Got a great collection of artwork or a large living room wall that needs artistic relief? Try these tips for arranging and installing artwork on living area walls.

Whether you’ve downsized your living area or upsized your art collection, sometimes you want to display all or most of your favorite art in your living areas. And grouping art or photographs can look just as elegant as a single, large piece of art if you put some thought and planning into the grouping.

Consider scale

Let’s say you have a huge, blank wall in a living room or hallway. Hanging just one piece of art will likely make the wall look larger and emptier. And hanging two just says “I thought hanging two items might work here, but I didn’t pull it off.” Unless the two or more items have some sort of continuity, they’ll just look random. If the hall is long and narrow, you probably need a long, narrow grouping at eye level. Above large furniture such as a sofa or sideboard, keep art centered at eye level, but try to scale the grouping so its total size is at least two-thirds the width of the furniture.

Keep it uniform, but not symmetrical

Unless you must have symmetry to survive, resist the urge to group three to four pieces with matching frames that line up perfectly in a large square or rectangle. Grouping artwork gives you a chance to add your own artistic flare. Go for uniformity in frame, a consistent color, artist or subject matter. Symmetry can work if you use it to center or line a grouping, but go for some difference in colors and frame sizes so the entire group is not symmetrical on all sides. If you desire symmetry and have a formal setting, use the symmetrical layout only if you know you won’t be adding to the grouping. If you’re hanging a collection you intend to expand, go with a mixed grouping.

Dry test your layout

Dry test the layout of your grouping, much like you would when laying tile. Either lay the individual pieces out on the floor or a nearby table, or measure and mark the spot on the wall with painter’s tape. Then trace the frame of each piece onto butcher paper (or old paper bags, newspaper, or whatever you have that works) and begin placing them on the wall. Fewer nail holes and frustration! If balance still matters, this is your chance to balance your grouping a bit. Watch to see where the largest or heaviest pieces fall in the grouping.

Consider the subject

Once you dry hang, especially with paper, consider the entire composition as it will appear. This is where the floor still comes in handy! For example, if you have people or animals in your images, they should look toward the center of the grouping. And a small print with a large white mat border is much lighter than a busy painting that takes up all of a like-sized frame. And if you mix a grouping, throw in something other than framed artwork, such as a favorite piece of ceramic art or a wooden ledge with a three-dimensional object and a small piece of framed art.

Don’t skip on the tools

If you go to all this work to group your art, don’t skimp on the final step, actually hanging it on the wall. You can photograph your floor arrangement, or simply start at the bottom left corner and work your way to the right and up. The biggest headache usually comes from getting the frames hung exactly where you want them in your arrangement, and exactly level if you have any symmetry to the grouping. Use a laser level or this handy tool designed just for hanging art and photos, called Hang & Level. Larger art requires more than a nail, so look for hanging hardware such as D-rings and wires, and a small magnet or other leveler that can keep your art straight once it’s hung.