Choosing picture hanging hardware

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Choosing picture hanging hardware for all wall types takes some basic know-how

Securing art and photographs to a wall is trickier than it looks. Rarely do studs fall where you’d like to hang the picture, if you can find a stud. Plaster walls are no picnic either. That said, once your heart is set on a certain spot for a certain piece of work, the right supplies and a little know-how will get the job done.

Choosing picture hanging hardware with care will keep your carefully selected art and family photos where they belong – fastened to the wall for all to see. The best options for you will depend on the construction of your walls plus the weight and size of the work being hung. 


Plastic sleeves prevent the nail from tearing out of the wall should there be too much pressure. These often come in blue and have short slits up the sides. Use these if your walls are plaster or you’re drilling into bricks. Tightening the screw will secure the sleeve as long as it’s a snug fit.

Not all plastic sleeves are created equal. If you’re working with drywall, be sure to use sleeves with expanding wings. These wings are designed to spread out once the sleeve is through the surface, bracing the screw. Sleeve sizes vary and can support 10 to 25 pounds, so they’re perfect for most framed pictures and canvases.

Screw-in anchors also hold 10 to 25 pounds. Many DIYers prefer this style because it’s an all-purpose anchor that’s easy to install.

Tap-in anchors are best used with small frames only (under 10 pounds). Tap these metal anchors into drywall with a hammer and the expanding wings will spread similar to the plastic ones. Fasten a fitted screw through the flange hole.


Once your anchors and screws are in place – LifeHacker offers handy tips for skipping the trial and error of putting numerous holes in your walls – it’s time to attach the frame to the mount. As always, there are several options.

Sawtooth hangers, a thin strip of metal with tooth-like edges, may be already attached to the back of your frame. If so you’re in luck. Simply secure the teeth over the head of the mounted screws. 

Nylon wire attaches to the sides of the back of the frame. Wire hangers are either taut or attached with some slack. If the wire has slack and is attached near the top of the frame, the picture will hang below for a traditional look. A taut wire will hold the frame almost flush against the wall and you won’t be able to see the wire.

Triangular loops coated in metal attach to the sides of the frame, often referred to as “frame hangars”, which isn’t very helpful. These will attach to frame hooks securely. If the screws are large enough, you can also fit the loop over the head of the screw with a lighter canvas.


The hangar you choose will determine whether hooks are a necessity. When choosing picture hanging hardware, it never hurts to have frame hooks on hand. These have flat blacks so they sit flush against the wall. Use one on either end of a wire hanger for a close fit, or a large hook in the center to support a smaller frame.

Toggle bolts

Ever look at an over-sized canvas and wonder how in the world they securely attached it? The answer is toggle bolts. Metal toggle bolts can support up to 50 lbs and they work in plaster walls, drywall and even hollow core concrete walls (common in converted industrial spaces).


The three things to consider before choosing picture hanging hardware: the picture’s weight, type of wall, and how you want to hang it. For heavier frames, best to play it safe and hang from two secure points.

Expanding Anchors: plastic sleeves, screw-in and tap-in are common varieties

Hangers: sawtooth and nylon coated wire are common, user-friendly options

Frame hooks: used with wire and frame hangars

Toggle bolts: for super-sized canvases that weight 25 to 50 lbs

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