In Part One of my series on how to hang fine art nature photography prints from Dean McLeod Photography, this tutorial focuses specifically on Lumachrome® TruLife® acrylic prints. The hanging system utilizes the attached float frame on the rear of your print, along with the included wood blocks called French cleats.
This tutorial may also be helpful in part for anyone wishing to hang artwork on drywall utilizing the French cleat system, although it is written specifically for the prints that I sell through this website.
Once installed, your fine art print will appear to 'float' approximately 1.5 inches off of your wall for a beautiful, contemporary frameless presentation.
A Lumachrome® print can be quite large and heavy depending on the size you ordered, so if you are not completely comfortable using a tape measure, level, stud-finder, hammer, a drill to place drywall anchors or if your wall is tiled or made of stone or concrete, this job may be best handed over to a professional. But if you are a handy do-it-yourselfer, this job should be well within your capabilities. Once you arrive at the final stages of installation, it is recommended to have a helper assist in lifting the print onto the wall. But up to that point, most of the job can be done with one person.
Tools You Will Need
Installing your acrylic print will require the following:
- Tape measure
- Pencil, note pad
- Masking / painter's tape
- Level (four-footer if possible. The plastic ones at Home Depot are priced reasonably. This job can be done without a level, but you must measure very accurately)
- Stud finder
- Small ladder (optional if needed)
- Drill with Phillips style drill bit (or optional Phillips screwdriver)
How High Do I Hang My Print?
Once you have safely removed your fine art print from the custom crate, you will become accustomed to its size and can begin to visualize its positioning on your wall. There are a number of variables depending on whether you have a blank wall or intend to hang the print over furniture or a mantle.
If you are hanging your print on a blank wall, a good rule of thumb is to place it so the very center of the picture is at eye height while you are standing. For an average height person, this is usually between 62 to 66 inches. If you are hanging your print over furniture or a mantle, the bottom edge of the print should be approximately six to twelve inches above the furniture. Remember that these are general guidelines and may not always apply in every case. At the end of the day, it is your wall so hang it in a position that is pleasing to you.
The following is a series of photographs that explain in detail how to hang your Lumachrome® print. Your measurements will be different than mine of course, but the general steps will always apply.
The face of your print will be covered with a sheet of special plastic which helps to prevent scratching during shipping. You will want to leave it on for now to prevent damage while you are working. It can be removed later just before you are ready to lift it onto the wall. Remember to place your print gently on edge to avoid damaging the acrylic. It is fine art and should be treated as such.
As shown in the photo above, the French cleats, drywall anchors, and screws will be taped to the back of your print. You can pull away the tape and separate them. This image also shows the attached float frame which is used to hang the print.
Above are the French cleats. Essentially, they are simple wooden blocks with one edge that is cut at an angle, or 'bevel'. The smaller face on the left will face inwards once installed, and the larger face with the inset holes will face outwards. The sharp lip of the beveled edge will face upwards and outwards once installed, effectively creating a 'hook'.
The included drywall anchors with screws and washers. You will be twisting the drywall anchors into your wall, aligning a cleat over the anchors, then placing the screws through the holes in the cleat and twisting them into the anchors behind.
The photos above show how I prefer to start the installation with some measuring. Above left shows the approximate position that the cleats will sit in relation to the float frame on the print. Remember that you are looking at everything backwards in this photo. The small face of the cleat that you see here will be facing the wall once it is installed.
Above right, I hold the cleat in position and measure down from the very top edge of the print. My measurement is approximately seven inches. Write down your own measurement on a piece of paper. I find it helpful to draw a rough sketch of the whole wall and record the measurements for reference as I proceed.
The image above shows my intended positioning of the print along with some measurements that I took for my space. Of course, yours will be different but this photo shows the thought process. Let's walk through it together for clarity.
First, I know that I want the print centered left / right on the wall. And as mentioned previously, on average, your print will look best if the center of the picture is approximately 62-66 inches above the floor, representing eye-level for an average height person while standing.
My wall is 84 inches wide, so I divided by 2 and measured 42 inches from the left side to find the left / right center of the wall. In this case, I made the decision to have the center of my picture 64 inches off the floor. The red dot represents the intended center of my print. So far, so good.
My print is 40 inches tall, so I know that the center of the picture is 20 inches from the top edge. I measure up 20 inches from the red dot and mark the wall, which represents the top edge of the print.
Finally, I measure down 7 inches from the top edge and draw a line with my level.
The blue rectangle is the outer edges of the print. The red rectangle represents the inner edges of the float frame on the back of the print. The green line is my level line, 7 inches below the top edge of the print. I will place the bottom edges of the French cleats on this green line.
Above, I measure the approximate distance between the inner edges of the vertical rails of the float frame. My measurement is about 50 inches. I know that I will have to install the French cleats within the vertical rails, so they must not be more than 50 inches apart on their outer edges.
Above, I measure seven inches below the top edge of the print, hold my orange level on that mark and draw a light pencil line across the region. This will represent the bottom edges of the French cleats.
Each time I mark the wall anywhere with a pencil, I like to place a piece of painter's tape aligned with my mark. I prefer painter's tape over regular masking tape because the adhesive is very light and it will peel off easily later. I like to use it because it is highly visible and makes the installation easier to visualize as you proceed with each step. Plus, you can draw arrows and measurement numbers directly on the tape to denote which edge represents your measurements.
Of course it is possible to do your installation without any tape, but the pencil marks can be hard to distinguish later on. If you use a lot of pencil marks, they are easily removed later with a wet eraser sponge.
The next step is to use a stud finder and scan the whole wall, left to right, along your level line to find the wall studs beneath the drywall. If you get lucky and find a stud behind one or both of your eventual cleat locations, you can attach at least one screw through the cleat into a wall stud instead of using drywall anchors.
As you know, when you scan with a stud finder, each time it beeps and casts the red laser line, that represents the edge of a wall stud beneath the drywall. Mark each edge with a small pencil mark. The area between the marks is the actual stud.
The photo above shows my blue tape marks, the starting point being the one in the center below the red dot. This will be the center position of my print. Then I measured up 20 inches and placed the second tape to represent the top edge of the print. Next, I measured down 7 inches, placed a third blue tape mark and drew a light pencil line across the region, representing the bottom edges of the French cleats.
The next thing we need to know is where to position the cleats on the green line. I measured the distance between the vertical rails in the float frame of the print, which came in at about 50 inches. So, starting in the center of the green line, I measured out 25 inches in each direction and placed a blue tape to represent the vertical rails of the float frame. In the photo they are the white vertical dotted lines.
It will be best if you place the cleats a few inches inwards of the white lines. This way, once the print is installed, you have the freedom to shift the positioning a few inches to the left or right so that the final placement will be perfectly centered. As you can see here, I will place my cleats about six inches inwards of the white lines.
Finally, the red vertical dotted lines represent where I found my wall studs. If you look closely, I was lucky on the right side as there is a wall stud directly behind where my right cleat is to be placed. I was able to put one of the screws through the right-hand hole of the cleat directly into the wall stud. For the left hole, I used a drywall anchor behind the cleat.
The left cleat had no wall stud in the area, so I used two drywall anchors to attach it to the wall.
Each cleat will arrived pre-drilled with two holes. They are counter-sunk about halfway through the wood, with a smaller hole the rest of the way through. To mark the positioning of your drywall anchors, hold your cleat firmly in the position shown above, with the bottom edge of the wood level with your pencil line, and push a drill bit or other similar sharp object through each hole in the cleat to poke dimples in your drywall. Be sure that the cleat does not shift when you perform this step.
Also, be sure to mark the cleats 'left' and 'right' before you start, because it is likely that holes won't be drilled exactly the same on each cleat.
After poking the dimples in my drywall, the drywall anchors can be installed as above. I recommend standing on a small ladder for this step to give yourself better leverage. Using a drill with a Phillips style drill bit, hold one of the anchors on the end of your drill bit and place the sharp tip of the anchor into the dimple in the drywall. Holding your drill as level and steady as possible, apply some pressure to poke a hole in the drywall and pull the trigger very slowly on the drill. Drill VERY slowly while applying strong pressure inwards to screw the anchor into the drywall. You must stop immediately as soon as the outer flange on the anchor is flush with the surface of the drywall. DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN the anchors.
Once your drywall anchors are installed, it is time to put up the French cleats. As mentioned previously, I found a wall stud underneath my right cleat position. The right-hand screw went straight through the cleat into the wall stud, and I used a drywall anchor for the left screw.
Above, I am installing the left cleat with my drill. Note that there was no wall stud in the area, so I used two drywall anchors for this cleat.
The final installation of a French cleat. Be sure that the bottom edge of the wood is aligned with your level pencil line so that both left and right cleats are level with one another. This is critical so that the print will hang level on your wall. Finally, be sure that the sharp edge or 'lip' of the beveled edge faces upwards and away from the wall, shown above.
My final cleat installation. If you used tape it can now be removed, and the pencil lines can be wiped away with a wet eraser sponge. You can also remove the protective sheeting from the face of the print.
To be safe, you may want to get a helper to lift the print onto the wall. With one person per side, simply lift the print up high so that the top horizontal rail of the float frame is higher than the cleats, place the print so the whole float frame is flush with your wall, then slowly slide it down until the frame engages the cleats. The frame will wedge itself over the top edges of the cleats and hold itself in place with gravity. Be careful not to let go of the print until you are confident that the frame is engaged with the cleats!
Finally, for a perfectly centered print, measure the distances from the edges of the print to the corners of the wall. You should be able to shimmy the print left or right by just lifting the print a tiny bit to disengage it from the cleats and slide it, then lower it again. This is why we installed the cleats a few inches inwards from the vertical float frame rails, so that you have some wiggle room to move it side to side if needed.
A Final Note
Of course, the installation in this tutorial was for a specific space and yours will most likely be very different. Even so, the fundamentals remain the same. My most important piece of advice is to take your time, measure accurately and check to be sure that your cleats are level with one another.
Remember that if you are having any issues at all with your installation, feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions. Best of luck!