Wall Art 101: How to Buy and Hang Posters and Prints

Written by J.A. Shapira

There is no shortage of art in the world today. Every artist seems to have a digital fingerprint, and there are thousands of options available that cost anywhere from a few dollars to a few million dollars.

Types of Art

There are three types of art if we ignore the various mediums and styles.

  1. Original Works
  2. Prints
  3. Posters

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Original works of art can be both inexpensive and exorbitant. The original painting by that guy who lives down the hall may cost you a cup of coffee, whereas an original Pollock, a Renoir or Kandinsky can fetch incredibly high prices in both private sales and public auctions.

Prints, on the other hand, tend to be a more economical option for those who want a piece from a renowned artist. There are various types of prints available, and they tend to offer different levels of quality.

A print is really just the term used for a copy of a piece of art. They tend to be a mid-range option for those who have a higher budget to work with and don’t want something incredibly unique.

Posters are a great option for placing wall art in a loft apartment or various rooms of the house. It’s wildly popular to hang vintage movie posters in home theater rooms. It is ideal for gentlemen who enjoy classic cars, magazine covers or pinups that won’t make your grandmother blush.

Whether it be a cover from Monsieur magazine that elegantly framed for your living room or a picture of Miles Davis in your home studio, there is a huge variety of posters available at low prices.

When it comes to posters, there really is a lot of freedom.

Often by spending less on the poster, you can invest the rest of your budget into a frame that will make your house look resplendent, and you look like you’re no longer in high school or college.

That’s the big difference between the posters you used to have and the ones you have now. Back in the day, it was pinned up on your bedroom wall with tape or tacks.

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Now, you have it professionally framed, and it’s hung in the common rooms of your home.

Where to Buy Original Works, Prints and Posters Online

If you’re working with a large or unlimited budget and want an original work of art, there are a variety of places you can purchase online. Many lesser known works of art can be found on eBay and older pieces on Craigslist. The trick is knowing where to look.

If you are shopping for original art on eBay, focus on areas that tend to have high net worth, elderly residents. Often, when a homeowner passes away or moves into a retirement home, the family or hired estate planner will try to sell off the assets as fast as possible. Often art is added to this list either because it’s not the style the heir likes or they have no idea of the value.

Ideal cities to search in are Palm Springs, California, and Naples, Florida. It may take some time, but you’ll end up finding a great deal on what may otherwise be a very expensive work of art.

If you are a collector and your budget is unlimited or rather high, you may be better off searching auction houses such as Sotheby’s or Christie’s. On a regular basis, the major auction houses will feature some exquisite pieces available for sale.

With the opportunity to sell worldwide online, many of the auctions allow you to bid from the comfort of your own home or office, rather than having to commute to their location.

The best part about buying online from a reputable auction house is that you will receive an appraisal and the art will have been examined carefully by an expert.

If you’re looking for prints online, there is a wide range available. Again, sites like eBay can be very useful. However, there are other sites that exclusively deal in prints and posters. For the largest selection of prints and posters, we recommend the following websites:

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These three purveyors offer the widest selection of art prints and posters in a variety of sizes and qualities. A big benefit is you can save time having it framed by purchasing art that arrives already framed and ready to be mounted on your wall.

Framing Options

There is a broad range of choices available when it comes to framing art. The first thing you want to focus on is finding a frame that suits the interior decor of your home. If you live in a traditional home, you may want dark and rich wood frames. If you hang out in a modern loft apartment, you might consider metal frames in brushed steel or copper.

Art is very personal which is one reason we don’t recommend giving it as a gift. You need to fall in love with the piece you hang and the frame as well.

Often, we find pieces that blend into the frame or the wall a little too well. For this, we recommend a mat which serves as a border between the frame and the art inside it. Using a mat with your frame can emphasize the art and tone down a bold frame, so it works more harmoniously with the artwork, rather than becoming the feature. The other benefit to a mat is that it can add a sense of contemporary sprezzatura if you are looking to modernize a more traditional painting or tone down something bold.

Mats work especially well for posters, small prints, awards or certificates, and photographs.

When it comes to framing art, there are standard sizes that will work with most prints or posters. However, the frame is something worth keeping in mind when acquiring art. Unfortunately, most people don’t take the cost of framing into consideration when selecting artwork.

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They will buy a piece based on their love of it, not realizing that it’s an odd size and will likely require custom framing. For a million dollar pièce de résistance, the cost of the frame is irrelevant, but for the guy who’s spending $300 on a print, he certainly doesn’t want to spend $600 on a custom frame.

How to Hang Art

Here are a few answers to some of the most common questions we get about hanging art.

What height do I hang it?

There is a new trend where instead of hanging art, it’s placed at an angle on the floor. This is an excellent way to showcase art if you live in a modern flat in SoHo, but for the average man, hanging art is still the preferred option.

The ideal height used by galleries and museums around the world is 58-inches from the ground. The measurement is taken at the center of the piece being hung which places it at eye-level for the average admirer.

Should I use hooks, Command strips, wire?

The classic approach is to use hooks or wires depending on the weight and size of the piece. Command strips work well in short-term places where you don’t want to lose a damage deposit because of a few holes in the wall.

For a light piece of art, a single hook is just fine. If it’s heavier, it may suggest two hooks on either side. For the more substantial pieces, you may also find using wire is easier to hang with.

Here are some of our top tricks to hanging art…

Use a Template

It can be downright difficult trying to figure out where to nail the hooks in or hang the wire from. To make life easier, take a large piece of paper that’s cut to the same shape of the art or frame it comes in. Line it up against the back of the art and poke two holes in the paper where you want the nails to go. Then, hold the paper up in the spot you want to hang it on the wall. Use a level to ensure it’s straight, and the template will show you exactly where to place the nails on the wall.

Templates are also ideal for hanging various pieces in groupings. Cut out a template for each piece you plan to hang and place it on the wall to build a roadmap that shows exactly where every piece needs to be hung.

Hammering Nails

For those who aren’t handy, hammering a nail into the wall is a recipe for disaster. Instead of putting your fingers in the firing line of the hammer, use a clothes pin to hold the nail in place. This way, your fingers will be a few inches from the nail, and you can hammer it in without injury or embarrassment.

Hooking the Line Every Time

No one looks cool with their cheek pressed up against the wall, as they try – but fail miserably – to slide the art onto the hook or nail successfully.

Thankfully, there is a trick you can use that will work every time. Instead of trying to eyeball it, take a fork and slide the tines of the fork onto the nail, so the shaft of the fork is up and slightly angled away from the wall. Then, place the art, so the wire is behind the end of the shaft and slide it down. The wire will slide to the bottom and hook onto the nail. Pull the fork from the nail and step back to marvel at your accomplishment.

Final Tips for Hanging Art

One way to ensure a smooth hanging process is to use clear tape to prevent the paint from chipping as you hang your art.

Place a small piece of Scotch tape over the area you plan to hammer the nail in. The tape will ensure that has you hammer the nail, chips of paint won’t come cracking off.

If you’re having trouble using a template, one option is to place a small dab of toothpaste on the back of the framed art where it will hang. If it’s on a wire, you can place the dab right in the middle. If it’s hanging with hooks or Command strips, place the dab of toothpaste where they will hang. Then, hold the art against the wall where you want to hang it.

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Apply some very light pressure, and when you remove the art, it will have left a small dab of toothpaste where your nails or Command strips need to be placed.