In Part Three of my series on how to hang fine art nature photography prints from Dean McLeod Photography, this tutorial focuses specifically on Fujiflex® Metal and Metallic Dibond® Prints. The hanging system utilizes the attached aluminum float frame on the rear of your print, along with the included aluminum strip called a Z-bar.
This tutorial may also be helpful in part for anyone wishing to hang artwork on drywall utilizing the aluminum float frame and Z-bar 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 3/4 inches off of your wall for a beautiful, contemporary frameless presentation.
Although Metal or Dibond® prints are quite light in weight relative to their size, if you are not completely comfortable using a tape measure, level, stud-finder, 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 metal or Dibond® 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)
- Drill bit set (if installing plastic drywall anchors)
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 Fujiflex® metal or Metallic Dibond® print. Your measurements will be different than mine of course, but the general steps will always apply.
Once you safely remove your print from its custom crate, you will notice that the hanging hardware is taped to the back of the print. Remove the tape to separate the hardware.
The top photo above shows the black aluminum float frame that is bonded to the back of your print. The silver aluminum strip is called the 'Z-bar'. The Z-bar will eventually be screwed to your wall.
The bottom photo above shows how the two units work together. Remember that this is a backward view from the wall side. The area of the Z-bar outlined in red will face the wall. Once it is installed, the black float frame simply overlaps and engages the top edge of the Z-bar, holding your print on the wall with gravity.
Above left are the screws and plastic drywall anchors that will be included with a Metallic Dibond® print.
Above right are the screws and metal drywall anchors that will be included with a Fujiflex® metal print.
For my installation above, I would like the print to be centered left / right on the wall, as well as having the center of the print at eye-height while standing; usually about 62 - 66 inches from the floor for an average height person.
To start, I measured from the left corner over to the art piece on the right and it was 80 inches in total. So I know that the left / right middle of the space will be half of that, or 40 inches. I measured 40 inches from the left corner and made a small vertical pencil mark on the wall.
Next I decided that the center of my print would look best at 64 inches from the floor. Above, I measure up 64 inches and draw a small horizontal line straight through the first 40 inch mark to create a ' + ' mark on the wall and mark it with a piece of tape. This will be the very center of my print, left / right and top / bottom.
I prefer painter's tape over regular masking tape because the adhesive is very light and it will peel off easily later. I 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 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.
Now that we have our center mark, the next step is to figure out where the top edge of the print will be. In my case, the print is 30 inches tall, so I know that the center of the picture is half of that, or 15 inches.
Above, I measure straight up 15 inches from my center mark and place a second piece of tape. This represents where the top edge of my print will be.
Next, we need to figure out how far the Z-bar will lie below the top edge of the print. Above, I hold the Z-bar in position under the edge of the float frame (as it was shown earlier) and measure down from the top edge of the print to the bottom edge of the Z-bar. My measurement is five inches. Write down your own measurement.
As shown above, I start with my top piece of tape that represents the top edge of my print, and measure down five inches. I make a horizontal pencil mark here. This new line will represent the bottom edge of my Z-bar.
Holding the edge of my orange level on the new pencil line, I make sure the bubble is perfectly centered. Holding it firmly so it doesn't shift, I draw a pencil line along the edge of my level approximately the same length of my Z-bar. This pencil line must be perfectly level or your print will not hang straight! Check and re-check to be sure that your long pencil line is perfectly level.
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.
As you know, when you scan with a stud finder, each time it beeps and casts a red laser line, that will represent 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.
Now that I have located my wall studs in the general area of my intended print position, I can hold my Z-bar on the wall with the bottom edge aligned with my level pencil line. With your eye on the taped center mark, hold the bar such that it is reasonably centered left / right under your tape. The bar is pre-drilled with many holes. Shift the Z-bar slightly left or right until you can get a hole to line up with the middle of a stud zone. Mark your wall with a pencil through those holes over the stud zones.
In my installation, I was lucky to find two wall studs behind my intended Z-bar position and was able to align two of the holes in the bar directly over those studs.
In the event that you find only one wall stud (or NO studs) behind your intended Z-bar position, then you will need to use the drywall anchors. (In all likelihood though, unless you are hanging a very narrow print, you will most likely be able to find wall studs behind your intended Z-bar position.)
To mark the intended locations of the anchors, simply hold the bottom edge of the Z-bar along your level line and draw round pencil marks through the holes in your Z-bar.
The metal 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 in the middle of your pencil mark on 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 or you may strip the drywall and be forced to use another position.
My Z-bar for this installation is about 20 inches long. Because I am able to utilize two wall studs, I only needed two screws as that was strong enough to hold the print. If you can only find one wall stud to use, it is perfectly fine to utilize it and then use drywall anchors to secure the rest of the Z-bar..
To install a plastic drywall anchor, start by finding a drill bit that is slightly smaller than ribs on the shaft of the anchor. Drill a hole through the drywall where you want an anchor. Then, using a small hammer, gently tap the anchor into the hole until the flange on the anchor is flush with the drywall. These plastic anchors are designed so that when you place a screw into them, they will expand slightly and hold the anchor firmly in place.
Above I use a drill to secure the screws through my Z-bar into the wall studs behind the drywall. If you are using drywall anchors, it is recommended to use a screwdriver to place the screws. Be careful not to overtighten the screws, especially with plastic anchors or they may become damaged and unusable.
If you are using drywall anchors only, I would recommended using three or four to be sure your Z-bar is held strongly.
The final installation of my Z-bar. Note that in the top photo, the left screw is five holes inwards from the left edge of the bar, while the right screw is only two holes inwards from the right edge of the bar.
The reason is because I want my Z-bar to be roughly centered behind my final print position so that it is supported evenly. It is perfectly fine to do this, as the bar is very stiff and strong.
The bottom photo above shows a closeup of the end of the Z-bar. Be sure it is screwed to your wall such that the lip on the bar faces UP and OUT from the wall. The edge of the float frame on the back of the print is designed to slide downwards behind this lip on the bar.
A final check to be sure that my Z-bar is level. This is critical or your print will not hang level with the floor.
The print is now ready to be lifted onto the wall.
If you have a Fujiflex® metal print, it will have a special sheet of plastic covering the face of the image to prevent scratching during shipping. It can now be removed, after which I highly recommend using gloves to prevent fingerprints or scratches on the high gloss laminate of the print while you are hanging it. Metallic Dibond® prints have a matte laminate so fingerprints aren't much of an issue. You can also remove your tape and wipe any pencil marks away with a wet eraser sponge.
Lift the print up so the rear float frame is slightly higher than the Z-bar, gently push the entire float frame flush against the wall then slide it down on top of the Z-bar. The edge of the float frame on the back of the print will wedge itself on top of the bar and hold itself in place with gravity.
To get your print so that it is perfectly centered in the space, use a tape measure and gently slide the whole print left or right to center it.
The final result. I slid the print back and forth until it was perfectly centered between the wall on the left and the other art piece on the right.
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 Z-bar is level.
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!