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Artwork Size Guide: Fit and Impact

A few years ago we wrote a post with some pointers on choosing the right artwork size for your space. Since its a challenge as old as. . . homes. . .we’re visiting the topic again.

So go pick up your tape measure, pencil, and a scrap of paper. We can do this together.

To decide what size artwork will be best for your space there are two key ideas to focus on. First, how big is the space you want to fill? Measure it, width and height. This could be a floor to ceiling wall space, or just the area above your couch. If you’re looking to place something over a couch or bed, for example, measure the area that relates to this – use the width of the couch or headboard as your width, and for height measure from the top of the couch or headboard to the ceiling. Write these numbers down.

Second, how big of an impact or statement do you want to make with your artwork? This part is somewhat subjective. You can make a big impact by picking a bold piece that takes up a lot of your available space, or you could take the subtle approach by picking a soothing piece in a smaller size. If that seems straightforward, you’re right. The more complex piece of this puzzle comes in terms of the viewing distance.

Viewing distance is literally that. How far from the artwork will you likely be when looking at it? For example, in a narrow corridor, like a hallway, you will never be very far from the artwork. So you’d want to choose a smaller size. The reverse is also true, you may have a smaller wall space at the end of the corridor, but you’d be viewing it from a much greater distance, so a large size would be recommended. If you’re placing work above your sofa in a small living room, smaller is probably ok, but if you have an open concept floor plan then you’ll see if from greater distance and likely want the large one.

artwork size
Open concept room – demonstrates how a large piece of artwork can fit the space perfectly

If that still seems confusing, try thinking about it the same way you think about buying a television. How close will you be? Do you need to squint? Or if you’re very close, is it possible to look at the middle and edges at the same time?

For quick reference here’s some size recommendations for common wall sizes/viewing distances (listed as height x width):

Wall Size/Viewing Distance: 6 feet

  • Big impact – 20″ x 30″
  • Medium impact – 16″ x 24″
  • Subtle impact – 13″ x 20″

Wall Size/Viewing Distance: 12 feet

  • Big impact – 32″ x 48″
  • Medium impact – 24″ x 36″
  • Subtle impact – 20″ x 30″

Wall Size/Viewing Distance: 20 feet

  • Big impact – 50″ x 75″
  • Medium impact – 36″ x 54″
  • Subtle impact – 32″ x 48″

Of course choosing artwork is often personal. There is no one size fits all approach. (Ha! See what we did there?)

A quick list of other things to consider once you’ve mastered the size:

  1. What style is your home and furnishings? A contemporary aluminum print might look out of place in a Colonial cottage, while a framed watercolor print might look odd among modern architecture.
  2. How much natural light does the area get? Some mediums are very sensitive to UV light, and glossy prints or artwork framed with glass could have issues with reflectivity.
  3. Will it be exposed to moisture? Its always a good idea to check with the artist or someone knowledgeable about how a piece was made to find out if it will be affected by moisture. Anytime natural materials are involved there will always be some level of expansion/contraction – some fair better than others.

Lastly, there’s no reason to go it alone! Gallerists and artists are always on standby to help. We love nothing more than helping people place artwork that they love in their homes, and its even better when everyone is confident that it will fit.