How big should the artwork in your home be? Sizing portraits for your wall.

One of the first questions I ask everyone who calls me about family portraits is “How do you plan to enjoy your images?”  The immediate answer is usually either or both of an album or something for the wall. This makes me HAPPY, because I know the images we create together will serve their purpose of capturing and creating memories – they won’t be lost and forgotten on a thumb drive in the drawer.

While albums are great for telling the story of a family – including moments and relationships and connections – wall portraits are the best for making sure we get to take in those memories often – even daily. And creating wall art is super fun – there are so many options for decorating your home with the images that will make your heart sing.


However, there is often a slight hiccup early on in the wall art design process – at the point where we first start to think about how big to create the display. Whether going for a single standalone statement piece, a diptych or triptych, or a grouped arrangement of images, the majority of people are thinking too small.

(Side note: My clients are lucky in that I guide them through the wall art design process as part of their in-home ‘Premiere Night’. We measure, use samples as visual cues, and use special software to mock-up exactly what our wall will look like – no guesswork involved!)

But not to worry! There are some great guiding rules that can help you figure out the right size of piece or arrangement for your wall space! Let’s jump in.

Consider the feel of your room – is it densely populated with furniture and other wall art, knick-knacks and ‘stuff’? Or is it sparse and minimal? Are the ceilings high? Are you limited by wainscoting or other wall trim? You’ll want to match the feeling of the room with the photographic artwork you put up on the walls.

Generally, bigger is always better. When choosing an overall size for your statement piece or arrangement, you’ll want to fill 2/3 to 3/4 of your available space on the wall you’ve chosen. Don’t count areas where there are windows or furniture – consider the AVAILABLE space on that particular wall.

A good rule of thumb to find the minimum size is the 3/8 rule – the empty space on each side of the piece or arrangement should be at least 3/8 the width of the piece or arrangement.

(Pro math tip – I WAS once an engineer – measure the width of the wall space and multiply it by 0.57 to get a rough idea of at least how wide your piece or arrangement needs to be.) 

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If your piece or arrangement will go over a sofa or credenza, it’s width should be about ¾ the width of the piece of furniture (and never wider). It should be hung with it’s bottom sitting about 6 to 12” above the top of the furniture. (EXAMPLE: a standard 3-seater sofa is 84” wide – that means hanging a piece or arrangement  over it that is at least 60” wide).

If you’re hanging your piece or arrangement over the fireplace, it’s width should be somewhere between the width of the fireplace opening and the width of the mantle. It should be hung 3 to 6” above the mantle.

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The dimensions of the wall space available will likely dictate whether your piece or arrangement should be vertically or horizontally oriented.

Finally, you will want to hang your piece or arrangement such that it’s centre is at eye level (for someone who stands about 5’6” – like me!!!). The larger the piece, the lower you can get away with.

So by now you are probably realizing that your artwork should be pretty big! You may find it more economical to create a grouping of smaller images rather than one big one. Big beautiful artwork is an investment – but if purchased at professional quality with archival printing, your family heirloom will last in your home forever!

Want to know more about hanging an arrangement of images in your home? Jump over here and grab my FREE DOWNLOAD – ‘Planning and Curating Your Family Portrait Wall”.

Know someone else who might have been printing THEIR wall pieces too small? Why not send this article over to them? 

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