I have always loved art and thought that it was the most personal part of any home, but I never knew how to make it all look good on the wall. Then a friend gave me a great tip that to this day has made picture hanging a simple, gratifying task. The tip? Always hang your artwork at 57" on center. Confused?
"On center" means that the middle of the artwork is always at 57" (obviously, this only applies to hanging art on an open wall or above lower furniture, rather than over taller features like a fireplace). Interestingly, the 57" standard represents the average human eye-height and is regularly used as a standard in many galleries and museums.
I was relieved when I discovered this guidance, because it gave me a tool to help others as well. With clients, I often found that pictures, lovely as they could be, were often shockingly randomly hung.
57" On Center
In addition to being a pleasing height, the 57" on center tends to be a lot lower than most people naturally hang their artwork. People hang things too high (I don't know why they do this!). It also means that your artwork is going to hang in closer proximity to the other elements of your home, such as furniture, rugs, lighting, etc., and will therefore "talk" to everything better and have a closer relationship, which is a good thing.
In addition, I have discovered that if you stick to this standard, you create a harmony among ALL the pictures in your home, as they will all share a midline as you look around your spaces, no matter what outside dimensions may be. This creates harmony and is also very good.
Now, let's take a look at some specific, step-by-step directions to help you on your art-hanging journey"
Step 2: Measure artwork and divide by 2 (this gives you the center)
Step 3: Measure top of your picture to the tightened wire (or wherever you''ll hanging it from). This should be a pretty small amount, depending on your frame or canvas.
Step 4: Subtract that "tight wire" amount from number you figured out in step 2. This will tell you how far above 57" your hook should go.
Step 5: Lightly mark wall just above 57" with the "to the hook" amount you figured out in step 4.
Step 6: Hang that art with confidence!
While that might sound a little confusing, we promise it's easy! Here's an example:
- Picture is 20" tall
- Middle is at 10" (this mid point should rest at 57" from the floor)
- Wire comes to 2" below the top
- 10" - 2" = 8"
- Lightly mark 8" above your first mark or 65" on the wall
- Hang up art!
Though this may seem complicated to read, it is quite simple when you do it. The thing to always remember is that the center of all your pictures should be hanging at the same 57", and you are just figuring out where the hook goes above it.
This 57" also applies to groups of pictures. Think of a group or gallery wall as one giant picture. After you arrange how you want them all to hang (doing this on the floor with paper cut outs makes it so much easier), start with the center picture/pictures and hang each of those are 57" on center on the wall. From there, fill in with the rest of the group however you like! You can also just choose one main focal art work and keep that at 57" on center, and arrange from there.
Related Video: The Trick to Hanging Art
Other Good Posts on Hanging Artwork:
• How To: Hang Picture Frames With Two Hooks
• How to: Arrange and Hang Picture Frames Using Butcher Paper
• How To: Hang Groups of Artwork
• Roundup: Tools for Hanging Artwork
This post has been updated. Originally published 8.3.2006 - CM