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Balance - a Principle of Design


a principle of design, balance refers to the way the elements of art are arranged to create a feeling of stablility in a work; a pleasing or harmonious arrangement or proportion of parts or areas in a design or composition. Portions of a composition can be described as taking on a measureable weight or dominance, and can then be arranged in such a way that they appear to be either in or out of balance, or to have one kind of balance or another. Balance can be symmetrical, or formal; or it can be asymmetrical, or informal. It can also be radial.

Delahunt, Michael R. "Balance." ArtLex Art Dictionary. 1 February 2011. <>.

Visual balance in an artwork can be equated to physical balance - one or more elements are balanced by one or more additional elements within the composition. There are various types of visual balance that can be found within an artwork.


Symmetrical, or formal, balance occurs when objects on both sides of the artwork are equal in weight using the same values, shapes and/or colors (above left and below).


Above: carved panel in Sienna, Italy

Asymmetrical, or informal, balance occurs when two sides of an artwork use different elements but are in visual balance (top right and below).

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Above: In Rubens' Adoration of the Magi, the composition is balanced around the central figure by the lighter figures in the bottom left and the darker areas in the upper right.

Peter Paul Rubens. Adoration of the Magi. 1624. Oil on panel. Koninklijk Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium.

Radial balance occurs when elements in an artwork radiate from the center equally to all edges.


English stained glass. William Wailes. St Matthias, Richmond. circa 1865. Architect G. G. Scott

The artwork above is in the public domain.

Web site with a lesson plan activity about balance and symmetry in art.