Guidelines/tips for wall picture size/placement
March 12, 2014 3:43 AM   Subscribe

I have a room I'd like to hang some pictures in . I'm interested to know if there are guidelines on what size and number of pictures would look best.

I have ideas about what pictures I would like to hang but I'm interested to know - is there some sort of decorative rule of thumb which would suggest that a given piece of wall looks best with a certain size of picture on it ? Or if the pictures are going to be small how many and how widely spaced ?

Would be interested in any information in that line.

In case it matters the pictures would be framed prints.
posted by southof40 to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There are no rules as you can see from these many, many ideas and guides. What I will say is that inexperienced art hangers tend to hang way, way too high. Art should be hung at eye level. If you're doing rows, the bottom row should be eye level or lower.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:13 AM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Art is jewelry for your it where it pleases you. I've got art on a wall in my bedroom that is about three hairs below the ceiling so that I can lie in my bed and look up at it. That placement is considered too high for most people and it's not something I'd likely do in a common area but it's great for my purposes.

You can mess around with scale and placement using graph paper or a graphics program. It's art...have fun with it.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:51 AM on March 12, 2014

One tip I've seen often: trace out your frames on to kraft paper and then arrange the paper on the wall with tape before you begin making nail holes.

Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas for layouts.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:20 AM on March 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

The principle I use is that art should centre about 5' off the floor. Average enough eye level for most folks. For a collection of smaller pieces, I try to balance a "centre of mass" around the 5' level.

Of course, there will be many times you want to break this "rule", but it's served me well, particularly on empty walls, where we're trying to show off large single pieces or collections.
posted by bonehead at 7:58 AM on March 12, 2014

Seconding Sweetie Darling - the best thing I ever did for my art arranging was to make paper templates of all the pieces. You can tape them to the wall with removable painter's tape and get the placements just how you like without trying to awkwardly hold up a piece to get an idea of how its placement will look. You can even calculate where the hooks will need to go and make holes at those locations on the templates for easy wall-marking. Write the name or a nickname for your pieces on the front of the corresponding template for easy reference, and then when you're done save your templates for use later if you want to re-hang the art.

As far as guides, it really comes down to what pleases you. Some basics are to make sure you're not crowding the space with a piece that's too large, or hanging something that will be to small and thus look lonely in a too-big area.

If you have an eclectic assortment of pieces, you could go for a salon-style hang. The templates come in really handy for this.

In a traditional hang you want the vertical center of a piece to be at whatever standard eye-height you've decided on. Different institutions have different standards. When I was hanging art professionally our company used 57 inches for a centerline height unless conditions or client preferences overruled that. Such conditions might be because a piece is behind a chair or bench, and you don't want people leaning back and touching it with their heads, or if other furniture or objects make the art feel crowded at the standard height you've established. Of course the eye-height thing is a guideline not a rule, so use it if its useful and discard it once it isn't. Some arrangements will look better top-aligned or bottom-aligned, or some other option.

We always had problems hanging large pieces on small walls, because basically nothing in a house is actually square. We'd hang a piece and then try to figure out if we wanted the top of the frame to be parallel with the ceiling, or the side of the frame to be parallel to the door frame it was near. We usually split the difference. It all comes down to "whatever looks best."

I suggest getting a soft white pencil eraser to remove extra pencil marks from your wall after you hang - the soft white ones are great, the erase really well and don't leave pink streaks or abrasions. Another good thing to have is some of that blue removable poster-hanging goo. You put a little ball of that under the two bottom corners of a piece and press it to the wall after you level the piece and it prevents it from going off-level.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:05 AM on March 12, 2014

BTW, these double-headed screws are soooo much better than the brass nail and hanger nonsense. They self-tap into drywall. I find it's much easier to get the layout exactly the way you want it with them.
posted by bonehead at 8:05 AM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

The main guideline isn't really about size or number so much as hanging height. Galleries and museums typically center their art at 57-60 inches from the floor, which is approximately eye level for most people.

If you're making a large, elaborate "gallery wall" type of arrangement, you'll want to center the whole agglomeration at that height, collectively. So if you've got three rows of pictures, center the middle row at 57-60 inches.

Another note: if you have a group of large pieces you want to hang in one horizontal row, and the pieces are all slightly different sizes, you're going to have to fudge that 57-60 inch hanging height so that all the pieces line up at the top. You may find yourself hanging the largest piece at 55 inches and the smallest piece at 61 inches, but it's OK, because it'll look weird if every piece of art is just an inch or so off from the one next to it.
posted by Sara C. at 9:10 AM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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