Style and substance matter when choosing artwork for your home, but perhaps the most important consideration is canvas size. After all, the perfect-sized piece could be the ultimate finishing detail to your interior decor. But a canvas size too big could overwhelm your space and make it look cluttered, while an artwork that’s too small won’t make an impact and could look, dare we say, unsettling.
Make like Goldilocks and find out how to measure for the canvas size that is just right — and avoid spending your art budget on a beautiful piece you love only to bring it home and find it doesn’t fit your space. Grab your measuring tape and a calculator to follow our wall art size guide.
Consider your location
Before you buy, decide where you’re shopping for. Is it that large blank wall in the living room? Over your sofa? Perhaps a statement piece in the entryway? Or a small piece of art for your kitchen? We’re all about falling in love with that special piece of art. But it would be a real bummer to bring it home and have nowhere to put it. So before you make the purchase, make sure you have an idea in mind of where you want to place it.
Another consideration is whether you’re shopping for a single piece or a gallery wall. If you’ve got a large space to fill and a smaller budget, a variety of affordable framed prints or canvas sizes in an arrangement might be the right idea. Instead of finding one larger piece with your measurements in mind, you could put together an arrangement in a similar theme, style, or movement that showcases your taste and personality (and keeps you from having to choose just one.)
Measure and multiply
Interior designers say wall art should fill 60–75 percent of the available wall space. To find out what canvas size you should choose, measure the width and height of the available wall space — which means only the wall space that doesn’t have design details like moldings or mantels or the part that is covered by existing furniture, like the back of your couch. Then multiply the number by both 0.60 and 0.75. Now, you have the range you can fill with one or a variety of canvas sizes.
For example: If you have a blank wall that is 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide, you will then multiply both 5 and 8 by 0.6 and 0.75. The ideal height of the artwork would be between 4.75 and 6 feet, while the ideal width would be between 3 and 3.75 feet. Shoot for an unframed canvas of that size, and you’ve got some wiggle room when you take it to the framers.
Hanging artwork over a sofa, bed, or mantel? Another measurement you’ll want to consider is that the width of the piece should be two-thirds to three-fourths of the width of the furniture or fireplace. That means you can multiply the width of your couch by 0.66 or 0.75 to find the best canvas size.
Finally, you don’t want to place your artwork too low or too high. Hanging a piece of art at eye level is essential to enjoying your special piece every day without having to strain or stoop down to look at it. About 60 inches from the center to the floor is the ideal height you want to shoot for. If planning a gallery wall, consider the entire grouping as one piece to find the perfect center point.
Visualize your canvas size
Now that you know where you want to place it and the ideal size the artwork or artwork should be, it’s time to picture the canvas size in your actual space before hitting purchase.
Have you made up your mind on whether you’re going for a single statement piece, a pair of matching prints, or a gallery wall of smaller artworks? Time to decide, because the size of your canvas isn’t the only measurement that matters — how much space is around your artwork is important too. Give your artwork room to breathe to keep your space from feeling busy, but don’t space it so far apart that the arrangement feels disjointed and lacks unity. The space in between your artworks will contribute to the total of your magic number, so you’ll want to know it if you’re buying multiple pieces. For gallery walls, about 2-3 inches of space is a good rule of thumb. Keep it consistent across all the pieces for visual harmony.
Another number you should have in mind is standard canvas sizes. Small canvases measure 4”x6” or 5”x7”, while anything below that is considered mini. Medium-sized canvases are typically between 8”x10” and 16”x20”. Large canvas sizes are anything 18”x24” and above.
Square or rectangle? It’s up to you. The next step is to visualize each canvas size on your wall to achieve a look that is symmetrical, pleasing to the eye, and balanced.
There are a few ways to picture how an artwork or an arrangement of pieces would look in your space that play to your strengths:
Painter’s tape or sticky notes: Mark out standard canvas sizes directly on your wall by measuring and taping, then stand back to see if it’s to your liking.
Photoshop or art placement apps: If you’re digitally savvy, tools like Photoshop allow you plan where you should hang your art and play around with gallery wall arrangements. With photos of the space you need to fill and the size of artworks you want to buy — or the digital files themselves — you can drag and drop to your heart’s content. There are also a variety of art visualization apps available for download that you can explore.
Butcher paper: Try the old-fashioned way by tracing standard canvas sizes on butcher or craft paper and cutting them out. You can arrange the sizes on the floor before you tape them to the wall to see how they would look.
Placing meaningful artwork in each room of your home truly makes your space your own. Along with subject matter, color palette, and other visual considerations, don’t forget canvas size when shopping for that perfect piece. It can make the difference between a room that feels busy and one with a pleasing design where you want to spend your time. With a couple of handy measurements and some visualization exercises, you’re halfway to finding that finishing touch.
Make a decision on which area in your home you’re shopping for and whether you’re going for a single piece or a collection of artworks.
Aim to fill 60–75 percent of your available wall space while hanging the artwork at eye level and maintaining a consistent space around each piece.
To find the magic number, measure where you want the art to go and multiply by 0.66 or 0.75.
If going above your sofa or on your mantel, artwork should be ⅔ to 3/4 of the width.
Keep your measurements handy when shopping in person or filter by size when purchasing art online.
Practice arranging art by size with digital tools like Photoshop or physical ones like painter’s tape or butcher paper.
What rules have you learned for choosing artwork that’s right for your home — and have you ever made any design mistakes because you forgot to measure? Share your stories and tips in the comments section.