The fundamentals of installing.

The popular imagination would have us believe that hanging a work of art involves banging a nail in the wall and calling it a day. But there is a bit more to the process. How do you know how far from the ground a work should be for ideal viewing? Are hooks the only choice for mounting a work? What about planning an arrangement that includes multiple artworks clustered together? Knowing the simple tools you'll need and a few guiding principles will make installing a treasured painting, print or photograph both approachable and effective.

What are some of the first practical things to consider before hanging an artwork?

The artwork's eventual surroundings are key. When choosing a spot to install art, consider the foot traffic in the immediate vicinity. Busy rooms or corridors can make for a higher chance of incidence and, if a work isn't hung carefully, can result in it becoming crooked over time.

Once you've selected a place for a work, then it's time to prepare for the installation itself. It might not seem obvious at first, but the process of hanging an artwork is usually best approached as a team effort. Consider having one or more people hold an artwork in place while another views its placement from a distance. This is the best way to get an idea of how it will look in relation to a space once it's hung.

But how do I know exactly where on the wall to hang an artwork? I don't want it to be set too high or too low.

This is an important detail and, luckily, there's a simple rule of thumb: the center of an artwork should be 60 inches from the floor. If you want to get a little more technical, you can divide the height of the artwork by two, add that figure to 60 inches and subtract how far down the hanging hardware is on the wall.

Great! Once I've figured out where I want to hang a work of art, are there any special tools or other instruments I'll need to do the job?

Installing art does require a few tools, but nearly all of them are easy to get at your average hardware store, if you don't have them already. One is a 'picture hanging hook', a special kind of hook-bracket combo that will support most works (and they come with a specific weight rating so you can be sure it's appropriate for your needs). Simple screws will also do for lighter works. But whether you choose to use hooks or screws, at least two should always be used to ensure a stable and long-lasting setup. Beyond that, a standard pencil, level and tape measure are indispensable.

Are there any particular considerations made for hanging especially large or heavy works?

In many cases, yes. Whether or not a large or heavy work has cleats on the back determines the ultimate hanging approach. Cleats are a special kind of hardware that keeps a work secure, but they may mean the wall will need reinforcing with special anchors. Sometimes, very heavy works with cleats will need to have a piece of wood attached to the wall before they're hung at all. But for the vast majority of works, which are painted on canvas with a stretcher or framed works on paper, weight and the extra hardware needed to support it aren't an issue.

Does the kind of frame an artwork is in affect how it’s hung?

A frame does't really affect the mechanics of installing art. But it's always good to think about in terms of aesthetics.

If people are looking to hang a work next to another work or in a cluster of works on the wall, are there any good guidelines to follow?

Absolutely. If you're looking to do a 'stack' where works are lined up vertically, one immediately above the other, it's a good principle to have the lightest-colored work at the top. This helps to draw the eye upward and enhances the height of your space. The alternative is something referred to as a 'cloud.' Over the past few years, you may have also heard this kind of presentation referred to as a 'gallery wall.' This is where multiple works are arranged in a cluster. To ensure the end result will be to your liking, lay out all the included works on the floor beforehand to get a sense of spatial relations. Once you're satisfied with the arrangement, you can measure the related wall spacing and even put up tape to map out where things will go.

Let's say I don't want to go through the process of hanging my artwork. Are there any good alternatives?

Just because you don't want to go through with hanging a work doesn't mean it has to be relegated to storage. An underutilized and simple method for displaying art is to place it on a prominent mantle or shelf. This strategy has the added benefit of allowing the work to interact with the other objects in its immediate surroundings.