7 Picture-Hanging Hacks Home Editors Swear By

Whether you’re mounting a single framed print or a full gallery wall, use these tips for hanging pictures to make the process stress-free and precise.
Kathleen Corlett Avatar
Gallery wall arranged with home editor-approved picture-hanging hacks
Photo: Kathleen Corlett for Bob Vila

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Second to repainting, displaying meaningful art is one of the easiest ways to make a new space feel more personal. Though putting holes in the wall may feel permanent, the process doesn’t need to lead to design paralysis. Plenty of picture-hanging hacks make it easy to get your art at the right height, level, and affixed to the wall in one go.

In my 13 years covering home and DIY, I’ve personally mounted hundreds of photos, prints, and paintings to the walls. Ahead, I’ve outlined my go-to advice for how to hang pictures. (And if you need a recommendation for giving your photos and art a polished finish, bookmark our recommendations for the best places to buy frames.)

1. Start by marking the best height for hanging pictures.

Even when I’m going with my gut when hanging art, I like to give myself a visual cue at 57 inches above the floor—the best height for hanging pictures. So, I measure and stick a strip of blue painter’s tape on the wall to mark the spot that’s eye level for most people, and I’ll center my frame (or frames) based on it. (Otherwise, I find it’s easy to lose sense of this sweet spot when you’re tapping in a picture-hanging nail or free-styling a full gallery wall.)

2. Create a template out of craft paper.

Templates are especially helpful when visually planning a gallery wall. You can tape these placeholders up, and step back to make sure that the spacing works before committing to any holes.

I like to trace my frames and cut them out of brown craft paper (or any kind of paper heading out the door with recycling, for that matter). Then, I use painter’s tape to temporarily affix them to the wall while I take in the bigger picture.

Bonus tip: Make note of the location of the frame’s hook(s) on the paper—precisely how far in from the top and sides of the frame. Once hanging, you can punch your picture-hanging nail or hook directly through the paper when it’s on the wall.

3. Use painter’s tape to know the distance between nail holes.

Cut a strip of painter’s tape the width of your frame, and rest it across the back. Mark in pen where the hooks are located. Then lift and transfer the tape to the wall. The tape ensures that you nail the exact distance between the fasteners (pun intended). Plus, you can hold a level to the tape to ensure that both sides are level.

Use toothpaste to lightly mark where picture-hanging nails should go on the wall
Photo: Kathleen Corlett for Bob Vila

4. Or, mark a nail placement with white toothpaste. 

Put a dab of white toothpaste on each hook or sawtooth hanger on your frame. Raise it to exactly where you want to hang it, hovering an inch or two away from the wall. When you have decided on the placement, press it to touch the wall and the toothpaste will transfer.

This picture-hanging hack uses sticky notes to collect drywall dust
Photo: Kathleen Corlett for Bob Vila

5. Catch drywall dust with a sticky note or paper bag.

Nailing or drilling hooks into your walls can get quite dusty. Rather than let the debris collect on baseboard molding or fall to the floor, I like to create a makeshift catch. I press a sticky note to the wall under where I’ll make my hole, then fold the bottom up to meet the top and crease the middle. The bottom acts as a ledge to catch the mess. 

A single square will typically hold the mess of a small hole, like from picture-hanging nails or skinny screws. If you’re installing a wall anchor to support heavier items, prepare for more dust by taping a lunch-size paper bag to the wall under where you’ll drill instead. (This tip works just as well to minimize the mess when you’re installing curtain rods.)

6. Skip the tools by using special picture-hanging hooks.

Sometimes, you can avoid drilling and hammering altogether. I regularly use three picture hangers that don’t require a single nail:

  • These 3M Command picture-hanging strips work in pairs; one attaches to the wall and the other to the frame. I like the hook-and-latch design even more than the traditional 3M strips, because it allows a little adjustment to ensure your frame is level even after you’ve stuck it to the wall. For the best bond, don’t forget to clean the surface with rubbing alcohol first and press firmly to the wall for 60 seconds when hanging. Save these for frames smaller than 24 by 36 inches and less than 16 pounds.
  • For larger frames weighing between 20 and 40 pounds, I rely on High & Mighty picture hangers. I can push these into drywall with just my thumbs, and the claws leave behind holes smaller than traditional nails would. (I’ve even upgraded to the 60-pound-rated to hang a dartboard, and I’ve hung mirrors using the 125-pound-rated hanger in my last three homes.) 
  • The as-seen-on-TV Monkey Hooks are the third trick up my sleeve for hanging picture frames without any tools. They support up to 35 pounds of weight each—again, more than twice the weight you can hang with the typical Command adhesive strips. I prefer the flush mount version in this set, but the Gorilla Grade option (designed to support up to 50 pounds) works well for more ornate wood frames. The sharp end punctures the wall with relative ease, and then you just twist through to the other side.

7. Hook picture wire with the help of a fork.

If you’ve ever tried to hang pictures with wire, you might know that it can take several attempts to catch your picture wire on a tiny hook (and, in my experience, leave scuffs behind on the wall behind the art). So I was pleasantly surprised to find that a fork could help me hang a painting in one try. Stick the utensil with its tines down over the hook and its handle at an angle coming off of the wall. Then, slowly slide the picture over the utensil’s handle down to the hook. Once it’s secure, remove the fork.