What is the proper height to hang art?

Updated April 17, 2017

Whether you are decorating your apartment with your favourite framed posters, or in charge of arranging priceless paintings for display in a museum, there are certain placement rules you may follow. These rules were set in place for the sole purpose of achieving the most aesthetic viewpoint for beholding the art. Most people tend to hang artwork higher than necessary. If you are wondering where to place your artwork, here are some steps you can undertake to determine the most appealing presentation.

Define your art. Your art can be one of many things. It can be one oversized painting or a considerably small piece. You can group a couple of average sized paintings or an entire conglomeration of frames. If you have a large group of frames, use the floor to lay them out into many different arrangements and judge which you like best before you start pounding nails in the wall. Try to choose frames that are similar in colour, shape or material for the best composition.

Define the area to for hanging. If you are hanging a painting in an art gallery. your painting may be the only thing on the wall. If you are decorating a room, you may have an assortment of walls to choose from. Large paintings look the best on large walls and small paintings look the best on smaller walls. Using a vertical wall to hang a vertical painting will flatter the artwork and complement the architecture. If you have an oddly shaped wall, try an oddly shaped conglomeration of smaller paintings.

Find your focal point. The focal point of the painting can usually be found dead centre. I say usually because the measurement is taken vertically only. The focal point is where the artist intended your eye to be drawn to first. To determine the focal point, use a tape measure to calculate the distance from the top of the frame to the bottom of the frame. Next, divide that number by two. Re-measure the second number from the top of the frame down again and the area directly around that point is your focal point. If you have a conglomeration of paintings, the focal point is in the centre of that group.

Determine the gallery level. There are slight disagreements over what gallery level is. Many experts say it is the eye level of the average person (the average person is 5'7"). This rule was made when the height of the average person was slightly shorter. As a result, a rule of thumb is to go by the eye level as determined by the height of the property owner or gallery owner. When you hang the painting, the focal point should be at gallery level. If the painting is off balance to the right or left, the focal point can be moved slightly to the right or left to make up the difference.

Offset other Items. If you are using a painting to complement a lamp or a vase, a good distance to hang it is 10" to 12" from that item. If you are using the painting to complement a large piece of furniture, the proper painting size is 2/3 to 3/4 the size of the furniture. If you want to completely focus on the painting itself, feature it alone on a wall and use well-placed lights to set it off. As with any rules, they can be easily broken. If you are an artist, you can easily determine where a piece looks best on the wall. In the end, do what you think looks best. You can eyeball it if you chose.


Uniformity is key. You can zigzag your paintings all across the room provided they are uniform, and it should still look fantastic.


If you are hanging valuable pieces in areas where children will be gathering, make sure to hang the piece high enough so little hands cannot reach it. If you are hanging professional pieces in a gallery, be sure to leave room for a title and credit or price tag underneath.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil with eraser
  • Hammer
  • Picture hooks
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About the Author

Diane Todd holds a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication from North Carolina State University and is a former video and web producer for a North Carolina multimedia agency. She also spent several years as a media specialist/graphics designer for the Cumberland County school system in Fayetteville, N.C.