Archive for the ‘Series: Making Picture Groups’ Category

scan0013Straighten up!

Someone was asking the question ‘how do I keep my pictures straight?’ Good question! It drives people crazy when their pictures keep going crooked all the time. There are a few answers for that problem.

If your pictures are hung on a single hook with picture wire, take the picture down and take out the hook. Replace one hook with two or more hooks depending upon the width of the picture. The farther you spread the hooks out, the less likely it is that the picture will go crooked.

If your pictures are hung with a saw tooth bracket there are a few things that you can do.

  • The first thing to do is to make sure the bracket is centred on the frame. With ready made framed prints that include a bracket, the bracket is often off-centre. Pry off the bracket and replace it in the centre.
  • The second  is to put two nails side by side in the wall that will fit at either end of the bracket instead of one nail in the middle.
  • The third is that you could take off the bracket and replace it with a longer one that has been properly centred on the picture and put two nails in the wall that fit at either end of the bracket.
  • Yet another way is to take off the bracket in the centre and add a bracket at either end of the picture about 1/4 of the way in from the side.

When hanging the picture, draw a line with a level that is the width of the picture. Mark where the brackets are and then when you put in your nails they will be level and therefore the picture will be level. Using two well spaced nails or two brackets and using a level will keep your picture from shifting at all. Note: Make sure the two brackets are parallel on the frame. If one is higher than the other your picture will not hang straight.

For hanging a  picture with a picture wire you must get the two or more hooks  level with each other. To do this, draw a line with a level, almost the width of the picture where the wire will go. You now have a level line on which to place your hooks. (see whole series How to Hang Pictures for details)

Another way to keep your pictures from shifting is to purchase a roll of double sided tape. I like the extremely thin kind for crafting rather than the foam mounting tape. It doesn’t show at all. With the picture still hanging on the wall, slip a small piece about (2-3 cm) of the double sided tape behind the bottom, back side/edge  of the frame at each corner where the frame touches the wall. Place a small level on top of the picture and adjust the picture until it is level.  Press the bottom of the frame gently in place.


  • Use flat headed nails to hang saw tooth brackets
  • Use picture hooks to hang pictures that have a picture wire
  • Use a level to draw lines for hooks or nails
  • Place a level on the top of the picture frame to get the picture straight. Dont’t eyeball it, it doesn’t work.

Presto! No more crooked pictures.

For detailed information about hanging pictures and making picture groups see my series of articles ‘How to Hang Pictures‘ and ” Making Picture Groups’. There are clear explanations and diagrams. The article ‘Photo Hanging‘ is a good overview of what you are trying to accomplish as well

There are also products that you can buy that you stick to the back of your frame. They have tiny pins that grip the wall but only leave barely visible marks when you take the picture down. Hardware and big box Craft stores carry such products under different names. See one source that was sent in by a reader in the Comments section.

Happy picture hanging. Take your time and enjoy the process.


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scan00031Hanging each picture in a random group #8



You should already have marked out the centre and perimeter of the area in which you are building your random group, and laid out your picture group on the floor as described in parts #4 & #6

Transferring the pattern of pictures you have created from the floor to the wall can create some challenges. These are the best two ways of doing this.

Always start at the centre of the group and work your way out, moving from side-to-side then up and down, then side-to side- etc.

q         Make templates of each picture, it makes the job really easy. Cut out or tape together pieces of scrap paper or wrapping paper the exact size of each picture. Tape each one to the wall with low tac masking tape. Put up all your templates so that they look just like the grouping on the floor. They are easily adjusted until they are right.Find the vertical centre of the 1st template and the hanger distance of the 1st picture, then mark them with a + on the template. Tap the hook in with the bottom of the hook on the horizontal line and the back of it on the vertical line of the +, right through the paper. Remove the paper and hang that picture. Repeat until you are done.

q        Another way is to take a picture of the group on the floor with a digital camera. This shows you the pattern and spacing that you achieved. You can start to lose your placement and spacing as you, one by one, remove the pictures to hang them. With a picture of the group in tact, you can refer to the picture as you go. It really helps. If you choose to do it this way, hold up each picture until it is in the right place according to your camera picture. Make a mark on the wall along the top of the frame. Also make a mark on the wall where the centre of the frame is. Measure down your hanger distance at the centre mark and make a + and tap in the hook as described above. Do this for each picture, constantly referring to the camera picture to get the placement & spacing right.

q        Again, you can make minor adjustments to the height of the picture by untwisting the picture wire and taking it in or letting it out to raise or lower the picture a bit. Never move the hook or nail unless you have to.

If you take your time and use one of these two methods, you will find that hanging a picture group goes pretty smoothly and you will not have a million nail holes in the wall where you were constantly readjusting the pictures.


This concludes Making Picture Groups. I hope that you enjoy yourself making interesting groupings to enhance your decor












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Hanging each picture in a symmetrical group #7scan00051


After you have measured and marked out the area for your picture group. go to the centre mark and start hanging each picture. Terminology such as “hanger distance” is explained in ‘How to hang pictures #3’.

 Using the centre mark:

q        If it is 1, 3, or 5 rows high, and 1, 3. 5, 7 pictures across, start with the centre picture. Put the centre of the picture over your centre (optimum height) masking tape.

q        If the group is two rows high the centre mark should be between the top and bottom centre picture.

q        If it is a group of four, have the centre mark in the centre space where the four corners of the four pictures meet.

Placing the first picture:


q        Put a piece of masking tape on the top of each frame in the group. Using your tape measure, and a pencil, mark the exact centre of the top of the frame.

q        Start with a centre picture if the group is 3,5 etc pictures across.

q        The first picture you hang is the one in the centre of the group, with the centre frame mark lined up with the centre wall mark.

q        Lightly draw a short line on the wall along the top of the frame.

q        Measure the hanger distance and mark this on the wall with a short horizontal line that crosses the vertical centre line. Put your hook where they cross.

q        For a group of four, do the same as above but to the left and right of the centre mark.

q        Place the bottom of the hook on the horizontal line and the back of the hook on the vertical line, tap the nail in and hang your first picture. See ‘How to hang pictures # 2 to #6’ if you are still unsure. There is a diagram on ‘How to hang pictures #2’ for reference.


 Continuing to place pictures:

q        For a single row, work side-to-side hanging each picture. Measure up from the floor to the top of the frame on the first picture. This is the height of the top of the frame for all your pictures. Move to the spot for the second picture. Measure up and mark the height of the top of the frame for the second picture. Hold up the second picture to get the correct spacing and mark the centre (+) of the top of the frame, then mark the hanger distance, extend your centre mark using your small level, down to the hanger mark to make a second + and then put in your hook, as described above. Move to the other side of the centre picture and repeat with the third picture.


q        For a two or three row high group, start at the centre and work up and down then side-to-side. Centre pic, top pic, bottom pic, left centre, L- top, L-bottom, R-centre, R-top, R- bottom etc. Measure carefully and keep your spacing even.

  Adjusting the level:

q        If a row of pictures is not quite level with each other, just adjust the picture wire a bit on the ones that are not right. Tighten it to raise it and loosen it to lower it. See ‘How to hang pictures #10’ for details.


q        Erase all pencil marks with damp cloth or a magic eraser.



Using templates to place your pictures is described next in “Hanging each picture in a random group”.


If you measure and mark each picture carefully, they should come out in the right place each time or with only very minor adjustments that do not require you to move the hook multiple times.



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Measuring the area for the group #6

 dsc004611It would be helpful to you if read the series, ‘How to hang pictures’ before you begin to hang your pictures.

‘How to hang pictures #3 – Successful measuring to position your picture’ explains the terminology  that I use and how successfully position your picture in much more detail.


You will need a small retractable tape measure, tack hammer, pencil, a small level, lots of hooks and some low tac masking tape.

q        Measure the width of the area ie: from door frame to corner in a hallway, width of the sofa, the width of the buffet/table/credenza that the group will be hung over. Divide that number in two and that is your centre. Place a square of masking tape there for reference.

q        Now measure 62” (optimum height) up from the floor at the centre mark. Move the piece of masking tape up or down to the 62” mark. This gives you where the centre of the group should be.

q        Measure the height of the grouping that you have laid out on the floor.  Say the group is 40” tall. You will measure up 20” from the centre and place a piece of masking tape to mark where the top of the group will be. Then measure 20” down from the centre and mark the bottom with tape.

q        Measure the width of the group. Say it is 70” wide. Measure out 35” in each direction and mark with masking tape.

q        Now you have marked out the area in which you will hang your group.

q        Stand back and look at it. Is it too high ( more than 6”-12” above furniture or chair rail)?. If it is, simply move the bottom tape so that it is no more than 12 “ above the furniture or chair rail. (6”-10” is usually better).  Then measure up 20” and replace the centre tape and 20” more for the top tape. If it is too low, do the opposite. See ‘How to hang pictures #4 – Height above furniture’.  

Now your grouping is centred and the correct height and you can hang your pictures.


Next: Hanging each picture in a symmetrical group

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Preparing your pictures for hanging  #5


A little bit of preparation can make it a lot easier to hang your pictures exactly where you want them to be on the first try.


If possible, install a picture wire across the back of your pictures. Install the wire so that the hanger distance (apex of the wire) is the same distance from the top of the frame on all your similar size pictures. This makes it easier to place the picture hook correctly on the first try. You can also make minor adjustments to the wire instead of moving the hook if the pictures do not line up exactly.  Read the series How to hang pictures – #7,8 & 10 discuss adding picture wire.


If you have pictures with the claw bracket on the back and you prefer to use that rather than add wire, make sure the bracket is dead centre on the frame, it usually isn’t.  If it is off-centre, pry it off and reinstall it correctly. If the bracket is not centred, the picture will never hang straight and you will never get it to line up with the others well without moving the nail many times leaving many nail holes behind.  Use a flat-head nail not a hook to hang a picture with a claw tooth bracket. You have to measure hanger distance for a claw tooth bracket as well as a picture wire because the claw is not at the very top of the frame. If you put your nail in at the top of the frame mark the pictures will not line up. Read How to hang pictures #9 for detailed instructions about hanging pictures using a claw toothed bracket.


Next: Hanging a group of pictures – measuring the area for the group

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Composing a Grouping: #4


The number one rule when composing a grouping is to keep them close together.


q         Never spread out the pictures to fill the space. If the group is just too small, add pictures or use that grouping elsewhere.


Measure the space that you wish to fill with a picture group. For example, over your sofa which is 61/2’ long and 21/2’high, you may wish to build a group that is roughly 5’w x 3’high. Mark out an area on the floor 5’x3’. I just lay our two small tape measures, one for the length and one for the width. You could also just place an object like a book or a shoe to mark each corner of the area, just to give you a frame of reference in which to build your group.


For a symmetrical group (of more than 2 pictures), lay out the pictures that you wish to use inside the area that you have marked out. Adjust the spacing so that the group looks like a cohesive unit, not a bunch of single pictures. The spaces between all the pictures should be the same. Try 3” apart first. Spread them out an inch to 4” then try 2”. You will get to see how the spacing affects the cohesiveness of the group when you do this. Decide what looks best, not what fills the space best!!


To compose a random group, it is essential to lay it out on the floor first. Arrange and rearrange the pictures until the arrangement pleases you. At this point check your spacing. Make sure the pictures are not too far apart. In a symmetrical grouping ALL the spaces should be identical in all directions. For a random group, your spacing will never be identical but the pictures should be placed close together. The spaces between the dominant pictures should be 2-4” apart. There will be some large rectangular spaces in your group. You can use small frames and even tabletop miniatures with the easel removed to fill holes in your group.

Put the dominant picture or the most important picture in the centre and work out from there. For example: a portrait of grandparents, then parents, siblings, then children, grandchildren, working out from the centre in all directions. Any form of organization will do but develop it so that it makes some sense.


If you are grouping large pieces of artwork rather than photographs, such as grouping artwork on the wall up a staircase, the spaces should be somewhat bigger but still not more than 6” or so.


The farther apart you spread them, the less they look like a grouping and the more they look like a bunch of separate, randomly (and poorly) hung pictures.

 Next: Preparing your pictures for hanging


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pic-grp-stylesTypes of groups: #3


Picture groups are either symmetrical, arranged in horizontal or vertical rows that are evenly spaced in all directions or asymmetrical, organized with no pattern to the arrangement.


Symmetrical: best used if frame & matte are identical and the pictures are a set of pictures/prints or are a similar style of photographs.


Possible layouts:


q  Two, three or more in a level horizontal row 2-4” apart

q  Group of four – two rows of two

q  Group of six (or more) three rows of three (or more)

q  Stacked vertically – two or three 2-4” apart

q  Double row – 2 vertical rows of 3


You get the idea, evenly spaced and carefully leveled rows of pictures.


Random/Asymmetrical: Different pictures with a central theme of some sort, often a family history of photographs but not necessarily.


q  You need to have enough pictures to fill the intended space.

q  There should be a unifying element as described in part 2


Composite: Mixing different sizes and shapes in symmetrical pattern. This works best if all the frames and mattes are the similar. They can all be completely different and look very striking but you need to spend a some time arranging them on an open space of floor to get the best effect.


See next article #4 Composing a Grouping



Different pictures, with a unifying element of some sort, often a family history of photographs but not necessarily. Documents, plaques, plates, trays etc. can be mixed with the pictures as long as there is a unifying element, such as the wood tone or subject.(ie) parents marriage license framed and hung with their pictures. A family plaque, an award, a certificate or diploma can all be used to punctuate and fill up a family grouping. Use your imagination and it will look great at low cost.

Documents, plaques, plates, trays etc. can be mixed with the pictures as long as there is a unifying element, such as the wood tone or subject.(ie) parents marriage license framed and hung with their pictures. A family plaque, an award, a certificate or diploma can all be used to punctuate and fill up a family grouping. Use your imagination and it will look great at low cost.

Documents, plaques, plates, trays etc. can be mixed with the pictures as long as there is a unifying element, such as the wood tone or subject.(ie) parents marriage license framed and hung with their pictures. A family plaque, an award, a certificate or diploma can all be used to punctuate and fill up a family grouping. Use your imagination and it will look great at low cost.

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