then it’s going to take some paper, pencils (also a pen?), and a calculator; among other hardware tools. That’s why we made this guide. Anyways let’s get started:

Determining Horizontal Spacing

1. Measure the total wall space you want to hang on.

2. Measure widths of all the artworks going on the wall.

3. Decide on the arrangement.

  • If they are part of a set, then there should be either 3 inches, 6 inches, or 9 inches between them.
  • If they are not part of a set, then they should be equally spaced out on the wall.

4. Do the math! This is what you’ll need.

  • The total width of the wall
  • The total width of all the artworks:
    artwork 1 + artwork 2 + artwork 3 + … etc
  • How much space will be in-between the artworks

Here’s the formula: 
width of the wall = [width of artworks] + [spacing between artworks in a set] + [both outside spaces AKA the edge]

5. Example:

a. Width of the wall = 200 inches
b1. Width of artwork 1 = 26 inches
b2. Width of artwork 2 = 30 inches
b3. Width of artwork 3 = 28 inches
c. Space in between artworks (where the ‘+’ symbols are in the image) = 9 inches
d. Using our formula: 
200 inches = [26 inches + 30 inches + 28 inches] + [9 inches + 9 inches] + both outside spaces (this is what we want to find out!)

Let’s solve this formula:

200 inches = 84 inches + 18 inches + [both outside spaces]
200 inches = 102 inches + [both outside spaces]
200 inches − 102 inches = [both outside spaces]
98 inches = both outside spaces

We have to divide this by 2 since this is for BOTH outside spaces. We want to space between the edge of the wall and the first painting to be the same as the space between the edge and the last painting.

98 inches / 2 = each outside space
49 inches = each outside space

6. Put it all together.

7. Now we know all the spacing. We don’t know where the nails have to go yet. Before we work that out, let’s figure out the vertical spacing (how high on the wall the artworks are going to be).

Determining the height of the nail

8. The goal here is to hang the artwork such that the center of the painting is at eye-level height. Eye-level height of the average person is 60 inches (tbh this is an approximate but it’s a nice nice round number so that’s what we’re gonna use 😇).

9. Decide on what the artwork will hang on:

a) If it’s a small painting, it can hang from the top of the strainer (nails at the top).
b) If it’s a small painting but there’s a vertical cross bar in the way, you’ll need 2 nails offset by a few inches from the center. You can use the top of the strainer for your measurements as in part a).
c) If it’s a large painting, it usually has both a vertical and horizontal cross bar and is heavier. In this case, we always hang from the horizontal cross bar.

10. More math incoming!!! This is what you’ll need:

10a) Eye-level height
10b) Half the height of the artwork
10c) The distance from the top of the canvas where your nail will be. If you’re hanging from the top of the strainer, you’ll will need to measure for ‘■’. If you’re hanging from the cross bar, you’ll need to measure for ‘⭑’.

Here’s the formula:

height of the nails = [eye-level height] + [half the height of the painting] − [the distance from the top of the canvas to the cross bar]

11. Example

Eye-level height = 60 inches
Height of the artwork = 26 inches
Distance from the top of the canvas to the bottom of the crossbar ‘■’ = 13.5 inches

Using our formula (Step 3):
Height of the nails = 60 inches + (26 inches / 2) − 13.5 inches

Let’s solve this formula:

Height of the nails = 60 in + 13 in − 13.5 inches
Height of the nails = 73 in − 13.5 inches
Height of the nails = 59.5 inches

12. Put it all together.

13. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each artwork.

14. Earlier, we figured out how the artwork is going to be spaced on the wall. We now also know how high each nail needs to be placed. But we’re still missing one last bit of info! If you remember, we only figured out the spacing between the ARTWORKS, we didn’t measure the space between the NAILS.

Let’s figure that out so we can get to the fun stuff and put the work on the wall.

You’re doing great so far!!!!! 😇

Determining where to hammer in the nails

15. Let’s recap all the information we already know or calculated earlier:

Width of artwork 1 = 26 inches
Width of artwork 2 = 30 inches
Width of artwork 3 = 28 inches
Space between the edge of the wall and the first painting = 49 inches
Height of the nails = 59.5 inches

16. Grab a blank piece of paper and let’s draw it out.

17. Notice what’s missing here??? Let’s take a second to think about it.

🤔

🤔🤔

🤔🤔🤔

🤔🤔

🤔

We only have the distance between the edge of the wall and the first painting; we need to determine the distance from the edge of the wall to the FIRST NAIL.

18. Let’s find this now:

We need to figure out the measurements ‘A’ and ‘B’, since this is where we’ll be hammering the nails in.

A tip — it’s easier to use the middle of the canvas as our reference point. Since we know the total; width of the painting, we can easily find half.

Formula:
Total width of the painting / 2 = half the width of the painting
26 inches / 2 = 13 inches

19. Ideally, we’d like to put the nail in the middle of the canvas. That way, the weight of each side of the painting is the same and the painting doesn’t lean to one side.

However, there’s a vertical cross bar, so we have to offset our nails by a few inches on each side.

We typically offset by 3 inches on each side.

So…

49 inches from the wall to the edge of the canvas
+ 13 inches from the edge of the canvas to the middle
= 62 inches from the edge of the wall to the middle of the canvas

Nail 1:
62 inches − 3 inches
= 59 inches from the edge of the wall to the first nail

Nail 2:
59 inches to Nail 1 + 3 inches to the middle + 3 inches to Nail 2
= 65 inches from the edge of the wall to Nail 2

OR
= 6 inches from Nail 1 to Nail 2

Now you know where your marking for Artwork 1 has to be.
Nail 1: 59 inches from the edge of the wall and 59.5 inches from the ground.
Nail 2: 6 inches from Nail 1 and 59.5 inches from the ground.

Hanging the Artwork

20. Your final drawing (Almost done!!!!!!!):

Repeat Steps 18 + 19 for each artwork. You can follow along with the diagram below, going from left to right. Remember, you have already calculated the height of each nail — it’s 59.5 inches in this example.

21. Assemble your team:

(You don’t need a laser level, you can use a bubble level, or even a marble)

22. Choose the type of nail:

23. Draw your markings on the wall:

24. Hammer in your nails at a 45° angle:

Perceptive readers will notice that our illustration isn’t 45°

25. Hang the artwork!!!

You might not get it exactly straight the first time, although it happens more often than you might think!
You should be close enough that you can make adjustments and straighten everything out.

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