How to Hang Pictures
A room without art or framed art prints is a room that lacks soul and personality. It can be a real pleasure to look for art that says something about you, whether it's an original painting that speaks to you in some way or a poster or print that reflects your interests or lifestyle, framed art of some description is an essential element in interior design.
The impact of art is always dependent on where it is hung. For instance an erotic painting on the wall over a bedhead will have a different impact than if it were a part of a dining room scheme. Collections of similar or complimentary pieces can create an impact that is greater than the sum of their parts. But whether it's a single picture or a multiple piece collection, the intended impact can be spoiled by bungled hanging. In major cities there are companies that do nothing else except hang art, such is the importance of getting it right. So how can you get it right in your own home?
First you need to have the right tools. To arrange and hang your art you need a measuring tape, a soft pencil, some good fixings, a lightweight hammer and (this is a little bit of a trade secret) some white-tack. White-tack is the same as blu-tack except that it's white. When you have finished putting up your pictures, place a little bit of white-tack on the back of the frame in the bottom two corners of your picture. Make sure the picture is straight and level and press the corners gently against the wall with your thumbs. The white-tack will keep them firmly in place and relieve you of the chore of constantly straightening your picture.
Before going anywhere near the wall with the picture you will need to measure out the width and the height of the area availble to hang the pictures. If you're hanging a group of pictures, clear away an area of floorspace which represents the wallspace you've alotted to the collection. Take all the pictures and lay them out on the floor, starting with the biggest picture, and then arrange all the other pictures around it until you're happy with the way they look. Take your time over this stage and try variations in the arrangement until you're sure you've found the one you like the best.
Get a fairly large piece of paper and do a sketch showing which pictures go where and note down the identity of each picture. Go back to the arrangement on the floor and look again with a critical eye, be sure you've allowed enough space between your pictures to give a bit of visual breathing room. Then measure the distances between all the pictures and carefully note them on your sketch plan.
Go back to the wall and measure out the hanging plan from your sketch, placing tiny marks where the top centre of each picture frame needs to be (it's useful to have an extra pair of hands for this part of the process). When all the positions are marked, take the first picture (normally the largest) and place it face-down on a soft surface. Gently push the loop of picture wire towards the top of the picture, mimicking the position of the wire when it is supporting the weight of the picture. Carefully measure the distance between the top of the wire and the top edge of the picture frame. Back at the wall, measure down from your central mark and place a little x on the wall.
Pause before you reach for the hammer... This mark represents the spot where the top of the loop of picture wire will be. If you are only using a nail to hang the picture then it is also the place where the nail goes. But if you are using picture hooks this cross will represent the level for the lowest part of the hook, and the nail will go in a bit higher. This may seem like a small distance, but such an error will get magnified as each picture in the group is hung. So hold the picture hook against the wall with the lowest part of the hook on your mark. Hold it firmly while you tap in the nail (or nails) to ensure it doesn't "creep" downwards as you tap the nails.
Put your picture on the hook and shift it left and right to make sure it's central and the picture wire is even. Then put the two blobs of white tack underneath the lower corners and press into place. Now that one picture is in place it's important to double check the measurements for the next, and the next, and so on. That way you eliminate any drift from small measuring errors, and larger measuring errors become apparent before it's too late.
Hallways are great places to put a collection of similar themed pictures. To provide a cohesive look, you could go to a frame shop with all the different pictures and work with a framer on choosing the mounts for each one. There are many different styles of mounts to choose from, but keep to a cohesive colour tone and within one kind of style.
So what is the plan if you need to hang a single large piece, such as a big oil painting? Choose to centre it over the sofa rather than centre it exactly on the wall. The two positions may be very close but the eye will expect the sofa and the picture to gel evenly. It's important to make your measurements so that the centre of the picture (or the centre of the group of pictures) is as close to eye-level as possible. Many people make the mistake of putting thier pictures too high on the wall, which makes them less noticeable and more difficult to appreciate.
Article by Melvyn Fickling
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