How to Hang a Picture: 5 Tips for Hanging Photos on the Wall

Step 1: Decide on a strategy

Although you can likely hang your picture on just about any wall, consider the weight, size, and shape of the item you’re hanging as well as the material of your walls before you pick up a hammer. Can I drill into brick? What about tile? Will my plaster walls hold anything, and what the heck is a stud? We’ve got you covered with these common hanging myths.

Step 2: Gather your supplies

You know that you need a hammer, measuring tape, and pencil for hanging pictures on wall, but other supplies will come in handy. Before you get started, make sure you add these to your toolkit as well. For plaster or drywall, the weight of the item will determine exactly what you’ll need.

  • For hanging light-weight pieces:

The best way to hang pictures that are light in weight is to invest in a pack of small nails.

  • For medium-weight pieces:

If it weighs more than a few pounds, add a few picture items to your cart.

  • For heavier pieces:

A heavy picture or heavy mirror will require a big nail, a stud finder or wall plug anchors, screws that fit them, and a screwdriver.

If you’re hanging on tile or glass, you’ll need good-quality and low-profile adhesive hooks rather than nails and screws, and if you’re hanging on brick, use brick clamps.

  • For all pieces:

Check the back of the picture before getting started to see what type of hanging hardware you’re working with. When you flip to the back of the frame, you’ll usually find hanging wire, D rings, or a sawtooth hanger. Although this shouldn’t impact you too much, make sure you don’t buy nails that end up being too big for your D rings, for example.


Step 3: Make a game plan

Well-arranged framed pictures can take your home decor to the next level, but if you don’t actually know how to arrange them, you may find yourself in a bit of a pickle. The best way to hang pictures doesn’t follow a steadfast rule, but there are guidelines.

Now, measure the distance between the middle of the piece, and where it will catch the nail (either where the picture wire hits when bent to bear weight, or where the sawtooth hanger is. Measure that difference from your mid-point mark on the wall—that’s where the nail (or picture hanger, or wall anchor, or brick clamp) goes. Mark that spot.

You can also use painter’s tape to map out your wall design before making any holes. Start by measuring the picture frame or frames, then cut and hang painter’s tape to size to get an idea of what the wall will look like with the arrangement of your choosing. There are even some apps you can download to visualise what your wall will look like when you’ve finished.

Like many things in interior design, hanging art is subjective, so if you like it, well done.


Step 4: Hang the thing

Now that you’ve pencil marked exactly where your nails, picture hanger, or wall anchor will go, it’s time to hang the thing. If you’re hanging a super-heavy piece, first use a stud finder to locate a stud and check if it’s in a logical location for your nail to go. If it is, hammer a big nail in and be done. If the stud is in a weird location, use the anchor-and-screw method instead: Drill a pilot hole, tap the plastic anchor into it, then screw a screw into that, leaving it to protrude just enough that you can loop the wire or sawtooth right over it the same way you


Step 5: Get creative with your display

  • If you’re always rearranging, consider a picture shelf

If you’re into the whole leaning thing and want to formalize a place for such activity, consider adding a shallow picture shelf in one of your rooms. It’s a perfect solution for those with constantly changing styles (or the rearrangement bug).

  • Or a picture rail

If you’re into the idea of sparing your precious walls from holes but want a more formal look than leaning, consider a picture rail: A sliver of moulding that goes up near the ceiling, from which you can hang your art on hooks and strings, and then change it out whenever you feel like it.

  • Leave some pieces unframed

Maybe you’ve collected some of those paintings on boards from the flea market—lovely peeling edges and all—and want to preserve some of that charm without paying for a fancy floating frame. Or maybe you just want to hang up wispy paper drawings and call it a day? Leaving artworks unframed is completely fine, even encouraged. 

  • Break some rules

When considering scale and placement and whether to lean or frame, or—take a deep breath.