Hang Art on a Staircase!




Introduction: Hang Art on a Staircase!

About: Smith|Allen is a design firm based in Oakland California. Our work is interdisciplinary in focus bringing design, innovation, and novel concepts to bear on a wide range of projects. Smith|Allen brings togeth…

So you've just got some great new art but all your walls are full, the only place left is your staircase, what do you do? With some planning and simple jigs you can hang your work on the stair and ensure it's level and straight.

Step 1: Supplies

Art to Be hung


Finishing Nails

(Or Drill and Screws)

Pencil to mark holes

Tape Measure

Spirit Level


3/16" Plywood

Step 2: Measure the Stairs

The first step is to measure the stairs. Use the tape measure and a friend to take measurements of the stairs. Measure all the Treads (the flat part of a stair) and the Risers (the vertical part). Measure the landings and the width of the stairs. Pay special attention to the angle of the risers, often they will overlap the tread below, this can mess up your measurement later on.

If you're lucky you might have access to the Model of the Building you're working on. Here at Pier9 we were able to refer back to the as-built Revit model to get the actual dimensions of the stairs.

Step 3: Measure the Artwork

The next step is to carefully measure the art that you want to hang. Use the tape measure to get the outer dimensions of the piece. Carefully flip the piece over to measure the back. Measure where the hanging device is in relation to the outline of the piece. The hanging device is where you will need to put the nail. Typically you want the center of the work to be at about 60".

Step 4: Layout

With the stairs and the piece measured you can move on to laying out your work. This can be done on paper if you are a good drafter or in a computer using a drafting program like AutoCAD, Rhino, or Fusion.

Start by transferring your site measurements into your CAD drawing. After you have replicated the site drawing, add in the art work.

If you are laying out multiple pieces just copy the initial sketch over. Work with your hanging heights and spacing until you have something that is as even as possible. For reference standard gallery hanging height is 58-60" so the center of the piece should be at that level. This means there should be an offset between the center of the piece and the location of the hanging device.

Step 5: Make a Hanging Jig

This step is where is starts to get fun! Now you could just take the measurements and drawings you have created and just go for it with hanging the pieces, but why work harder when you can work smarter! You can take the drawings that you have created and make a simple laser cut jig to help you figure out where to put the hanging holes.

In your CAD program mark the location of the hanging devices according to your layout. At the locations where the nail or screw will be placed draw in a circle. Make a horizontal and vertical bar connecting the locations of the 2 circles. Once you have created the basic skeleton of the jig do an offset to give it some thickness and add in fillets. Once you're there it's time to go to the laser cutter!

Step 6: Laser Cut Your Jig

If you're lucky enough to have access to a laser cutter then just use whatever materials you have on hand to cut it out. Try to use a material with a reasonable about of strength since the jig will need to be used on each stair. If there are multiple runs of the stair you will need to create jigs for each. To create this jig we used the Epilog lasers at Pier 9 and 3/16" Birch Plywood. If you do not have access to a laser cutter you could 3D Print a jig on a Series 1.

Step 7: Mark the Holes

It's time to start the process on site!

To start find the location of the first hole using a tape measure.

Mark that hole with a pencil.

Now line up the jig so that one of the holes lines up with the mark that you just made.

Once that is lined up use a spirit level on top of the jig to make sure it's level.

If it's level the lower hole will be at the location for the next mark. Mark the lower hole and remove the jig.

Move the upper hole of the jig to the location you just marked and repeat.

Keep going until all the hole are marked.


Before going any further take a step back, go grab a coffee, take a break, etc you just need to pause before going on so you can check the work objectively.

Once you have a clear mind, get out the drawings and your measuring tape. Remeasure the marks that you made and check that they actually do line up with what you think they should be in the drawing. Take a few steps back (literally) so you can see the whole line, does it look even/straight? If you notice any weirdness go back and remeasure to figure out where you went wrong.

Make a couple holes and hang some of the work, recheck your measurements to make sure it's all going to line up.

If it all looks good then go on to the next step.

Step 9: Nail in the Nails (or Screw the Screws)

Using techniques practiced here nail in the hanging devices or nails you are using. Place one at each mark you made. Be careful any marks you make can be visible. Try to get a slight slant on the nail to make sure it keeps the pieces on the wall.

Step 10: Hang the Work and Admire!

Once the nails are in place you can put up the work. Place the work on the nails, Step back and enjoy!

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    3 Discussions


    5 years ago

    Thanks Nell137! The system works great with either nails or screws!


    5 years ago

    FYI, those are screws at the end, not nails. End result looks great!