Picture Perfect

Expert Advice for How to Hang Art

Zach Gilliland helps art lovers get the big picture on how to hang.

By Kim Doleatto November 11, 2021

Men hanging wall art.

The Sarasota-based Art Installation team hangs wall art at the Stovall House in Tampa. 

Before moving, one thing most Sarasota newcomers aren’t going to pare down is their art collection. And getting it here is just the beginning. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, where it hangs in the home can make it sing. 

But how should it be lit? Should it go over the couch or hang in the hall? 

Zach Gilliland started answering those questions roughly 12 years ago when he volunteered at Art Center Sarasota. There he hung solo art shows and community exhibitions, and traveled statewide to deliver and hang art for different galleries. It gave him the foundation he needed to start his business, Artwork Installation, LLC. The tight-knit team is made up of artists—Gilliland is a stainless steel sculptor—who understand the attention to detail it takes to hang a Monet, a three-story-high steel art piece at Plymouth Harbor, 400-pound circus wagon wheels at the Ringling Circus Museum and family picture walls that immortalize dear memories. Here are some of his tips on how to hang art right.

It Takes Two

You need one person to hold the piece up and a second person to stand back and OK the height and the placement. Gilliland uses a piece of colored tape to mark the sweet spot where it should hang. Doing it all alone leaves too much to guesswork.

Make it work for real life

If the piece is above a couch or a bedroom headboard, test out whether your head will bang into it when you sit down. Remember that helpful friend from the first tip? Have this person hold the piece where you may want to hang it while you test it out before committing to holes in the wall.

Trade in Art Wire for D-Rings

Art wire often leads to crooked frames that can be easily knocked askew even by daily vibrations in the home. Using D-rings on either side of a frame is a little more work on the front end, but keeps art hanging straight. 

Honor Your Favorites

Instead of focusing on how to color-match a piece to furniture or a rug to decide on where to hang an art piece or picture, focus on which one you value most. Make it the star of a room by centering it, and other pieces will fall into place.

It’s All About the Light

Northern light is different from light that comes from the south. Think about how natural light will hit a surface. Is it shady on that side of the home, or sunlit most of the day? Is the art next to a lamp or under a bright light fixture?

Gilliland, who also does lighting consulting for clients, favors LED lights with a little acrylic filter to control the lighting path. This allows for a floodlight or a narrow beam, depending on what you need.

“It's really useful if you have a wide piece or tall vertical piece since you can use one bulb to light the whole thing," he says. "It can create even lighting, instead of having hot spots on the art coming from four different bulbs or adding shadows to it.”

An Emerging Trend 

The back wall doesn't have to be a light color. "We're seeing a lot more accent walls in more saturated colors, teal and blues are big," Gilliland says. 

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