Here are detailed, illustrated instructions for securely hanging your fine art acrylic face mounted photograph on a drywall wall. You will need the following tools: a level, electric drill with a wood drill bit and screw driver head, pencil, tape measure, wood screws, a stud finder, a screwdriver and possibly drywall anchors depending on your particular application. One person can hang an acrylic but two sets of hands make it a lot easier, especially with larger pieces.
Separate the Two Sections of the French Cleat
Your fine art acrylic is hung with a french cleat. The cleat has two parts that fit together to securely mount your piece to the wall. Both pieces are on the back of the acrylic taped together. Remove the tape and the part that mounts to the wall will come off. Set the acrylic aside in a safe place.
Determine Where You Want the Acrylic to Hang
When you purchased your acrylic you probably envisioned it hanging in a particular spot in your home or office. This step involves determining exactly where the cleat you just removed from the back of the piece needs to be mounted on the wall to have the acrylic hang exactly where you want it. There are two ways to do this, both involve some simple math. The first way, which we will call the eye it up method, is to have someone, or several someones depending on the size of the piece, hold the acrylic on the wall making adjustments until it is in the desired position. When it is where you want it, make a pencil line along the bottom and one side of the acrylic. It is not important at this stage for the acrylic to be perfectly level. That will come later. This is the quickest and easiest way to position the piece where it looks best to you. Sometimes things like light switches and thermostats mounted on the wall will throw off the way a piece will look. By holding it up to the wall adjustments for other objects can be made quickly. The second method, which we will call the measurement method, is to use your measuring tape to measure 62 inches minus 1/2 the height of your piece from the floor. This will result in the center of the image being 62 inches off the floor. Most galleries hang work so that the center of the image is 58 inches from the floor. We prefer the centers our images to be about 62 inches off the floor. Feel free to adjust for personal preferences. In our pictorial example we are hanging a 28 x 42 inch vertical piece. We intend to hang a horizontal 28 x 42 inch piece next to it. So we will move it to the right of center to allow for the horizontal piece next to it. We want the bottom edge of our piece 41 inches above the floor, 62 minus 21 equals 41. The side to side position is determined by the width of the wall and the width of the piece. For example if you want the piece to hang in the center of a 10 foot wall and the piece is 4 feet wide, make a mark 3 feet in from either end of the wall (10 feet minus 4 feet divided by 2 equals 3 feet). In our example, we are eyeballing the side to side position to allow for the horizontal piece that will be next to it.
Determine the Position of the Cleat
Whether you eyed it up or measured, you should now have two marks on the wall indicating where the bottom edge and one side edge of the piece will be when hung. In order to determine where the cleat needs to be mounted, measure from the bottom edge of the acrylic to the bottom edge of the cleat that is attached to the back of your piece. Next measure from the side of the acrylic to the side of the cleat. Transfer those measurements to the wall. In other words if the bottom edge of the cleat was 25 inches from the bottom edge of the piece, make a mark 25 inches above your line on the wall showing where you want the bottom edge of the piece to hang. Do the same with the side measurement. You now have marks on the wall showing where the top and side edges of the cleat should be.
Secure the Cleat to the Wall
You are almost done but this is the most important part. You either need to locate the wood studs behind the drywall or use drywall anchors to secure the cleat to the wall. Screws placed in drywall with no supporting mechanism will not hold the weight of your acrylic. Residential construction normally has wooden studs behind drywall every 16 inches on center. To locate these studs, use a stud finder! This handy device allows you to find the edges of a stud and mark them. Approximately 16 inches down the wall you should find another one. A horizontal 30 x 20 piece has a cleat approximately 26 inches long so you should hit at least two studs along the way. Mark the positions of the studs on the wall. Place the cleat on the wall using the guideline lines you made earlier. Next mark the positions of the studs on the cleat. Take your drill and drill pilot holes for your screws. The holes should be slightly smaller in diameter that the screws you will be using. The cleat is cut on a 45 degree angle. The angled cut should be up with the beveled edge facing the wall. Place the cleat on the wall using the guidelines you made earlier. Using your drill with the screwdriver head, drive in the first screw but leave it slightly loose so the cleat will rotate around the screw. Hold the cleat in a horizontal position and place the level along the top edge. Adjust the cleat until it is perfectly level and drive the second screw. Tighten the first screw and re-check for level. Your cleat is now secured to the wall. For larger pieces drive additional screws into studs for more support. Now let's say you did not find enough studs or you opted not to look for them. No problem, you can use drywall anchors. These come in many forms. The ones pictured are called molly bolts and we like them the best for this application. Drill pilot holes in the cleat as described above. Place the cleat on the wall using the guidelines you made earlier. Place your level on the top edge of the cleat and level it. Drill into the drywall through the pilot holes. Those holes now indicate where the molly bolts need to go. Remove the cleat and drill holes smaller in diameter than the molly bolts. The package should say what size holes to drill. Tap the molly bolts into the wall and then use a screw driver to tighten the screw to the right or clockwise. This causes to wings on the molly bolt to expand and press against the drywall. When you have tightened the screw as far as you can, remove it. Place the cleat on the wall and screw it into the molly bolts.
Final Position of the Cleat
Your cleat should look like this when it is properly attached to the wall. The beveled edge should be up and facing the wall otherwise it will not marry up with the cleat attached to the piece.
Hang the Acrylic
This is the best part where you get to see the end result of all of your hard work. Carefully pick up the acrylic and place the cleat on the back over the cleat you just secured to the wall. The two beveled edges should fit tightly together. The spacers at the bottom and in some cases on the side will keep the piece parallel to the wall like it is floating. Use the micro fiber cloth that came with your acrylic and water to clean off any fingerprints left during installation and you are done.
Let's say you have hung your acrylic and it is not quite level or it needs an adjustment side to side. No you do not have to start over. Level adjustments can be made by using paper or thin strips of wood to shim between the two cleat sections. Fold some paper and place it between the two cleats. Make adjustments until you are satisfied with the look. The piece can be adjusted side to side by lifting it off the cleat and moving it in the desired direction.