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How to Hang Pictures on Plaster Walls: 10 Expert Tips

Unbalanced picture frame hanging

Plaster walls look good and are inexpensive to install, which is why they’re in almost every home. However, hanging a picture without creating a big hole in the thin drywall is not always easy. If you have family photos that you want to put on display, keep reading as we list several tips and tricks to hang pictures on your plaster wall securely and without causing damage.

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The 10 Expert Tips on How to Hang Pictures on Plaster Walls

1. Wall Stud

  • Our Choice: Povlen Stud Finder

Stud Finder Wall Scanner Detector

One of the best and safest ways to hang pictures on your wall is to locate the wall stud. Wall studs are the boards that builders hammer the drywall to. The wood provides a stable surface where you can hammer in a nail to hang your picture. However, wall studs are usually about 16 inches apart, so you won’t be able to hang many pictures together. Finding your wall studs behind a plaster wall can also be challenging. Many people have success knocking on the wall and listening for hollow spots, but a good quality commercial stud finder can help remove most of the guesswork.

2. Anchors

  • Our Choice: HongWay Plastic Drywall Anchors Kit with Screws

HongWay 370pcs Plastic Drywall Wall Anchors Kit with Screws

A drywall anchor is a good option if you must hang a picture on an area of your wall with no wall stud. To use a drywall anchor, you will need to drill a hole into the wall that is slightly larger than the screw that you intend to use. Once you have a hole, you can place a small plastic anchor inside, then put the screw into the anchor. Turning the screw causes the anchor to deform and create a stable base behind the drywall. This base will keep the screw in place so you can hang a picture. Use larger anchors for heavier pictures; some can support up to 20 pounds.

3. Molly Bolts

  • Our Choice: Glarks Wall Anchor Screws Assortment Kit

Glarks 42Pcs 6 Size Heavy Duty Zinc Plated Steel Molly Bolt Hollow Drive Wall Anchor Screws Assortment Kit for Drywall

A molly bolt is similar to an anchor. However, the anchor and screw are one piece in a molly bolt, and both are steel instead of plastic, so they create a much stronger anchor that can hold more weight. It’s a good choice for hanging pictures and even paintings on plaster walls. You drill a hole into the plaster and insert the molly bolt. The metal anchor expands as you turn the screw, creating durable support.

4. Toggle Bolts

  • Our Choice: HELIFOUNER Toggle Bolt and Wing Nut

HELIFOUNER 24 Pieces Toggle Bolt and Wing Nut for Hanging Heavy Items on Drywall

Toggle bolts are specialized screws that enable you to hang heavy objects and drywall. They are similar to anchors or molly bolts, but instead of deforming and expanding, the toggle bolt springs open, creating a strong fixing when tightened that is often superior to other types in terms of how much weight it can hold.

5. Adhesive Tape

  • Our Choice: Gorilla Tough & Clear, Double Sided Mounting Tape
double sided mounting tape on wood surface
Image Credit: g0d4ather, Shutterstock

If you are hanging lightweight pictures, double-sided adhesive tape can be a lifesaver, as you can hang your pictures without creating any holes or using any tools.

6. Adhesive Hooks

  • Our Choice: DKHDBD Store Adhesive Hooks
adhesive hooks
Image Credit: Luis Echeverri Urrea, Shutterstock

An adhesive hook is another non-destructive method that you can use to hang pictures on your wall, and it enables you to hang picture frames, which might not be possible with double-sided tape. While adhesive hooks won’t support as much weight as a molly bolt or anchor, they’re more than capable of supporting the weight of most family photos.

7. Picture-Hanging System

  • Our Choice: STAS Cliprail Picture Hanging System Set

STAS Cliprail Picture Hanging System Set

Picture-hanging systems are a great way to hang multiple pictures on your drywall. These systems often use a large rail several feet long for holding pictures, and you attach the rail using the included screws and hooks. Most are easy to install and work on all kinds of walls, including plaster.

8. Brass Hook

  • Our Choice: Glarks Hanging Hooks Assortment Set
Brass Hook
Image Credit: Needpix

Many people like to use a brass hook to hang pictures on drywall because it uses thin needle-like nails to penetrate the plaster. It usually doesn’t damage the walls, and the hooks can support plenty of weight, making them great for picture hanging.

9. Rail Cable Hanging Kit

  • Our Choice: SIDENUO Store Adjustable Picture Hanging Wire
picture strings with clothing pins
Image Credit: Ivan_Shenets, Shutterstock

A rail cable hanging kit can enable you to hang pictures on your wall without causing permanent damage. This system uses cables attached to a rail along the wall to mount the photos using hooks. It can support heavy pictures, and you can adjust their position at any time, which is impossible to do with many other methods on this list.

10. Monkey Hooks

  • Our Choice: OOK Monkey Hook

OOK 591818 Monkey Hook

A simple and easy method for hanging pictures on drywall is using a monkey hook. It’s a curved piece of metal that looks like a dry-cleaner hanger with a sharp point at one end for inserting it into the drywall. Once you install it, you can hang pictures, artwork, and even mirrors.

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What If I Put a Hole in My Wall Trying to Install a Picture?

Small holes in plaster are easy to repair using putty and a putty knife. Put a bit of putty on the knife, and carefully scrape it over the hole to fill it in. Once the putty dries, you can sand it lightly if the surface is not smooth before repainting.

What If Double-Sided Tape Left an Adhesive Residue on My Wall?

To remove residue left behind by adhesive tape, scrape away as much as possible using a butter knife or razor blade, applying only light pressure so you don’t scratch the wall. If the residue remains, hold a hairdryer a few inches from the surface to warm up the adhesive, and gently scrape it. Add more heat as needed until all the residue comes off, then use a damp clean cloth to wipe down the wall.

What Size Nails Should I Use to Hang Pictures?

Most people recommend keeping the nail length between 1.5 inches and 2 inches when nailing into studs or between them. Hammering the nails at a 45-degree angle also helps provide more holding power and stability.

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There are many different ways to hang pictures on plaster walls, and the option that you choose will depend on the number, weight, and location of your photos. If you only have one or two pictures to hang, we recommend hammering a nail into the stud for the greatest support. If you live in a rental property or don’t want to cause damage to your home, we recommend hanging pictures using adhesive or double-sided tape. Hanging several pictures around your room at various locations will require toggle bolts, monkey hooks, anchors, or something similar to help provide more support.

Featured Image Credit: WangMing’Photo, Pexels


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