Display your artwork

How to Display your artwork

Arranging art is itself an art, and many homeowners freeze at the scene of hanging even one picture. When hanging multiple pictures and composing gallery-style arrangements, often trial and error result in walls resembling a puzzle. A few simple principles and strategies can make the process of displaying art less intimidating and more rewarding.

Display Guidelines

As with other accessories, apply the basic design Knowledge you’ve acquired to arrange art, whether it’s one painting over a sofa or a group of photos on a wall.

Over a fireplace, hang one work or a group of several that take up roughly the same space as the opening below.

A simple painting hung above a sofa should extend approximately two-thirds of the sofa’s width. If your artwork is narrower, add other smaller pieces to compose a larger unit.

Position art at eye level. In a dining room, that means hanging it lower than usual because viewers will be seated, in an entry or hallway, art should be hung higher between 55” and 65” from the floor.

For multiple artworks, arrange pieces on the floor first, to get a feel for how they look on a wall as a unit. Or you can tape pieces of paper on the wall, cut to sizes of your art, to review possible arrangements.

Organize around a theme. Use a theme – family snaps, pet pictures, etchings, or landscapes for instance – for each artwork grouping. Colour itself can be the tie that binds a collection of diverse objects.

The standard guideline for spacing multiple works is to leave one to three inches between frames. The smaller the works, generally the less space between. Very diverse subject matter calls for a little more space-related work, such as botanical prints, look best hung close together. When the pieces are all the same size, a grid pattern of equal spacing unifies them.

Inducing intimacy by hanging pictures low to visually link them with furniture. When you position art on top of, or close to furnishings such as a chair, end table and lamp, it becomes an integral part of the overall design.

Frame for impact. Presenting small works in large mats and gallery style frames gives them presence Minimal frames with or without mats enhance modern art, traditional artworks often call for decorative frames and multilayered mats or a mat with fillet, paintings may use a combination of stacked frames, liners and or fillets.

Tools necessary for the job include a hammer, hooks for wire, and nails for sawtooth hangers, a level, a tape measure, paper and pencil. Rarely is it necessary to use a wall stud to safely hang artwork. Even very large and heavy pieces such as a mirror or a jersey can be safely hung with the appropriate hanging hardware and without regard to wall stud locations. Heavy pieces should not be wired but instead hung from two “D” ring hangers attached to the side rails of the frame and directly hung on two appropriate hooks in the wall. The importance of good hardware cannot be understated.

Layout Principles. It’s generally easier to hang an odd number of pieces, such as three or five, but an even number can be just as successful. Following are five common examples of simple displays that start from an imaginary point of reference.

Establish a Horizontal Axis. This plan works best for three pieces of art or more. The horizontal axis runs from side to side through the centrepiece, at the midpoint. First, hang the centrepiece where you want it, then hang the flanking pieces so that their midpoints line up along the horizontal axis.

Horizontal Alignment

Horizontal Alignment – Example A

Horizontal Alignment

Horizontal Alignment – Example B



In the example below, the horizontal axis serves as a baseline rather than a midpoint. Over a long piece of furniture, or in a hallway.


Horizontal Alignment – Example C

Horizontal Alignment – Example C


Establish a Vertical Axis. This approach is ideal for four pieces of art. Hang two pieces on one side of the vertical axis and two on the other. But offset the horizontal spacing to avoid creating a cross of negative space, which tends to destroy the illusion that the pieces form one unit.


Establish a Perimeter. If you have four pieces of roughly similar size, consider creating a visual enclose. Ideally, you would plan the matting and frame beforehand, your framer will help to compensate for differences in the images. Establish an imaginary perimeter for the space you want the grouping to occupy and hang the pieces so that their outer edges touch that border. Again, avoid creating a cross of negative space in the center.

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Perimeter– Example A



In this illustration, four identical sized frames 2 horizontal 8” x 10” and 2 vertical 8” x 10” are hung in a perimeter layout.

photo frame display

Perimeter– Example B


Strive for a loosely circular or oval perimeter when grouping art of different size and shape, that is, if you draw a curved line around the pieces that touched their outer corners, you would see a circle or oval. The oval-shaped perimeter may be horizontal or vertical for tall narrow spaces. Avoid stair-stepped arrangements, which draw the eye sharply up, down and sideways rather than around.


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If your artworks are similar or the same in size, a grid-like arrangement – or even a single row example A – gives equal emphasis to each one and visually organizes the grouping. Identically matted and framed artworks become one unified work of art in a hallway Gallery, over a couch, bed or long table. Close vertical spacing unites the pieces, a little more horizontal space between rows allows them to breathe and creates the impression of two orderly sets of three example B.

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Single Row – Example A


By adjusting the mat opening sizes, a row of identically sized frames can accommodate artwork of different sizes and shapes and yet make an orderly presentation with impact.


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Example B