Hanging pictures – how to hang artwork on the wall, with or without nails

Hanging pictures is a simple DIY job with the right tools and instructions. Here, we're breaking out the how-to step-by-step

woman hanging pictures on wall
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Hanging pictures can be done easily with or without nails, depending on your wall type. Use our guide to display groups of frames or solo artwork easily at home.

Hanging pictures and wall art is one of those jobs that we can push to the side, almost too literally, for far too long. If framed wedding photos and canvas prints propped up against empty wall space sounds like a familiar scene, we’ve all been there and we can help. Although hanging artwork is a surefire way to elevate your space, it can also cause a little anxiety if you’re a total novice in the DIY world. After all, no one wants to go making holes in the wrong walls… Especially if you rent. Rest assured, anyone can hang pictures successfully and securely with the right knowledge and tools. 

Whether you rent and need to know how to hang a picture without nails, ridding the need to make any holes in the walls at all or, if you’re in your forever home and wanting to recreate the ultimate gallery wall ideas up your staircase, or in your lounge, get this DIY down and experience another level of beautiful décor. 

We spoke with Jamey Seaman, Sales Responsible Textiles at IKEA Group who says, 'You needn’t have a wealth of tools and equipment to ensure frames and mirrors are securely fixed to the wall. A few essential items can be enough to get your walls looking full and exciting.'

You will need:

  • Tape measure 
  • Level 
  • Pencil 
  • Hanging mechanism of choice (see method) 
  • Hammer if using nails
  • Screw driver if using screws
  • Drill if using drywall anchors

Safety notice: If you’re using a drill and nails, you should add goggles/glasses and gloves to your materials list.

1. Pick your location

You need a vision to achieve that look perfectly. So start by considering the different places where you’d like to hang your artwork and photos. This will help kickstart the DIY process.

2. Establish your wall type and ideal hanging mechanism

The type of wall you’re hanging pictures from will determine the tools and hanging mechanisms you need and the process you need to follow to achieve those professional results. Consider your picture weight also, whether you’re using nails or not.

A wall stud is the most secure spot to hang your picture, and you can use a stud detector to help you find one. Once you'd found a stud, you should then be fine with a single nail, so long as it goes in at a slight angle.

If you can’t find a wall stud or using one would make your photo off-center, you’ll need to use a wall anchor to ensure your art stays put. 

If you have a plaster wall, you can use pin picture hooks. So long as the plaster is in good condition. If it’s not there is a chance it will splinter.

Drywall is an easier wall type to work with when hanging pictures, as it’s softer and less brittle compared to a plaster wall which you’re more likely to find in period homes.

With brick and other masonry wall types like concrete, you’ll need to use a masonry drill bit or a hammer drill with wall anchor and screws. You can drill into the mortar but if you’re hanging heavy frames, it’s best to drill straight into the brick. You’ll want to add the screw but leave the head exposed a little by a few millimeters from which you can hang your frame.

Note: Your drill bit should be a couple of sizes smaller than the anchor screw to keep it tight and secure.

Finally, if you’re hanging pictures without using nails then you’re probably going to be using Velcro Command strips or hooks. The size you'll need will depend on the weight of your artwork, so always weigh your artwork first (framed) then check the packaging to ensure you buy the correct ones. But otherwise these provide a really sturdy workaround.

Seaman adds 'For those lighter wall hangings there’s not always a need to screw into walls. The ALFTA self-adhesive hooks from IKEA are perfect for those lightweight frames, without the need for nails or screws, making it quick and easy to decorate your walls with pictures. Each pack is comprised of 2 hooks and 4 self-adhesive strips and each hook can hold up to 2 kg. Suitable for most wallpaper and painted drywall, the hooks can then be effortlessly removed if needed, without leaving marks, sticky residue or damaging the wall.'

3. Figure out the best height for your pictures

Knowing how high to go when hanging pictures leaves many a little confused. It depends on the look you want but as a general rule, when you’re hanging one picture frame, you want your eye line to be roughly ⅔ of the way up the picture. However, this might not work with your room’s dimensions or with the furniture you have in your room so it’s also about trusting your gut instinct too. If it looks like a good height to you, then you’re probably on the right track.

4. Prepare to hang your pictures

To be on the safe side, especially if you are using nails, it’s worth investing in a pipe and cable detector. Follow the instructions specific to your product but otherwise, run the detector along the wall to identify any hazards. If you get the all clear you’re fine to continue. Of course, this need only apply if you’re using nails. If that’s not the case, you have nothing to worry about.

Mark the center position at the top of the frame, then flip the picture frame around and measure the distance between the hanging wire or cord and the top of your picture frame. Ensure you pull the wire or cord taught when measuring the drop so that you get an exact measure of the tension depth. Then, mark the fixing position, adjusting it a little higher so that this isn’t exposed once hanging up there.

5. Hang your pictures

Finally hang your picture frame, ensuring it is level with your own fair eyes, or by using a spirit level.

How to hang groups of pictures

You should follow the same process as above to hang groups of artwork. Hanging three picture frames in a row makes a great focal point in a lounge, and using the empty wall space along your staircase is an opportunity to get creative by hanging different sized pictures on different levels for interest. For a gallery-esque finish, Made.com recommends you leave 0.57cm between picture frames.

More expert tips on hanging artwork easily

Seaman adds 'IKEA’s FIXA 102-piece hooks and hanging set has all the tools and equipment you need to get your home just the way you want it. For those newer to home DIY projects this starter kit will set you up for all your future projects. The screws and hooks are made of galvanized steel to protect against corrosion to protect your walls, and can be stacked with other boxes in the FIXA series for those more ambitious home renovation projects. The assorted hook and screw eyes can be used for hanging decorations, textiles and pictures on walls made of wood, including hook driver and steel wire. The S-hook can be used to join two screw eyes together or with a chain, while the hook driver makes it easier to screw hooks straight and firmly into walls or ceilings without hurting your fingers.'

And, admire!

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Camille Dubuis-Welch

Camille is Digital Editor at Realhomes.com and joined the team in January 2020. As an interior design aficionado, when she’s not developing evergreen content and furiously researching keywords, she is most definitely finding new ways to spruce up her rented space, usually involving a houseplant or two. She loves the challenge that comes with making a room look stylish and feel homely, and her ultimate goal is to renovate the house of dreams, somewhere marvellously sunny with a wild and lavish garden, of course.