Hanging Hardware: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In the art world there are several types of hangers, and not all of them are as secure as you would expect them to be. Here we will cover our top picks for hanging hardware, and what situations to use them in.

The Good:

 D-ring Hanging Hardware with Screws

D-ring Hanging Hardware with Screws

D-ring Hangers

D-ring hangers are my personal top pick, especially when used in conjunction with hanging wire, but we’ll get to that in a bit. There are a few notes to make when using these: they come in different sizes and shapes. The shape isn’t particularly impactful, but size does matter: if you aren’t using hanging wire with these, make sure to select d-rings that are large enough for a hook to go through. Second: You have to use two. Lastly, if what you’re hanging weighs more than 50lbs, these are not going to get the job done for you, and you risk damaging your work.

How to Use Them

Make a mark about a third of the way down the back of your canvas or picture frame, and use a level to make sure they’re even, then pre-drill holes on the back of your canvas’s stretcher bars, being careful not to go through the canvas itself. Depending on the wood your stretcher bars or frame are made out of, you may or may not need to pre-drill. Then simply attach the d-rings with quarter-inch to half-inch screws. Optional: string braided hanging wire between the two d-rings for additional security. If you’re going to use a wire, attaching the d-rings horizontally or at an angle would be beneficial.

 An Eye-hook with lightweight hanging wire

An Eye-hook with lightweight hanging wire

Eye-Hooks With Hanging Wire

Eye-hooks with hanging wire are a popular choice because they’re cheap, effective, and easy to use. I think that d-rings look cleaner and more professional, but nobody’s going to judge a painting from the backside, so it’s not a dire concern. Important issues here are eye-hook size and the weight of the hanging wire you use. You cannot use just any wire you pick up from a generic craft store™. Make sure to buy wire made specifically for hanging canvases and pictures. It’ll usually be galvanized and twisted or braided. With eye-hooks the issue is actually going too big. A half-inch long eye-hook is all you should need. This method is generally not compatible with picture frames, unless the frame has a ledge in the back.

How To Use Them

As with the d-rings, measure a third of the way down from the top of your canvas and make two even marks on the inside of the canvas’s stretcher bars using a level. It’s important to place the eye-hooks inside the canvas’s stretcher bars so that the canvas will sit flush with the wall, giving it a cleaner and more professional look. Pre-drill if needed and insert the eye-hooks, making sure that they do not press against the canvas’s fabric. Take the wire and measure out the width of your canvas with an extra 6-18”, depending on the size of your canvas. You will want the wire to have some slack so that it can fit over the hooks on the wall, and you will want extra to wrap around the eye-hooks and back onto the wire itself to secure it in place, as seen in the image above. This method is also compatible with d-rings, using d-rings in place of eye-hooks.

 Keyhole Hangers

Keyhole Hangers

Keyhole Hangers

Keyhole hangers aren’t seen as often as the two previous options, due to the fact that many of us don’t have works weighing more than 50lbs. But, if you do, these are what you should use. Again, the key here is to use two on opposite sides of the canvas, then string hanging wire from them. And if you’re using these, also make sure to get heavier weight wire. I would be hesitant to attach these to a frame due to fear of the frame breaking if the work is heavy enough to require this method. If you’re simply using these as overkill, though, go right ahead.

How To Use Them

Same as the two previous, measure a third of the way down, use a level to make even marks on the canvas. Pre-drill if needed, this time two holes, one for the top and the bottom of the hardware. Then string your heavier weight wire through with some slack and wrap it back on itself to secure it.

 French Cleat hanging system

French Cleat hanging system

Cleats

Cleats are another lesser-seen option that are just as secure, if not even more so, due to the fact that there are several points where the piece is secured, not just one or two. The picture above does not show the other half of the system, but it is a matching bar that fits into the top one and is screwed into the wall (please use a level!) These are better for heavier canvases, and they’re just overkill for anything smaller than 36”.

How to Use Them

Different from the previous methods, this is attached to the top bar of your canvas. Use a level to mark even holes matching the number in your cleat, centered on the canvas. Pre-drill if needed, align the top cleat, making sure that it is facing down, and screw onto the canvas. The other half will involve measuring the wall and the canvas to find the eye height and the center of the canvas, and place the cleat appropriately and evenly using a level, making sure that it faces up. Then simply lift the canvas and hook into the wall cleat. Voila! Your large canvas is now secured to the wall and has little hope of escape without assistance.

The Bad

Firstly, using a single d-ring or keyhole hanger at the top of your work, or using keyhole hangers without also using a wire is a terrible, non-secure way to hang your artwork. The issue lies in relying on a single point to support an entire piece. I’ll discuss this more later.

 A sawtooth hanger

A sawtooth hanger

Sawtooth Hangers

Often referred to as “alligators” due to their looks and temperamental nature, these hangers are HATED in many galleries. Their teeth scrape up walls and are deceptive in how secure they actually are. Sawtooth hangers are extremely likely to jump off the wall, risking major damage to works, especially since many picture frames with glass use these hangers. Why so risky? Because this hanging system relies on a single point to secure the work to the wall. With a single point system you’re one and done, whereas with a double or triple point system, if you lose one point the work doesn’t fall, but shifts enough for someone to notice and fix it, if it moves at all.

How To Fix It

It doesn’t matter how much or how little your work weighs, the best thing to do with a picture frame with an alligator is to ideally remove the alligator and replace it with two d-rings or a wire.

The Ugly

 The back of a canvas without any hanging hardware

The back of a canvas without any hanging hardware

A Naked Canvas

A canvas without any hardware has the same issues as a sawtooth hanger. Except this additionally makes you look careless and lazy. Now, for works that aren’t showing in a formal setting like a gallery or aren’t going to a customer anytime soon, not having hardware isn’t an issue, but to lack hardware in one of these formal settings puts your work in danger and does you no favors with your clients.

How To Fix It

Buy and attach d-rings, a cleat, or a wire as you deem appropriate.

 Command hooks and strips

Command hooks and strips

Adhesive hooks and velcro strips

Just no. Adhesives don’t stick well to wood and canvas, weaken over time, and have— in my experience— been known to fall off the wall even without anything on them. And velcro? Even worse.

How To Fix This

Open package. Throw away. Buy D-rings.


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