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How To Hang Pictures Over Wallpaper

artwork in white frame over green wallpaper

Stylish & Damage Free Ways To Display Art On Your Wall Coverings

Wallpaper has been around a long time & some styles are probably best forgotten!

But modern wallcoverings come in many materials as well as designs.

As well as more contemporary styles, you can still find modern papers in retro & vintage patterns.

In a sense, wallpaper can be art, but you may also wish to display your pictures on the same walls.

So can art be hung over wallpaper? Yes, not only is it possible to display your pictures in a stylish way, art can be hung so as to create minimal damage to the wallpaper when the art is removed.

You may be discouraged about hanging art over your wall coverings because of the damage, but you may also believe that art & wallpaper may clash & isn’t a good decorating decision.

Bold or busy patterns may not seem like a good candidate for art, but it can actually be a wonderful décor opportunity.


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4 Reasons You May Want To Hang Art On Wallpaper

1. Perhaps you’re living in a rental property & removing the wallpaper isn’t an option.

You’d like to add a personal touch to the décor with your pictures, but not jeopardize your bond deposit.

2. You may have old fashioned wallpaper, but the idea of stripping it & preparing the walls for newer wall coverings or paint is too overwhelming.

Hanging art can be the solution to lifting your décor.

3. The wallpaper may be damaged or stained & again, the idea of removing it doesn’t excite you.

Pictures can be a simple way to hide defects in walls.

4. Wallpaper is fantastic for creating a feature wall, but if the entire room is decorated it can be overpowering.

Art is a fabulous way to break the repetitiveness.

I really love this company as they support independent artists. They have an amazing range of styles too.

How To Hang Art Without Damaging Wallpaper

Before covering how to hang art on wallpaper, let’s first discuss some methods to avoid.

Command Strips & Stick on Hooks - these or any other sticky & adhesive methods are best avoided.

Firstly, they’re not designed to hold much weight & the wallpaper will likely tear first before the hook falls off the wall.

Even if you’re successful in hanging a picture, the wallpaper will rip when you want to remove the sticky hook.

The Best Methods For Hanging Art Over Wallpaper

The only true way to make sure your picture is going to stay put is using either nails, screws or hooks of some description.

The material your wall is made from will determine the best option to use.

Either way, some hole needs to be made in the wall.

This can be achieved without causing excess damage to the wallpaper & even when the nail or screw is removed, it’s possible to disguise the slight blemish left behind.

  • Before drilling, place painters tape over the area, as this type of tape peels off easily & prevents the wallpaper tearing further. It’s also a good idea to drill a pilot hole first.

  • But there’s still no way to repair holes made in wallpaper, so the best approach is to use a really thin but sharp knife & cut an upside down V where the nail or screw is going to go.

You may have heard the saying “measure twice, cut once” & this is good advice.

You don’t want to be creating more cuts than necessary.

If possible, find some line in the pattern or texture of the paper, as it will be easier to repair later.

You may even find a shape other than a V that works better with the wallpaper pattern.

Then peel away the section of cut paper & drill or hammer a nail into the wall.

When it comes time to remove the screw, simply patch the small hole & adhere the cut section of wallpaper back .. hey presto! It’s like it never happened.

  • A way to completely avoid any nails or screws is to use picture rails.

If you live in an older house, you may have these already.

But you can install them & they don’t need to look old fashioned either.

Modern picture rails are very slimline & fit against the top of the wall & ceiling like a cornice.

The advantages with these rails is the height the art is hung at can be adjusted as well as the horizontal position.

So you can rearrange your pictures whenever you feel the need.

The video below demonstrates these newer picture rail systems.

How To Hang Posters Over Wallpaper

If you’re renting or in short term accommodation, then you may want to stick a few posters up to add a bit of personality to a space.

Blu-Tack & other similar products can leave behind stains & possibly leave behind remnants, especially on heavily textured paper.

Posters are very light & can even be mounted to foam or Gatorboard, so a small tack would be enough to hold their weight.

Unfortunately, even drawing pins & small tacks are going to leave a pin-prick.

You may be lucky to have a style or patterned wallpaper where this won’t be seen.

With a mounted poster using a hanging wire or string, only 1 tack is needed.

But an unmounted poster normally requires a tack in each corner.

This can be avoided by slipping slide binders along the top & bottom of the poster.

The bottom binder will prevent the poster curling, the top binder can have a thin wire or string threaded through so only 1 tack is required for hanging.

You could also use binder or bulldog clips, one in each corner & thread the hanging wire or string through the 2 top ones.

Other Damage To Be Aware Of

Many artworks will use wire hangers & these can rub against the wallpaper causing marking or scratching.

You can avoid this by wrapping the wire in cloth or felt.

A more long term damage that can occur is the wallpaper fading.

Wallpapers made today are highly durable, but if it’s a wall that catches a lot of sun then the wall covering can lighten over time.

It may not be noticeable until you remove the artwork & notice a darker square patch underneath.

It’s a good idea when you’re purchasing wall coverings to buy a couple of extra rolls than required.

This way you can at least replace a section if needed.

How To Use Art To Add Even More Style To Wallpapered Walls

Art doesn't have to clash with your wall coverings, in fact it can even enhance & add to a rooms décor.

Not every style of artwork is going to match every style of wallpaper, but there's definitely plenty of wall art to choose from that will compliment your wall coverings & overall decorating style.

downloadable wall art

Matching Art To The Wallpaper

You may be considering decorating with wallpaper & already have the artwork you’re going to display.

There’s a massive choice of styles, patterns & textures available, so choosing the most appropriate wall covering won’t be a problem.

Perhaps you already have existing wallpaper, then you’ll need to find the artworks that will best sit on top of your wall coverings.

The following ideas will help you find a wonderful combination of art & wallpaper to create a truly gorgeous décor.

Hanging Art On Busy Wallpaper

Plain wallcoverings can be used to introduce texture to a space & can consist of a single colour.

These types of wall coverings are a lot simpler when it comes to matching artworks & picture frames.

The concern with busier & more colourful wallpapers is that hanging art may clash & make the space too visually noisy.

Negative Space

This is a term artists use when painting, it refers to the part of a canvas that’s deliberately been left white or isn’t taken up by the subject.

It creates balance & helps the other elements stand out.

This concept is also used in interior design, as areas of wall & floor space are deliberately left empty to create breathing room & allow other décor items, such as furniture & artworks, to become the focal points in the room.

Obviously a busy wallpaper isn’t going to have any negative space, so you need to create it by using artwork that has a fair amount of white space.

Alternatively, using wide picture frames will separate the art from the wallpaper.

White frames work exceptionally well as they create a clean, crisp look & because they are neutral they don’t clash with any colours.

But you can also match the frames to other accents in the room.

For instance, wooden frames that match furniture items will create a sense of balance.

Lighter & plain frames generally work better, as not only can colour create visual noise, so too can pattern & texture.

Artwork Colour

As well as frame colour & creating a separation from the wallpaper through negative space, the colours & tones in the artwork are important as well.

Ideally, you don’t want the art to be too similar in colour to the wallpaper, the artwork needs to stand out from the patterns & colour it’s sitting on.

In saying that though, sometimes a vibrant artwork can sit well on a louder wallpaper.

Larger artworks, such as abstracts can produce a lovely dynamic.

Depending on the style & theme of artwork, experiment with contrasting & complimentary colours to find what works.

Also try using art that matches other accent colours in the room, just not the same accents as the picture frame though.

colourful framed artwork on patterned wallpaper

Although the artwork is reflecting the colours of the wallpaper & the frame, somehow this seems to work in this instance. Probably because the wallpaper pattern itself leaves space to breathe.

Large Artwork

A few well selected pieces of larger artworks are going to look less cluttered than a greater quantity of smaller pictures.

If the entire wall space is papered, then using a single supersized artwork may be all that's needed to break the repetition of the wallpaper.


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Get Dramatic With Monochromatic

Although lacking in colour, black & white photographs & artworks can still bring energy to a space.

Because they are colour neutral, they’ll sit alongside any wallpaper or décor.

Using fresh, white frames will really make them pop!

But you can also experiment with coloured frames to find combinations to enhance the room’s décor.


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Not All Patterned Wallpaper Is Colourful

There’s a great range of monochromatic wall coverings.

You could try the reverse, colourful art & frames on more monochrome or grey wallpaper.

Although, there are some seriously funky patterns, so you may need to choose a more subtle style of wall covering.

colourful abstract art on grey striped wallpaper

The colours in this abstract painting works well against the light greys of the wallpaper & furnishings. Against another colour the artwork could be too brash & overwhelming, but in this case it brings life & vitality to the room.

Bespoke Wallpaper

There are designer wall coverings that look stunning & it may be inappropriate to compete for attention by hanging a picture over them.

Wall murals in themselves can be works of art, so hanging a print isn’t going to enhance the wall space at all.

Sometimes the wallpaper is art & it needs to be seen in it’s entirety.

Should Pictures Be The Same Size?

This is something that will depend on the style of wallpaper.

Many modern papers can have simple or subtle patterns & colour that lend themselves better to various size artworks.

For a busier wall covering, keeping the artwork uniform will create a more harmonious feel.

But if you have a number of various size prints, arrange them in a balanced way that doesn’t create visual clutter.

Should All Picture Frames Be The Same Colour?

For a busy wallpaper, I’d say yes.

But providing the frames tie into & reflect other accent colours in the décor, you may find 2 to 3 different frame colours could work.

By using neutral coloured frames like white, black or grey, you’ll have more options for mixing & matching.

Not just with these 3 colours, but you could introduce other colours to sit alongside these neutral frames.

coloured picture frames on brown wallpaper

What do you think? I feel that against this shade of wallpaper & the Scandinavian style décor, using different frame colours helps to make the space a bit more whimsical. The artworks are also reflecting the style & colours of the room.

How High Should You Hang Art On Wallpaper?

Interior designers suggest pictures are best hung at eye level, which is around 57 inches (145 cm) from the floor.

There’s also certain guidelines & ratios for hanging pictures above furniture & within available wall space.

But when it comes to wallpaper, the style & pattern can affect how a picture looks on the wall.

Hanging a picture too high on a wallpaper with vertical patterns for example, especially with narrow & tall artworks, can draw the eye to the ceiling & away from the room.

Also the wall covering may have large & bold patterns & if the picture isn’t sitting central to these designs, it may look off balance.

As these images demonstrate, a landscape style frame is too wide & doesn't sit well against the horizontal pattern of the wallpaper. Whereas the square frame looks balanced & proportionate.

Matching Art To The Style Of Wallpaper

From the 1800’s to modern day, there’s many various styles of wall coverings.

So as well as colour, style, texture & pattern, the era that the wallpaper represents also needs to be considered.

Certain modern or abstract art may not compliment or enhance a 1940’s floral pattern for instance, but can look amazing against an art décor design.

A black & white fine art print may look out of place on a wall covered with a funky, retro design, but look wonderful on a more modern & subdued pattern.

Frame design is another aspect to contemplate.

Picture frames can be ultra modern or decorative & highly ornate.

They come in many styles from clean & sleek to rustic & shabby chic.

Your favourite photograph of the beach may look amazing on your wallpaper, the white washed wood it’s framed in may look out of place though.

abstract on over art deco style wallpaper

A vibrant & modern abstract artwork in an ornate frame against an art deco style wallpaper. On paper it sounds like a bad idea, but somehow in this case it seems to work. What do you think?


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Art & Wallpapered Accent Walls

Wallpaper is one the most effective & relatively easy ways to create a feature wall.


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Often artwork isn’t necessary, but in certain circumstances it can enhance the space as well as the room.

Chimney breasts are a good example of this, as the wall which houses the fireplace is perfect real estate for an accent wall.

Although the wall may be decorated, a picture above the mantel adds that finishing touch.


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The ideas already covered in this article are applicable to a single wallpapered accent wall, but what about the other walls?

picture in dark brown frame hanging on pink wallpaper

The dark wood frame on this single wallpapered wall ties in with the dark woodgrain pattern of the other wall. The frame also compliments the cushions & the pink in the artwork is just subtle enough to reflect the wallpaper colour.

To bring coherence to the space, try using art that reflects some of the colour or hues in the wallpaper.

Frames can also be colour matched to mirror the accent wall.

Because the picture frames are hung on blank walls, it opens up opportunities to use styles of frame that may not work on the wallpaper itself.

As long as the colours & styles of frame work with existing décor, you can dabble in a bunch of creative ideas.

It may be a modern wall covering, but a large artwork in a vintage frame on an opposite wall can create a wonderful juxtaposition.

Making Art With Wallpaper

So far we’ve been exploring how to hang art over wallpaper, but how about the wallpaper being the art?

You may not want to wallpaper your walls, but it’s still possible to introduce beautiful wallpaper design to your décor.

Simply adhere & wrap a section of wallpaper design you like to a blank artist's canvas.

This has more impact when using larger canvases & is an inexpensive way to create your own artwork.

You can also frame the canvas, usually floating frames work really well, but explore any picture frame that sits well with the wallpaper & the room’s design.


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The same can be done with standard picture frames, simply cut a size of wallpaper to fit & insert into the frame.

Plain picture frames can also be wrapped in wallpaper & this technique can be used to reflect a feature wall of the same paper.

Furniture is another fantastic candidate for wallpaper, such as drawer fronts & sides or tops of cabinets.

Just don’t go overboard, even the most stylish wall covering if overdone can start to look kitsch.

Final Thoughts

Wallpaper has been around a very long time, & with new innovations in materials, textures & beautiful designs, I don’t feel it’s going away anytime soon.

Whether you have old wallpaper or you’re decorating with the latest designs, artwork can lift the dreariest of wallpaper out of the doldrums & enhance newer wall coverings whilst complimenting each other & the space they’re in.

I hope you enjoyed this article & feel free to share it with anyone else who may find it helpful.


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