How to Properly Size Art for Your Available Wall Space

June 26, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

The right-size artwork is proportional to your wall and surrounding furniture or fixtures. When selecting a new piece of art for your environment, size is nearly as important as the composition and quality of the art. An improperly sized piece of art can either overwhelm a room or allow the room to overwhelm the art, neither of which is aesthetically pleasing.  In this article, I will give you the tools to help determine the size of the finished art that you need for your space.  If you still have questions, feel free to email me and I am happy to help.  

Step 1 - Measure the L and W of Available Wall Space

Measure the length and width of the wall where you want to hang your new art. If it is going over a sofa, bench, couch or any other piece of furniture, only measure the open wall space, from the top of the furniture to the ceiling rather than from floor to ceiling.

Step 2 - Anything Else Already on the Wall?
Account for what is on the wall already when deciding on a size for the art. Artwork hung over furniture should be less than 75 percent of the width of the furniture. For example, a fine art print over an 84-inch-long sofa should be 63 inches wide or less. Artwork hung over a fireplace tends to look best when the artwork is as wide as the opening of the fireplace (no matter the size of the mantel).

Step 3 - The 3/8 Rule
Follow the three-eighths rule. When working with an otherwise empty wall, the general rule is to choose a piece that will leave empty space in the amount of three-eighths of the width of the art on each side. This means that you can determine the perfect size artwork by multiplying the width of the wall by 0.57.  For example, a blank wall that is 120 inches wide (10 feet) requires a piece of finished art that is around 68 inches wide. When working with nonstandard-shaped painting (like a circle), use the widest point of the piece. With this same example wall, a circular canvas would need to be 68 inches in diameter to work on a 120-inch-wide wall.

Step 4 - Calculate Space for More Than One
Calculate the space between artwork if you’ll be hanging more than one piece of art. This includes hanging art over furniture, a fireplace or on a blank wall. When choosing art to hang next to an existing piece, the space between the two should be included when using the ratios described above. For example, if you need to cover 68 inches of the wall with artwork to meet the three-eighths rule, subtract the width of the existing piece plus the space you plan to leave between the current painting and the new one from the 68 inches. If you have a 24-inch-wide piece hanging and plan to leave 4 inches of space, the new artwork should be 40 inches wide (68 - 24 - 4 = 40).

Tips - always work with finished sizes.  For canvas, metal and acrylic artwork, the finished size is the size of the image.  For fine art prints, there is almost always a mat and frame which must be accounted for in your size calculations.  The height of the piece is more flexible than the width when choosing the correct size artwork for your space.

You can follow the three-eighths rule (step 3), although deviations from this are more forgiving with the height of a piece than they are width. To see what will look best, make cardboard cutouts in several heights and the predetermined width. Tack these against the wall to see what looks best.

If you really love a piece of art that isn't working for your current available space, then consider rearranging a room or whatever you need to do so the art will work for you.  

 

Tim Layton

Follow me on my St. Francois Mountain Pure Platinum Print Project where I am photographing the St. Francois Mountains that were formed by volcanic and intrusive activity 1.5 billion years ago.  By comparison, the Appalachians started forming about 460 million years ago, and the Rockies a mere 140 million years ago.

 


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Tim Layton - Photographer/Teacher/Writer
Darkroom - Large Format - Traditional Film Photography
Website & Blog: www.timlaytonfineart.com
© Tim Layton Sr. | All Rights Reserved

 

 


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