8 Expert Tips and Tricks for Hanging a Picture Right the First Time

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iStock

Framed pictures are an inexpensive way to make a house feel like a home, and they can take a room from empty to finished-looking in minutes. They can be customized easily to your space and decor, and swapped out if your tastes change. But there is an art to hanging a picture the right way—without destroying your walls. Here’s what you need to know.

1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT WALL MOUNT.

There are several steps you need to take before you get anywhere near a drill or hammer. First, consider two factors: the state of the wall you want to decorate, and the weight of the picture. Your wall may be supported by studs, which are pieces of wood or metal that run vertically behind the wall every couple of feet. Screwing directly into a stud can provide more support for hanging items.

If you have a reinforced wall, you could use a basic nail or screw to hang the frame, as long as you insert the nail or screw firmly into a stud. But you should only ever use a nail if you're hanging on a stud, according to Simon Taylor, owner-operator of T&C Carpentry in Whitby, Ontario. Otherwise, the weight of the picture could rip the nail out of the wall.

No stud? No problem. "If the picture is light, then a product like Monkey Hooks"—a kind of cantilevered hook for unreinforced walls—"work great," Taylor says.

For medium to heavy pictures, use wall anchors, which are plastic or metal inserts that provide more support for screwing into an unreinforced wall. There are many styles and strengths available for different materials and weights. “Using a product like E-Z Ancors is an easy way to fix a screw to drywall where there is no stud to screw into. They are strong and easy to install,” Taylor tells Mental Floss. “You can then thread a screw into them to hang your picture, providing it has a hook on the back or a string. A good rule to follow is not to use anything other than an anchor if you are not screwing directly into a stud or backing.” (Plastic wall anchors are fine for most lightweight projects, but for a really heavy picture, or a wall made out of something besides drywall, you'll need a different type of anchor.)

If you’re renting and don't want to damage the walls of your apartment, or you’re not 100 percent committed to the picture's placement, Taylor recommends a non-nail option like the extremely popular 3M Command adhesive hooks. They provide temporary, hole-free hanging and hold strong without peeling paint off the wall when it comes time to remove them.

Others argue that stick-on hooks can be unreliable, especially for heavier frames. “All picture-hanging hardware should really include some type of component that punctures the wall,” says Claire Wheeler, design and project coordinator for Montreal-based Sajo Inc. “This provides a much more secure hanging system than a hanging system that is surface-applied.” The adhesives on these types of products are more likely to fail than any sort of nail or anchored hardware, she tells Mental Floss.

2. EXAMINE THE FRAME'S HARDWARE.

Wheeler says your hanging hardware depends on the size and weight of the frame. Fortunately, most frame manufacturers include some form of hanger on the back of their products.

While she finds that hook tabs (small triangular hangers on ready-to-use frames) work for hanging lighter pictures, a wire system—two anchor points on the back of the frame and a strong wire strung between them for looping over the wall screw or hook—is the better choice for hanging large and/or heavy pictures. The wire system setup allows the weight of the frame to be distributed evenly along the wire for more secure hanging, rather than placing all the weight of the frame on one small hanger point.

“You will notice that most frames, whether you have purchased them in a store or you've had them custom-made, have hardware already installed at the back. It’s usually a pretty safe bet to use what the manufacturer has provided,” Wheeler says.

To hang a picture without the need for advanced math, start with a center hanging point: a hook tab affixed in the appropriate spot, or, if your frame has two tabs on either side of the frame, a wire strung slackly between them.

3. HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS ON HAND.

Assemble all of the gear before you spring into action. In addition to your framed artwork, you'll need the proper hanging apparatus for your project (see #1) and a hammer for pounding in the wall anchor or nail. Use a power drill or screwdriver to insert screws in the wall anchor, if you're using one. A tape measure makes it easier to calculate the right spot for hanging. A sturdy wire for the back of your frame is optional (see #2). And the best way to ensure your picture will be level is to, well, use a level. “A level is a basic tool everyone should have,” Wheeler says. “If you own a hammer, you should own a level.”

4. HANG AT THE RIGHT HEIGHT.

Wheeler says you should play around with the height at which you plan on installing the frame: “As a general rule, eye level should land within the bottom half of the frame,” she says.

From a designer’s perspective, Wheeler finds people often choose pictures that are either too big or too small in proportion to the wall area. “You want the picture to have some space to 'breathe,' so to speak, meaning a wall large enough that it doesn’t feel as though the picture is overcrowding the wall," she says. "On the flip side, you also don’t want a picture to look completely lost on a big wall."

She adds, "Proportion is important, but there’s no specific ratio" of picture size to wall area that could be considered a rule of thumb. Ultimately, you're the best judge of your space.

5. PICK THE SPOT ON THE WALL WHERE YOUR PICTURE WILL HANG.

Place the frame against the wall where you want it to hang. "It’s a good idea to have someone with you to judge if it is in the right place," Taylor says. "Having a view of it in place before it’s 'fixed' to the wall will help you decide if it looks right."

After you've picked your spot, draw a short line with a pencil along the center of the frame's top edge as your reference line. If you're hanging a really large picture, get your assistant to hold it in place while you draw.

6. TAKE MEASUREMENTS.

Lay the frame face-down on a flat surface. Place your wall fastener, such as the wall anchor or Command hook, in the appropriate hook tab or on the wire on the back of the frame and pull the wire taut. With a tape measure, measure the distance from the top edge of the frame to the center of the fastener.

7. PLACE YOUR WALL FASTENER AND HANG THE FRAME.

Now back to the wall: Measure the same distance from the center of your penciled reference line down. Mark that spot with your pencil: That's where you're going to install your fastener.

If you're not using a wall anchor, simply affix an adhesive hook, hammer in a nail, or insert a Monkey Hook.

To install an anchor, drill a hole into the wall at the penciled point with a screw that is narrower than the anchor itself. (You don't want the anchor to be too loose in the wall.) Don't screw it too tightly. Next, reverse the drill's direction and pull the screw out. Insert the anchor, hammering it flush against the wall. Finally, drill the screw into the anchor—this action makes the anchor expand slightly and press against the drywall's innards, creating a more secure fit. Be sure to leave a bit of space between the screw's head and the wall so the picture's wire can be hooked over the screw. Hang the picture.

8. EVEN OUT YOUR HANDIWORK.

To make sure your picture is straight, rest the level along the top of the frame, against the wall. Then, adjust until the air bubble within the small tube of water is in the center of the tube, which indicates that the bar is parallel to the floor—and, therefore, that your picture is level.

Taylor says that not using a level and assuming the hanging hardware is set evenly on the back of a frame are the two biggest mistakes he sees people make. Pros often use laser levels, but Taylor says a water level will work just as well for most people.

Need some inspirations to get started? Consider hanging a few classic movie posters, printed patents for famed inventions, or a guide to cats.

11 Thoughtful Gifts for DIY Enthusiasts

iStock/ASIFE
iStock/ASIFE

It can be tough to find the perfect gift for the people who make everything themselves. Why not give them the tools and supplies they need to create works of art with their own personal touch? Check out these gift ideas for every DIY enthusiast on your list.

1. Prismacolor Premier Hand Lettering Advanced Set

DIY Prismacolor Hand Lettering Set on Amazon
Amazon

With this set of high-quality pens and pencils, your artistically minded giftees will have the tools to add a personal flourish to letters, signs, greeting cards, and more. The kit includes two graphite pencils, seven illustration markers, two dual-ended art markers for bold lettering, an instruction guide, and—perhaps most importantly—an eraser.

Find It at Amazon for $20 and also at these retailers:

2. Urban Cheesecraft Mini DIY Farmer's Cheese Kit

DIY Farmer's Cheese Cheesemaking Kit from Urban Cheesecraft
Urban Cheesecraft

Portland, Oregon-based Urban Cheesecraft’s DIY cheese kit will make three to five batches of homemade farmer’s cheese, a versatile kind that can range in flavor from light ricotta to funky feta. Instructions are included along with cheesemaking materials. Just add milk!

Find It at Etsy for $14.

3. Olfa Rotary Essentials Kit

Olfa Rotary Essentials Kit on Amazon
Amazon

Perfect for paper crafters and scrapbookers, this kit includes two rotary cutters (in 45-millimeter and 18-millimeter sizes) and a self-healing mat. These tough tools will cut paper as well as leather, cloth, vinyl, film, photos, wallpaper, and more.

Find It and Amazon for $38 and also at these other retailers:

4. MoMa Design Store Crepe Myrtle Bonsai Growing Kit

MoMA Design Store Crepe Myrtle Bonsai Growing Kit
MoMA Design Store

Coax a Lagerstroemia indica from seed to tiny tree with this made-in-the-U.S.A. kit. In its second summer, this fast-growing crepe myrtle will bloom with mini pink and red flowers, then drop its leaves to reveal its distinctive gray-on-red branches. After five years, the tree will sport a pretty crown of deep green leaves and red blossoms in season.

Find It at MoMA Store for $36.

5. Impressart Metal Stamping Kit

ImpressArt Metal Stamping Kit on Amazon
Amazon

This slightly intimidating kit contains everything a crafter needs to stamp impressions into metal jewelry or objects. Along with the 1-pound hammer and small steel anvil, the Stamp Straight Tape helps you make impressions in a straight line and keep letters evenly spaced. The stamps themselves feature the letters of the alphabet (upper and lower case kits are available) and special characters.

Find It at Amazon for $113.

6. Make Your Own Hot Sauce Kit

Make Your Own Hot Sauce Kit from Uncommon Goods
Uncommon Goods

Your bestie will be weaned off Sriracha when he concocts his own sauce with dried guajillo, chipotle, and arbol peppers. The kit contains the essentials (like gloves and bottling materials), plus all the ingredients needed for six custom-made bottles of the hot stuff.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $35.

7. Solar Photography Kit

Solar Photography Kit and photo examples from Uncommon Goods
Uncommon Goods

Popularized in the 1840s by Anna Atkins, the first female photographer, solar photographs (also known as cyanotypes thanks to their blue color) use sunlight to develop images on chemically treated paper. Just lay a photo negative or object on the paper, place it in the sun for a while, and voilà. This kit includes six sheets of photosensitive paper, a light-proof storage envelope, and instructions. Fabric kits are also available.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $15.

8. Churchmouse Yarns Lykke Indigo Interchangeable Needle Set

Lykke indigo interchangeable knitting needles set from Churchmouse Yarns
Churchmouse Yarns

Your lucky giftee can take her knitting to the next level with this set of solid birch needles. Dyed an elegant indigo blue, the needles range in size from US 4 to US 17 and come with five cords in different lengths, two cord connectors, four keys, and four stoppers in their own denim-look carrying case.

Find It at Churchmouse Yarns for $138.

9. Southern Bourbon Stout Beer Brewing Kit

Southern Bourbon Stout beer brewing kit from Uncommon Goods
Uncommon Goods

Why fight the drunken hordes at your local craft brewery when you, or your gift recipient, can brew your beer in the comfort of your home? This artisanal kit includes the hardware—a fermentor jug, racking cane, funnel, and more—and malt extract, specialty grains, fresh hops, and yeast to make one gallon of homemade brew. This particular formula relies on oak chips soaked in bourbon (booze not included) to add woodsy vanilla notes to your beer.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $45.

10. Cavallini Flora and Fauna Rubber Stamp Set

Cavallini flora and fauna rubber stamp set from Amazon
Amazon

Create woodland scenes on mail art, gift cards, holiday decor, and more with these rubber stamps on wood blocks. Vintage designs include an owl, songbird, deer, dogwood flower, and other forest friends. The stamps come in an attractive tin with a high-quality black ink pad.

Find It at Amazon for $25 and also at these other retailers:

11. The Chart of Hand Tools


PopChartLabs

Your favorite tinkerer will always know which equipment to enlist for their next home improvement project, thanks to this detailed graphic of 300 hand tool illustrations, organized by use case.

Find It at PopChart Labs for $40.

7 Packing Tips for a Basic Economy Flight

iStock.com/PeopleImages
iStock.com/PeopleImages

Booking a basic economy flight can be a smart way to save money if you’re traveling light. But if you’re planning on taking an extended vacation or a long trip home for the holidays, it could end up costing you more in the long run. Some airlines limit basic economy fliers to one personal item that fits under their seat, which means if you show up to the airport with a full-sized carry-on, you’ll have to pay to check it. That shouldn’t be an excuse to skip the cheapest options when shopping for plane tickets. We spoke to some travel experts, who explained how to pack everything you need for a long trip into one personal bag.

1. Choose the right bag.

For a basic economy flight, you need to start with the right bag before deciding what to pack and how to pack it. Most regular-size luggage won’t fit under an airplane seat, so look for a quality purse or backpack instead. Size is an important factor, but according to Matthew Kepnes of the travel site Nomadic Matt, you should also find a bag that helps you stay organized. “Bring something flexible and with lots of pockets so you can better organize your things,” he tells Mental Floss. “Ideally, your bag will also have outer pockets so you can take advantage of the space outside your bags for things like flip-flops or a water bottle.”

Hitha Palepu of the travel site Hitha On The Go recommends two of her favorite bags as your personal item: the metro tote from MZ Wallace, or the bento bag from Nomad Lane.

2. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane.

Bringing heavy clothing on a trip is necessary if you’re traveling someplace cold for the holidays. Instead of wasting valuable real estate in your bag, set aside the items that would take up the most space and slip them on before heading to the airport. “I try to wear my bulkiest items—the heaviest shoes, a coat, chunky sweater,” Palepu tells Mental Floss. And if you start to get hot beneath all those heavy clothes, you can always strip off a layer and use it as a pillow on your flight.

3. Take a minimalist approach.

When packing for basic economy flight, look at each item before putting it in your bag and ask yourself if you really need it. If you hesitate, set it aside and move on to the next thing. Having a minimalist attitude is the only way to leave the house with a personal bag you can fully zip closed. “We often get overzealous when it comes to packing for your trip, thinking we will need this and that when the truth is, we usually don't,” Kepnes says. “Don't plan for every contingency and bring your whole wardrobe. Keep it simple.”

4. Pack your most versatile wardrobe staples.

Instead of sacrificing your personal style on your next trip, stick to a few basic clothing pieces that are able to do a lot of work. According to Kepnes, versatility is key. “Bring clothes that all go well together so you can make up more outfits and not only have specific clothing combinations,” he says. “Just try to get the most mileage from each item.”

5. Plan to re-wear clothes.

There’s no trick that will help you fit two weeks' worth of clothing beneath your seat. The only choice is to pack as much clothing as you can fit and plan to re-wear those items—which, according to Kepnes, isn’t the end of the world. “You can always do laundry at your destination, too, so don't worry about running out of clothes,” he says.

In order to stretch her travel wardrobe as far as possible, Palepu packs essential oils so she can refresh pieces between wears. You can also fill a tiny travel-size spray bottle with Downy Wrinkle Releaser to smooth and freshen your clothes before and after wearing them.

6. Don't waste money on vacuum-sealed bags.

Using a space-saving vacuum bag may seem like an appealing option if you’re struggling to fit all your stuff in your backpack, but both Kepnes and Palepu say not to bother. “If you're careful about what you pack, you don't need a vacuum sealer or packing cubes to conserve space,” Palepu says. Instead of a special folding strategy, she’s conserves space by being mindful of the order she packs her items in. “When I pack, I pack the heaviest and bulkiest items first and my smallest, most flexible items last so I can fit them in the small nooks and crannies left by the bigger items.”

Kepnes also doesn’t endorse any special folding methods, but he sometimes uses packing cubes to stay organized. “If you still don't have enough room in your backpack, that just means you've got too much stuff!” he says. (He recommends his favorite backpacks here.)

7. Buy what you can at your destination.

There’s no reason to buy travel toiletries and gifts for your host on the way to the airport. If you need something that you’ll only be using at your destination, wait until you arrive to pick it up. “Keep your packing to a minimum and just aim to buy a few things upon arrival,” Palepu says. “That will keep you within the size limits but still allow you to have everything you need for your trip.”

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