Have you ever moved to a new place, unpacked all your knickknacks, and placed your furniture… only to see it still looks like a college dorm room? Often, this lack of coziness comes back to having naked walls.
Picture frames, drawings, canvas prints, or mirrors are some of the best ways to imbue your living space with some personality. Tasteful wall art, however, is relatively expensive. If you want to keep it all safe, you will need to choose a picture hanger that can resist the weight of the piece without damaging the wall or the frame.
Fortunately, when it comes to types of picture hangers, there is a lot more variety available than most people realize!
How Should You Choose the Right Types of Picture Hanger?
Before hitting the local hardware and just buying a dozen of whichever hanger is on sale, it is important to choose the right type.
This will depend on three main factors:
The type of walls you have
Wooden or plywood walls can be drilled easily, and adding an extra nail will only take a minute. This means that you won’t have to double-measure everything, and it will be easier to correct any mistakes you make.
However, these materials are also less stable. Aged wood may tear, and the holes holding the hangers may get loose.
The type of frame you are hanging
Usually, thinner or light-colored frames look better with an invisible picture hanger. Other times, a visible bow or piece of rope can be part of the style. Usually, this will happen with thicker frames or with vintage, farm-inspired designs.
The weight of your item
Some types of picture hangers are designed to resist more weight. Thin, borderless frames will probably be all right with a monkey hook wire or on a nailed-on hanger. However, a big, stately mirror will require a more resilient stiff hanger.
Types of Picture Hangers
In most hardware stores, you will be able to choose among these options.
Hook and nail hangers
Hook and nail hangers are the most common method to hang a picture. Just like their name indicates, these consist of a small metal hook that is then nailed directly to the wall (on a plywood or wood wall) or drilled onto it (if the wall is made from brick or concrete).
The hook can then attach itself to the edge of the frame. Depending on the size of your picture, you can only use one hook in the middle or up to three for improved balance.
Hook and nail hangers are usually available in many different sizes. They are a good and stable way to deal with large or heavy items. However, they tend to leave a mark on your wall. You should try to choose the smallest possible hook size – this will make it less likely for the hook to be visible or to cause the picture to tilt.
Sawtooth hangers are a small, horizontal piece of metal that is attached to the back of the picture frame. It is often supported by a couple of small flat-headed screws.
The main metal piece typically has a serrated texture on the top and bottom edges. This is meant to prevent it from sliding off the wall, even if attached to a very small nail.
This provides it with two main advantages: first, sawtooth hangers will usually resist more weight than hook-and-nail, monkey hooks, or screw eye models. Second, if you live in a seismic area (or just have a neighbor who enjoys playing the drums), these hangers can help you keep your wall mirrors in one piece.
Wall anchors are usually small plastic slits drilled into a wall, meant to hold a screw or nail tightly. Then, this nail can be used to support a small piece of wall décor or attached to a larger saw tooth hanger.
To use wall anchors, you will need to drill a hole in the wall first. Then, you will have to slide the anchor inside the hole or hammer it in carefully. The anchor will have a threaded interior that should match the one on any standard screw.
Wall anchors are a way to protect your wall rather than your picture. However, they are a great option to consider for wood panels. Unlike concrete, wood panels often begin cracking around the edges of any drilled holes. If you are continuously moving the screws inside the hole or adjusting the hanging pictures, you may find yourself with an unstable, overly-large hole in just a few months.
Steel hanging Hooks
Do you have a large picture frame that could benefit from a slight angle? Or maybe a statement piece of décor such as a sword, a heavy crest, or an animal head? If you are trying to hang items above 20 pounds, you won’t want to rely on standard anchors and small nails,
In such cases, a sturdier steel hanging hook will be worth the extra brute force required for installation.
Steel hanging hooks use a thick nail that needs to perforate a wall, windowsill, or door frame at a 20-degree angle. From this protruding nail, you will get room to attach a thick steel hook. Steel hanging hooks come in varied sizes. Smaller ones usually can be bought wholesale and are quite easy to install. The larger ones use very thick nails and provide a lot of stability – but you may have to count their installation as a workout.
Complex but secure, French cleat hangers are a two-piece solution for very expensive pictures or display cases. They consist of two symmetrical pieces of metal: one should be drilled directly into the wall, protected by a set of wall mounts; the other one will be attached to the painting frame and is meant to slide beneath the other one.
As a result, your set-up will be as stable as mounting your TV on a steel rack. They will not sway with anything bar an earthquake. They are also very discreet.
However, when the time comes to remove the picture, you will need to remember you used a French cleat: you won’t be able to simply take out the painting but will have to carefully slide it up instead.
Ring hangers are small triangle-shaped hooks placed directly by the edge of a small picture frame or a light object. These hooks are usually connected to a small piece of metal that is then drilled onto the back of the frame.
Ring hangers are usually very thin, meant to allow you to attach any items to even a very small nail. However, they jingle a little and are not designed for anything over 2 pounds.
On the other hand, they are very cheap, and you can usually get them in a box of 50.
D-Ring hangers are a larger, slightly sturdier version of regular ring hangers. Instead of a small triangle-shaped hook, they have a thicker rounded one. These hooks look a bit like a D.
In addition, the small metal plaque beneath the hook is usually attached to the frame using two screws instead of one. This provides extra resistance, making it ideal for items up to 5 pounds.
Screw eyes are small screws with a head that curves around itself, forming a small eye-shaped hole. These are meant to be screwed on each side of a small or medium picture frame. Then, a tense hanging wire should be tied around each screw.
For small items, screw eyes provide a very easy and cheap hanging method. This is particularly true if the back panel of your hanging frame is made from pressed wood or cardboard rather than actual wood. If this is the case, you won’t even need to drill a hole for the hook: you can just press it and twist it to perforate the back panel.
Naturally, this will create a structural weakness on the panel, so try not to manipulate them too much after the initial installation.
Are You Renting? Drill-Free Picture Hanger Options
For renters, one of the most common décor conundrums is finding options to display your wall art without accidentally violating the terms of your lease – or, if anything, to keep the damage to a minimum, to minimize any deductions from your deposit.
Command strips and command hooks have become synonymous with the renting lifestyle. These are plastic hooks that can be stuck directly on a drywall or plaster wall using a dual adhesive strip. Command strips can be installed within minutes but need to be left to settle for an hour before you can hang anything on them.
Command strips and hooks come in different sizes and weight ratings. However, if you live in a very hot and humid place, the adhesive may not hold as promised.
Monkey hooks are very thin wires that you can insert onto a drywall or plaster wall. After, you can twist the monkey hook to form a hanger of the desired need or twist it around a saw tooth hanger. Technically, monkey hooks require a hole – however, this should be just a very thin pilot hole, not a whole screw. Because of this, they can be easily removed later. Then, you can just paint over the hole, and it will be practically invisible.
Picture hangers come in many types and are suited to different wall materials and weights. Most picture hangers are designed to be invisible. However, if you want to protect your expensive wall art, your main priority should be to ensure they provide stable support. If you are renting, you will also want to find a method that won’t damage the wall permanently.
So grab some measuring tape, pencil, and a good hammer, and start decorating!