… art on the wall

sharing a vision
with infinite viewpoints
sun in the bright grass

get the right picture frame hanging measurements every time

  • designed for one or two hook hanging methods: the spreadsheets have measurements to the centre for one hook, and adjustments for D-Rings if two hooks are used
  • suitable for home or gallery wall layouts
  • download an easy to use spreadsheet
  • instructions below

download an Excel© spreadsheet

An ever-favourite - all the formulas are easy to see in the spreadsheet.

Now updated to version 2. It now has one table to enter all your frame and hook placement measurements for a wall section. It also has detailed measurements for a vertical group of two works. Illustrative data is included for reference.

Version 1.5 is still available here. Its layout is narrower and might be better on phones or tablets. https://alivebeing.com/resources/files/Picture-Hanging-Calculator-1.5.xlsx

Please let me know if there are any issues.

download a Numbers© spreadsheet

Now is a great time to download an Apple Numbers© spreadsheet. Scribble is supported, so if you have a iPad and Pencil you can write measures directly into the sheet.

Version 1.5 still available here:

download an art installation guide

This guide provides a brief introduction to art installation and some of the important parts of the process. It also explains the key calculation formulas that are used in the downloadable spreadsheets above.

download a measuring template

This template is great to use printed in hardcopy or as a background in apps such as Notability© so you can scribble notes and measurements for your layout.

instructions on how to use your downloaded picture frame hanging calculator spreadsheets

I have been hanging artwork for some years and have gone through a number of iterations of these gallery wall layout calculators. The formulas used are simple and remain unchanged but the current layout has come about from practical application. The layout reflects the processes and steps involved. The spreadsheet gives lots of measures, some may or may not be used depending on the tools used and the hanging process - these scenarios are outlined below. Also, a PDF "measuring notes" page that can be downloaded and printed. It can be used to collect all the required artwork position data - heights, widths and spaces etc.

First, before comencing please ensure you have the equipment you will need. As basic tool set would include: a pencil, a plastic eraser, scissors, small (~300mm) and large (~1200mm) levels, one or two tape measures, a small claw hammer, a pair of long nose pliers, a cordless drill and screwdriver; a roll of ~14 day painter's masking tape; wall plugs for solid and plaster board/dry wall applications; and some ready to use dry wall filler and medium-fine sandpaper. Fasteners required would be to suit the size and weight of the works and the walls and might incude various screws, nails and picture hooks. Other useful items include a cotton blanket, gloves, foam blocks to support the works off the floor, and suitable microfibre cloths and cleaning products for the wall and art work, like a paste cleaner and suitable spray cleaners (e.g. glass or perspex). A cross-line laser level and tripod, and a laser distance measurer can also be useful, as is a pole measure.

decide an "eyeline", "topline" or "lowerline"

The rule of thumb in hanging pictures is first to decide on the height of the works. Depending on the layout this might be to:
* define a common top height if the tops of the works are to be aligned; or
* decide an "eyeline" if the middle height across the pictures is required; or
* choose a lower line where the bottom edges of the works are aligned.

Commonly, in metric units, a good viewing height is between 1.4 to 1.6 meters - sometimes higher or lower depending on the works and the audience (like children). Usually, the curator decides this and the location and general spacing of the works. The picture hanging calculator is designed to help the process and define more precise measurements. The calculator uses metric measurements and millimetres - I believe if you try to measure to the millimetre any errors will remain small. Importantly, to keep things simple the calculator assumes that some symmetry is desirable, but it is flexible enough to cope with variations and groups of works.

measure wall/section width

The next step is to measure the wall or the section of the wall to be hung. Sometimes a "group" of works can be defined by a part or section of a larger wall. Sometimes the whole wall is required. A tape measure, or a laser distance measurer with targets can be used to segment a wall into sections. When measuring small pieces of painters tape can be used to keep track of the sections. So enter the wall/section width into the spreadsheet.

measure rough spaces and precise work widths

Once the wall or section has been measured it is necessary to measure the picture layout provided by the curator - often they will be placed in the desired positions. The widths of works (or groups of works) and spaces between them are measured and noted. These are usually rough as the curator will be moving works around and testing aesthetic ideas. Things to measure are the first space from the section/wall to the first work, the widths of the works; and, the widths of spaces between them. If groups are to be used the overall width of the group should be noted. Armed with this information an even spacing can be determined and an inter-work spacing required by a specified first/last spacing. A group of works can be considered like a single work when reviewing spacing for the whole wall layout. If you are using Version 2 of the spreadsheets, detailed information for each work position can be entered in this initial phase.

information required about each work

The "measuring notes" PDF provides a good guide to the measurements you will need for each work such as:
* outside width and height of the work - this can be for a rectangle or for other shapes (circles etc) the extremes.
* drop from the top of the work to the fastener can be measured with a tape measured hooked under the wire and slightly tensioned to simulate hanging.

If two hooks are to be used the d-rings provide more secure hanging. When measuring ensure the d-rings are oriented as they will be when hung and measured from where the fastener would sit. Also, if d-rings are used, measure the distance from the outside (frame or canvas) to the ring. This is the inside adjustment.

If the works will only have one hook or are on paper and will be pinned to the wall, then there will be no inside adjustment and that should be left blank in the spreadsheet.

setting the space widths

When all the widths are entered, the next step is to review the spacing calculations. The "Even space for all positions" calculation is the starting point. This will give the maximum available space if all works are evenly spaced. However, the curator or client may have other requirements for aesthetic reasons. Perhaps a larger gap between the wall end and the first work, or perhaps grouped works. Commonly there will be a larger first gap, but in any case we have "rough" gaps from step three. Enter the rough measures into the yellow areas in "Section Details". We can now compare the calculated "Ends" and "Inter-position" space with the rough measures. Adjust the entered numbers until they are equal to the calculations. In some cases you can use these calculations to inform the curator what the spacings will need to be for the proposed layout - so these can contribute to planning as well. If groups are required, a group can be considered like a single work for these calculations. That is determine an inter-group space. For groups the work widths need to include an allowance for the internal group spaces as agreed with the curator.

determining fastener locations

Assuming that the curator has agreed to the layout measurement we can begin locating fastener/work points. After completing relevant yellow areas a range of measures will be shown in cyan areas. The first distance is from the wall end/section end to the first fastener. This distance can be measured by using a tape measure or laser level. As most laser levels use tripods the laser can be set to the eyeline height. If the laser level is set on a pole there is more flexibility in setting vertical height - but a pole setup is most useful for large sets of works on paper or arrays of works. A tape measure is often simpler.

In the case of a single hook/nail/screw as a fastener the horizontal distance is show as "Section edge to centre". In the case of using two hooks/nails/screws the horizontal distance is shown as "Section edge to first fastener". The horizontal distance can be measured on the laser line. If a tape measure is used the first distance can be measured along the floor or wall - it helps if there is a second person. A small vertical pencil mark can be use or a small piece of painters tape placed vertically to mark the location on the floor/wall.

After the first horizontal space is marked the vertical height can be marked. If using a laser for the eyeline "Fastener height above eyeline" gives the distance, otherwise use "Fastener height". A horizontal pencil mark is used, thereby giving a cross with the point for the fastener as its centre. In the case of two fasteners being used a longer level can be used to measure the horizontal distance between fasteners: "first fastener to second" and an inverted T can be marked. If possible the longer level (~1200 mm) should have measurements on it. As these are hard to find a self-adhesive bench tape can be applied to a level and trimmed as required. Having a level with a rule on it is very useful.

The first work fasteners can now be nailed or screwed to the wall at that location. In some cases drilling a pilot hole will be useful. For example, in solid timber or brick/stone walls a pilot hole can ensure that subsequent processes start in the right place. However, once a fastener is in place it can interfere if you want to use that point to make further measurements. So it is good practice to put the fastener in only after you have made further measurements. For example, for the second (and subsequent works) the spreadsheet provide several measures. If the first work is in place and two fasteners are to be used the horizontal distance to the first fastener is given by "Prev work edge to first fastener". If the first work is not yet in place the distance is given by "Prev work fastener to 1st fastener". In the case of single fasteners the horizontal distance when previous work is in place is given by "Previous work edge to centre" or if not yet hung "Previous work fastener to centre". If marking from a previous fastener it is important to ensure "Previous work: fastener to edge" is completed. This is either half the width of the work for a single fastener, or the inside d-ring adjustment if two fasteners are used.

The calculator could be used to mark up the entire wall or a section before any hanging is done. In practice the hanging team is more likely to do one work at a time progressively except where there is a group array when it is better to mark all points first. A progressive approach enable any errors to be picked-up quickly and addressed. Of course, after each picture is hung check the horizontal with the small level and make any adjustments.

optional vertical group of two

A common scenario is a group of two works one on top of the other. The calculator provides the heights of the top of the work, e.g. for pinned works on paper, and the fastener heights for the two works. Since it only provides the heights, the horizontal measurements will require the use of the First/Second work calculations above. Where the widths of the two vertical works are different the widest one should be used in calculating the initial whole of wall/section spacings. Note that a vertical space between the works needs to be set, usually as specified by the curator.

illustrative diagram

The illustrative diagram included in the spreadsheets shows the majority of results from the calculations. This is included for those of us who find it easier to process visual information. I also use simple paper table templates to record the measurements before translating them to the spreadsheet.

In addition to the commonly used Excel spreadsheet have included an Apple Numbers spreadsheet. This because I have found using an iPad is quite convenient in a gallery. This is especially so using "guided access" function as the iPad can be made readily available to all those involved.


Remember, you will not need to use all the numbers all the time - just pick the ones you need! You might only need to use parts of "SECTION DETAILS" and "First Work Dimensions".

That is, if each work is done one at a time then one of "eyeline","topline" or "lowerline" are required; as are "Set first … space" and "…Work dimensions". These will establish the "Fastener height" and "Section edge to fastener" (either one or two) for horizontal distance(s). The section edge is the previous work's frame. This approach works well for loose layouts with varying inter-work distances.

I hope these downloads will be useful for you.