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DIY Tips for Hanging Picture Frames and Wall Décor

Jamie loves writing about DIY projects, decorating on a budget, craft ideas, and creative ways to reuse and upcycle products.

Cross wall

Cross wall

Tips and Tricks for Hanging Pictures and Art on the Wall

I love decorating my walls with framed photos, art, and various other items. There have been times that I've been guilty of taking what seemed like the easiest route by skimping on the right hardware or just making do with what I had on hand, knowing it was not the ideal way to do it.

Recently, after relocating to a new place, I wanted to be sure everything was hung correctly. After a bit of research, I learned that it's easy and inexpensive to do the job right. You may need to purchase some hardware for a few bucks, but it is well worth the peace of mind of knowing your framed art and décor, especially the heavier pieces, are mounted safely and securely to the walls.

From my own experience with trying various things, I have found there are a few safe ways to improvise, and I'll share those with you as well. I am so happy about all the tips I found that worked for me that I felt inspired to write this article and pass it on.

Before You Get Started: A Few Basic Tips

  • If you are concerned about marks on your walls, washable crayons or markers work great when measuring and marking spots where you will be inserting the nails for your wall hangings.
  • Always make sure that you are not nailing or drilling in an area on the wall where there is electrical wiring or other cables. If you hit metal, stop drilling or nailing. It may be the metal plate covering electrical or plumbing inside the walls.
  • Avoid drilling or nailing anywhere around electrical outlets
  • You can purchase an inexpensive electric wire/cable finder from home improvement stores. They even have types that detect wire/cables and studs.

Hanging Very Lightweight Wall Art and Décor

First, see what kind of hanging hardware is on the back of the piece to be hung. Most of the picture frames I have seen have the D-type hangers on the back. I have also seen the sawtooth-type hangers.

I have found that if the frame or art is super light, a small nail works just fine. I just usually try to drive the nail into the wall at an angle. I've never had any problems with it.

There are metal picture hooks that you can buy and use as well. In my opinion, I don't think they are necessary for very lightweight wall hangings, but they are available.

Sometimes the picture or art may have a wire across the back, and I've hung those on a small nail without any trouble.

Hanging Medium to Heavy-Weight Wall Art and Décor

On the backsides of these, many have either sawtooth hangers, D hangers, or something similar. Some of them also have the hanging wire across the back. In the past, I have been guilty of using just a large nail or maybe a couple of nails to hang things of this weight. Most of the time they were okay, but I knew I wasn't doing it the right way, and so here's where I made some changes and learned a few new things.

The metal wall hooks mentioned above can be used for medium and heavy-weight items. I have even seen them for hanging pictures up to 100 lbs. Wall anchors are great too. A wall anchor is a screw that has a little plastic or sometimes metal piece that goes with it.

They come in different sizes, according to the weight of your wall hanging, and they are super easy to use. The reason they work so well is that they anchor themselves securely into the sheetrock of the wall, and this helps them better hold heavy pieces without causing ripping and crumbling of the sheetrock.

There are many different types of these anchors, some are nailed into the wall, and some you drill in. I used a Dremel to install the ones I used, but depending on the type, sometimes a drill is needed.

The wall anchors I used are referred to as hollow wall anchors. It's a screw with a plastic sleeve. You simply drill a hole where you want to put the anchor, insert the plastic sleeve into the hole, and with a hammer, gently tap it all the way in and then insert the screw and screw it in.

Once done, you have a good, solid place to hang your framed art. If you don't have a drill or Dremel, you could try the metal "nail in" anchors. I have never tried them, but they are said to work just as well.

Besides the different types of wall anchors, there are still several options to choose from. Whatever you choose to use, the little bit of extra effort is definitely worth the peace of mind.

Hanging Super Heavy Items: Are Wall Studs Necessary?

I have heard it said that if you have a very heavy piece to hang, it's best to hang it on a wall stud. The wall stud is where they have placed the wood columns to mount the drywall on for your walls. They are usually every 16" or sometimes 24" depending on the age of your home.

I've read conflicting opinions about mounting on walls studs. Some say you should do it, and some say it's absolutely unnecessary, but if you are one that wants to play it on the safe side and hang where there is a stud in the wall, you will need to first locate the stud behind your wall.

There are a few different ways to do it. Some simply knock and listen for differences in sound, and others use stud finders, etc. I found my wall studs easily without having to go out and buy any special tools. The stud finders are fairly inexpensive, and I'm sure they are useful, but I just didn't have the cash right then to go out and get one.

I had one super heavy iron cross that I knew for sure that I wanted to mount on a stud. Here is how I found my wall studs.

  1. I took a stack of 7 Neodymium magnets that I had purchased pretty cheap on Etsy a while back for some craft projects a while back.
  2. I slowly ran them along the wall until I felt them stick to a nail inside the wall that was used to mount the sheetrock.
  3. I then took a ruler and moved across the wall about 16" and moved the magnets and found where another nail was. I just kept doing this, and for each stud, I left a small magnet marking the stud. If you don't want to leave a magnet, you can always use a washable crayon to mark where the stud is.

It was incredibly helpful when I went to go and hang the cross! Of course, I didn't need to use all the studs, but it was nice to know where they were anyway, just in case.

All in all, when it comes to hanging heavier frames, art, and other wall décor, you have many, many great options to choose from.

What About Hanging Things on Plaster or Brick Walls?

Do not let these types of walls intimidate you; you can still hang pictures or art on plaster, brick, and other stone-type walls. You can still sometimes use nails on plaster walls for lightweight pieces.

There are also certain anchors like the ones I spoke of above that you can use that work very well. You can use a regular drill with a masonry bit or a handheld tap drill to help put the hole in the wall so you can insert the anchor.

This is just one way; there are a few different ways you can do it. There are even adhesive hooks that you can buy that will hold a good deal of weight. Have a look at all your options and see what is easiest and works best for you.

Here is a tip that will come in handy for those who have plaster walls: Put a piece of painter's or scotch tape where you will be inserting the screw or driving a nail; this will keep the plaster from cracking and crumbling around the hole.

**Important Information About Old Plaster Walls and Asbestos**

If you live in an older home and have plaster walls, here is some information that you need to be aware of. Up until the 1970s, asbestos fibers were sometimes used in plaster walls and other parts of the house. Check with the US Environmental Protection Agencyfor more information.

What About Hanging Plates?

Plates are very popular these days for wall décor. More and more, I'm seeing groups of plates hung on the walls, and they look fabulous! I figured it would be appropriate to add a section about hanging plates here.

As you probably already know, there are traditional plate hangers that are very inexpensive that you can purchase to hang your plates, and they work fine as long as you don't mind the little hooks being visible.

Some of the plate groupings I noticed had no visible hardware so I knew there must have been other options, and after researching, I found some "plate discs" or "invisible plate hangers," as they called them, that are round and have very strong adhesive with a little D hanger. You stick it right on the middle of the back of the plate and the plate will hang on the wall without any visible hardware.

They sound great and seem to be very popular, but they were a bit pricey costing, $3.00 to $6.00 apiece depending on the size you purchase. Of course, you could probably find them cheaper on eBay or Amazon. It was refreshing to know that when it comes to hanging plates, we now have other options besides the traditional plate hangers.

I loved these plate hanger so much I decided to do my own DIY version, and I'm proud to report that it worked!

Basic Rules of Thumb to Consider for Placement of Wall Hangings

Now that you know the safe and secure way to hang things, there are a few basic rules of thumb to keep in mind when deciding where to hang your frames or wall décor. I was surprised to learn of these things myself; I never knew there was a basic rule of thumb for hanging things on walls. I used to just hang it ever I thought it would look good, but after trying these suggestions, I found they really do make a difference.

  • For best presentation, hang your pictures or art so it can be seen at eye level. The center of the picture or art should be at about 60" up from the floor.
  • When hanging pictures above furniture like the sofa or a table, the general rule is about 6 to 8 inches above.
  • Keep the scale of your furnishings in mind, hang large pieces over large furnishings and smaller pieces over smaller furniture, etc. This creates balance in the room.
  • When hanging groups of things, it's always good to arrange it first on the floor or on a large table to see how it will look first before hanging it on the wall.
  • Also, when hanging groups of frames, try not to leave too much space between each piece. Try to look at the group like it's one big piece.
  • When hanging very large, single pieces of abstract art without frames, it's best to leave some space between them. The larger the piece, the more space in between.

Decorating Walls Is Fun!

That concludes my DIY guide on hanging pictures and other décor on your walls! I hope that you have found it useful. Please feel free to leave any tips you may know in the comments section. I love learning new and easier ways to do things. Thank you so much for reading; have fun decorating your walls!


lucille12 on April 05, 2015:

If you really consider it, you might realize how much you hate those hangers and how much they really do not help.

Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on October 29, 2014:

grand old lady- Thank you so much! Yes, it's all in the details for sure!!

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on June 24, 2014:

Wonderful tips on hanging artwork. It's all in the details, and you have the details very well covered in this piece.

Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on November 20, 2012:

Dolores Monet- Thank you for dropping by to read the hub.. I'm glad this came in helpful for you! I managed to locate every stud in the apartment... so still have magnets on every wall.. hehe! I've been slow to hang everything. I think the most helpful thing I learned from doing this hub was that those "hangman" brackets could be used to mount the flat screened tv to the wall instead of having to buy the expensive mounting piece-they are like 70 bucks or more! Thanks so much for dropping by.. glad you enjoyed it :)

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on November 20, 2012:

Hi Jamie - this was one very helpful hub. I just redid my living room and my husband kindly offered to hang the pictures. And there are lots of them. He was very careful, making sure to get everything just right. We have some very heavy pieces. I must confess to being a bit of a slap-dash picture hanger.

I love your idea of using a magnet to find the nails in the studs!

Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on October 26, 2012:

Susan.. Thank you for dropping by.. I have not heard of this product.. will check this out.

Susan on October 25, 2012:

Loads of good information. Have you seen the cool invention DOT Marks the Spot? It make hanging things easy as 1 - 2 - 3! Check out the how to videos on YouTube or on the website @ Happy hanging!

Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on July 18, 2012:

shalini sharan - Thank you so much for dropping by.. I'm glad that you enjoyed the hub :)

Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on July 18, 2012:

rwelton - Wow, that's great...I love hearing this hub will come in handy for you :) Thank you for stopping by!

shalini sharan from Delhi on July 18, 2012:

this was a very handy and amazing work

rwelton from Sacramento CA on July 17, 2012:

Great job....starting big wall hanging project this weekend...very handy timing.


Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on July 17, 2012:

alphonse george - Thank you for dropping by and reading the hub.. I'm glad this will come in useful for you. Take care!

alphonse george from Kerala,India on July 17, 2012:

very useful comment.I can use this information the next time I hang pictures.Thanks for this information.