Picture collection - how to make it straight?
February 6, 2009 6:22 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to hang a collection of small-to-large picture frames so that 1) they're all straight - and 2) stay that way?

About a year ago, I made a 'family photo wall' with lots of pictures in varying sizes - about 25-30 pictures varying from 4x6 to 12x20. The pictures together form a rectangle on the wall, with the top of the top tier, the outside sides and bottom of bottom tier of frames lining up. I'm now hanging something else on this particular wall and want to move the collection to another wall. I've run into 2 problems:

1) It was really hard to get all the pictures to line up straight as needed. Because the frames are not uniform, there's a considerable difference in the distance between the hook and the top of the frame. I worked really hard at it the first time and it still didn't turn out exactly the way I wanted, so I'm looking for advice on how to do it better the next time. (Note: buying more uniform frames is not an option - I like the frames themselves very much.) Is there an easy tip I don't know about that doesn't involve measuring hook-to-top of frame distance to the millimeter for every single picture?

2) We have small kids and there is much potential for the pictures to get moved around and hang crooked. To eliminate this, I put doublesided stickytape on the bottom corner of most of the pictures - but that's causing the paint and plaster to come off the wall as I'm removing the pics. What's the best way to fix the pics in place when I redo the picture wall - with minimum damage to the wall?

Thank you very much for your help!
posted by widdershins to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have a wall of black and white photos of places my fiancee and I have been to, and what we did was put them sort of haphazardly on the wall, which I think looks pretty cool, and eliminates the need to match the hook spot on different frames. Also, we use that blue sticky stuff you can use to hang up posters, just a little dab on the bottom of each frame, and they haven't moved since! And we have a dog that likes to run along our couch, and hit her tail on all the pictures.

You can sort of see what the wall looks like here if you scroll down a bit. Just ignore my 'stache and face.
posted by Grither at 6:42 AM on February 6, 2009

Two hooks for each picture and a spirit level.
posted by fire&wings at 7:21 AM on February 6, 2009

I use 2 hooks per picture, I have hung series of pictures all aligned and had them come out nearly perfect. There really is no substitute for measuring the wire-to-top distance. factor in the distance between the hooks. I usually start at 6" for small pics and increase in 6 inch intervals.

If the wires are all totally different lengths, it may be good to adjust them so they are close to the same distance-from-top.

double hooks ensures they won't tilt while still allowing some horizontal latitude.

basic tools - metric and inch tape measure and a pencil. i measure down from the ceiling rather than eyeballing it or using a level.

a little more time spent doing it right means lots more time being satisfied with the results!
posted by KenManiac at 7:24 AM on February 6, 2009

Dittoing the "structured" haphazard factor. Roughly the same distance between each (by eyeballing it) but otherwise no "straight" lines anywhere. One of the biggest rules of design is that if things don't match up EXACTLY then make sure they aren't close to matching up AT ALL because otherwise the eye fusses on that "almost but not quite there" ness. So when I have my hubby hanging new items on the picture wall, the rule is "anywhere, so long as it's NOT lined up or CLOSE to lining up with anything else - if it's close, move it an inch or two in the other direction".

I've used museum wax in the past to hold frames in place on the wall, it's also great for leaning against the wall on a surface or for giving stability to breakables on surfaces with small kids or pets around.
posted by twiki at 7:36 AM on February 6, 2009

Best answer: When I'm hanging a bunch of pictures, I cut a piece of paper the same size as each frame, with a mark for where the hook needs to be on each sheet. Then I arrange them how I like (with tape) and nail the hook right through the paper. Rip off the paper and hang the pictures.
posted by pyjammy at 8:13 AM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I do something similar to what pyjammy does, except I additionally get a big piece of paper (newspaper sheets taped together are good for this) the size of the entire area I want to cover with the pictures. Then, I arrange all of the smaller pieces on the big piece on the floor (where it's much easier to measure), hang the big piece on the wall where I want it, hammer in the hooks, and then take all of the paper down.
posted by decathecting at 8:23 AM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: pyjammy, I really like the paper cutout idea! And Grither, thx for the blue poster putty idea - that doesn't ruin the wall or paint, right?

I do want the 'structured' look rather than organic - it goes very well with the different frames and the space. And unfortunately, a lot of these are 4x6 picture frames that don't come with wire - I could add the wire, but I think the paper cutout idea will work best.

Thx everyone!
posted by widdershins at 11:28 AM on February 6, 2009

Go to an art supply store and buy a giant sheet of paper. Measure the space you're working with on your wall, of course. Lay the sheet of paper on the floor (preferably not carpet) and then lay your frames down on top of it to get a feel for what you want your wall display to look like. Then, when you've got it how you want it, take a pencil and draw outlines of the frames on the paper. Measure how far down the back of the frame the hooks you'll be using will be on the picture frames... and mark the spots on the paper. Then, place the paper against the wall and you know exactly where each nail needs to be hammered.


This is especially handy for doing something creative. For example, I helped a friend of mine hang around 16 frames of various sizes in what looks like a cloud pattern... some are horizontal, some vertical, and two in the middle are hung diagonally. For the two diagonals, the art in the frames was cut down to size from a huge piece so it would be straight in a diagonal frame. It looks really cool! And since everything was marked on the paper while it was on the floor, it was easy to get everything in the right spots on the wall.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:38 PM on February 6, 2009

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