How to Hang Pictures From a Picture Rail

Protect your walls--and add a decorative design element to your room--by hanging your pictures from a picture rail. Originally used to protect plaster-and-lathe walls from nail damage, picture rails have a rounded top edge designed to hold hooks securely in place. They usually hang below cornice molding, anywhere from just below to level with the tops of door frames. Hanging artwork from picture rails is simple and you can rearrange your gallery as often as you like, without ever making a single hole in your walls.

Step 1

Attach two D-ring or strap hangers to the back of each picture. Use D-rings for small to medium-sized pictures with glass and for unframed canvases. Use strap hangers for large, heavy pictures and mirrors. Lay the picture face down on a folded bath towel to protect the glass. Nail the hangers to the outer edges of the back of the picture frame, just under the top rail, so the side rails of the picture frame carry the weight.

Step 2

Hold your picture to the wall, at the height where you want it to hang. Make a light pencil mark on the wall at the location of the picture's upper corners. Check the marks with a level and adjust them if needed.

Step 3

Hook the larger curve of one or two S-shaped picture rail hooks to your picture rail. Use one picture rail hook for small, light pictures and two hooks for medium to large pictures.

Step 4

Loop cable-twisted, steel picture wire over the smaller, projecting curve of your picture rail hooks. For pictures hanging from a single hook, loop the center of a single wire three times around the picture rail hook. Let the ends of the wire trail down in equal amounts from both sides of the hook. For pictures hanging from two hooks, use a separate wire for each hook. Leave 4 inches of wire free on one end of the wire and loop the longer end three times around the picture rail hook. Coil the 4-inch end of wire tightly around the top of the longer end, just below the picture rail hook.

Step 5

Hold your picture to the wall, aligning the corners to the pencil marks you made. Slip the left-hanging wire--either hanging from the left picture rail hook or the left half of a double-wire hanging from a single hook--through the left picture hanger. Loop the wire three times through the hanger. Coil 4 inches of the loose end of the wire tightly around the other end of the wire. Cut off excess wire with wire cutter or a pair of old scissors. Repeat with the right-hanging wire and the right picture hanger.

Step 6

Step back from the picture and make sure it hangs straight. Adjust the wire and coils as necessary.

Leah James

Leah James has been a full-time freelance writer and editor since 2008. With more than a decade of experience in interior decorating, she frequently writes about home design. She studied English literature at Lyon College.