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How to hang shelves using painters tape {tutorial}

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I wanted to show you how I hung the shelves in our old dining room makeover. This tip on hanging shelves may seem obvious and I am surely not the first to do this but just in case there are some of you who stink at measuring those little brackets already on the back of shelves and then getting them lined up properly with your hooks, this how to hang a shelf level tip is for you!

This is an older tutorial from years ago that I recently updated as it started to trend on google. The picture quality is not up today’s standards in 2021 but you will get the idea!

My dad is a stickler for a measuring tape, using percentages, splitting the difference and doing all kinds of things that make my brain hurt when it comes to anything “carpentry” and measurement related. 

Who does that in real life?

Certainly not me.

So I have a little method I use to hang things that don’t require a degree in math!

I am laughing right now because if Jim is reading this post, he is definitely rolling his eyes! 

How to Hang a Shelf 

How to hang shelves with painters tape

Here is what the wall looked like before.

How to hang floating shelves {easy}

The first step was to add a piece of MDF 3/4 high.  I wanted to add a little interest to the wall along with the shelves. 

How to hang floating shelves {easy}

How to hang a shelf with brackets

Next step, take your shelf and find the brackets. If there are no brackets, you will need to add some as seen below.

floating shelf with brackets in back

Next, I placed a piece of painters tape from one end of the bracket to the other and marked the bracket hole with a marker.

floating shelf with painters tape along the back brackets to mark where the hole needs to go on the wall

Place your tape (with the spots for your hole marked)  on the wall and use a level to ensure the tape is straight.

Making sure your shelf is level is very important!

tape along wall with a level to mark nail holes to hang floating shelf

Nail a hole where you marked your spots and then remove the tape. Make sure your tape is level though, otherwise, your shelf will be crooked.

The next step, I screwed a dry wall screw in each hole that I made where my spots were marked. I left about 1/4″ of the screw  remaining so I could hang the shelf.

If your shelf doesn’t hang tightly against the wall, you need to fasten the “screw” in a little more. 

How to hang floating shelves

2 white floating shelves on small stairway wall

Add a coat of paint and Viola, you have a display wall. I decided to frame some of the kids artwork and add my son’s latest lego project.

floating white shelves with kids artwork and toys

If you would like to see more pictures of this room, be sure to check out our dining room makeover post as well as our board and batten tutorial on how to add MDF as a wall treatment.

white floating shelves hanging on wall with kids framed artwork red chair and plant

Learning how to hang shelves using painters tape is easy, quick and it works! Be sure to use a level and you should be fine. The addition of floating shelves in our dining room has been a great display area for handmade crafts and pictures. Do you have a wall where you could add inexpensive floating shelves? Try our (my) hanging method, I bet you will like it! If you prefer something a bit more modern with glass shelving, be sure to check out our how to hang glass shelves using “bingo brackets” or our DIY shelf mantel tutorial.

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  1. This is a FABULOUS tip! One of those “now why didn’t I think of that!?” tips! Pinned, tweeted, & FB shared! πŸ˜‰

    I love that basket full of flowers on the red chair too!

  2. What a great tip! I have NEVER done it this way….matter of fact a really did a job on our dining walls when I tried two hang my last two shelves! (Don’t worry, the hubby saved the day!). Thanks for sharing this. I can’t wait to try it!

  3. So smart! I love tips and tricks like this – thanks Jessica!

    1. Thanks Lisa πŸ™‚ Hope you are enjoying your summer!

  4. Awesome tip! Can I just tell you that about a month ago, I hung one of these shelves in my office and measured twice before drilling thinking I had it all under control. I had marked a few points on the wall of where the edge of the shelf was and then where the holes would go. I have no idea how I messed it up but I wound up with a hole 1″ on either side of the shelf! LOL. I’ve hung these before and it never happened. Thankfully this room is not yet painted so I don’t mind patching.

    I will definitely use this tip next time and save myself the time & headache! πŸ˜‰

    1. Oh I’ve been there and done that πŸ™ Good luck !

  5. I’ve seen this trick on Pinterest and I think it’s pretty brilliant! Love how you styled those shelves.

  6. wow! that looks awesome- so fresh and crisp, and LOVE the pop of red in the chair! so welcoming!

  7. Awesome tip Jessica!! Thanks for sharing this! I am moving in a week, so this will really help me hang my shelves in our ‘new to us’ home! Liked this and shared it too! Hope you are having a fun weekend! Heather πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks so much Heather! Good luck with your move πŸ™‚

  8. Hi Jessica,

    Wow, I was surprise to see how you made that little makeover.
    It was nicely done and so simple.
    Thank you for letting us know how you did it!


  9. Jessica -this is inspired! And it’s SO refreshing to find a blogger who writes beautifully AND knows the difference between ‘insure’ and ‘ensure.’
    (I know, I know, picky, picky, picky…)

    Love your blog!


    1. Viola is a flower….
      Voila is I think the French word that you wanted to use……
      Just sayin.,……

  10. This is such a neat idea!
    I am always struggling with getting things straight when I hang them on the wall.
    I will definitely try this!

  11. wow! So simple and yet brilliant! I have been struggling with those little (expletive)’s for 28 years! Either I am really dense, or you are really bright! I suspect the latter πŸ™‚ THANKS!!!!

    1. Ha ha, thanks Rachel! Good luck if you give it a try. Let me know if it works for you!

  12. Susan Smith says:

    What a great tip. I’m the world’s worst at hanging shelves, pictures (especially ones with more than one hanger), etc. I will definitely use this!Thanks.

  13. I love it!! GREAT idea! Loving your blog, thank you for sharing so much!! Very inspiring too – I’m working on lightening up my little condo and your living room is my new inspiration! Hugs & Smiles, T

    1. Thank you and good luck with your living room πŸ™‚ I’m glad you found ours inspiring. You will be amazed at what some light colored paint will do for a room. Send over some pictures when you are done, I would love to see it. Happy New Year!

  14. Kelly Pate says:

    Oh, man! I wish I’d thought to look this up last week when I mounted a mail holder. Ended up placing one screw directly next to the anchor even though, like another commenter, I had measured twice. Owell. Now I can go shelf-and-whatever-else-hanging-crazy! THANK YOU! You just save many of my afternoons.

    1. ha Kelly! I feel you pain. I have been there πŸ™‚ Good luck with your future hanging projects and thanks for stopping by!

  15. Thanks. . . great idea! Painters tape is my friend forever now!

  16. You are brilliant! Thank you for posting this!

  17. Great tutorial, thanks Just hung a shelf. You have to make sure you little dots on the painters tape are level too – I missed that bit!

  18. What a BRILLIANT idea!! I searched for an easy way to hang my shelves and this worked like a charm!! THANK YOU so much!!!!

  19. I wish I’d had this technique years ago! Thanks for sharing!

  20. hello!

    ive been researching in vain for weeks trying to figure out how people hang these beautiful shelfs, yours is the closest so far! but where did you get the shelfs? did you make them?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Well, back to the basement for some painter’s tape AND the spackle. LOL! thanks for the tip.