Art History Lab

Unveiling the Secrets of Balance in Art: From Symmetry to Chaos

Balance in Art: Understanding and Appreciating Visual Compositions

Have you ever looked at a piece of art and felt a sense of completeness? Of contentment?

A sense of wholeness? These feelings are often the result of a balanced art composition.

Balance is an essential aspect of art, and it contributes significantly to the aesthetics of visual compositions. When an artist uses balance effectively in their artwork, they can draw the viewer’s attention to specific elements while also creating a harmoniously composed image that feels complete and satisfying.

In this article, we will explore the concept of balance in art. We will begin by discussing the definition and importance of balance, as well as the principles and elements of art that contribute to the creation of a balanced composition.

Then, we will delve into the various types of balances found in art, including symmetrical and asymmetrical balance, providing examples of each type and analyzing their effects on the overall composition.

Definition and Importance of Balance in Art

Balance is a foundational concept in art that refers to the distribution of elements within the composition of a visual work. It describes the arrangement of elements such as line, form, shape, color, value, space, and texture, in a way that creates symmetry, contrast, harmony, and unity between them.

When an artist establishes balance within their visual composition, it creates an aesthetically pleasing and harmonious work.

The importance of balance in art cannot be overstated.

Any artwork that lacks balance can feel off-balance, incomplete, and disorienting to the viewer. On the other hand, an artwork that is well-balanced and harmonious tends to resonate with people, creating a sense of contentment, pleasure, and satisfaction.

Principles and Elements of Art that Contribute to Balance

To create balance in an artwork, an artist must utilize a combination of art principles and elements. Principles of art that contribute to balance include emphasis, movement, rhythm, proportion, scale, harmony, unity, variety, and contrast.

Emphasis refers to how an artist directs the viewer’s eye to a particular area or element of the artwork. Movement and rhythm refer to the use of elements to create the illusion of movement and flow within the piece.

Proportion and scale describe how an artist utilizes size and proportion to create balance between different elements and spaces. Harmony and unity refer to how an artist combines various elements to create a cohesive and harmonious artwork.

Variety and contrast refer to utilizing differences and variations in the art elements to create visual interest and contrast, which, in turn, contribute to balance. Art elements refer to the visual components that an artist utilizes when creating a visual artwork.

These include line, form, shape, color, value, space, and texture. Line refers to the pattern and direction of a line within an artwork.

Form and shape refer to the solidity and flatness of an element in the composition. Color, value, and texture are used to create a sense of depth, contrast, and visual interest within an artwork.

An artist must balance these elements to achieve a visually cohesive and harmonious composition.

Types of Balance in Art

There are mainly two types of balance found in art: Symmetrical balance and Asymmetrical balance. Symmetrical balance is a type of balance that occurs when an artist mirrors the elements on each side of a central axis.

This balance is also known as formal balance. It conveys a sense of stability, order, and familiarity.

When a composition is symmetrical, it creates a sense of calmness and typifies traditional styles of art. There are different kinds of symmetrical balance.

The exact symmetric balance, mirroring the elements precisely on each side, creates a perfect sense of balance, and approximate symmetry, where the distribution of elements is close but not entirely equal, creates a sense of balance that is more relaxed and less rigid. Examples of artwork that employ symmetrical balance include The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, The Parthenon in Athens, The Taj Mahal in India, Vega-Nor by Alexander Calder, and Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird by Frida Kahlo.

Asymmetrical balance, which contrasts symmetrical balance, is a type of balance that occurs when an artist distributes the elements unequally on each side of the composition. This balance is also known as informal balance.

The visual weight and placement of the elements differ on each side of the composition, but they still balance each other to create harmony. Asymmetrical balance creates a sense of tension and dynamism that captures the viewer’s attention by disrupting the traditional sense of order, creating a unique and engaging image.

Examples of artworks that employ asymmetrical balance include The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray, and Blue by Piet Mondrian, and Mobile by Alexander Calder.


In conclusion, balance is a crucial concept in art that contributes significantly to the overall aesthetic and visual impact of a composition. To create balance, an artist must use both art principles and elements, such as emphasis, movement, rhythm, proportion, scale, harmony, unity, variety, contrast, line, form, shape, color, value, space, and texture.

There are two types of balances found in art: symmetrical balance and asymmetrical balance. Symmetrical balance creates a sense of stability, order, and familiarity while Asymmetrical balance creates a sense of tension, dynamism, and excitement.

Understanding and appreciating balance in art will enable you to analyze and appreciate compositions in new ways, expanding your perception and appreciation of the visual world around you. Radial and

Crystallographic Balance: Unique Forms of Balance in Art

In addition to symmetrical and asymmetrical balance, two other types of balance commonly found in visual artworks are radial and crystallographic balance.

Radial balance refers to the distribution of elements from a central point outwards, while crystallographic balance involves randomized placements of elements in a mosaic-like pattern. These unique forms of balance provide artists with alternative ways to create compositions that are visually engaging and captivating.

In this article, we will explore the characteristics of radial and crystallographic balance in art, examining different examples and how they contribute to the overall balance of the artwork.

Radial Balance

Radial balance occurs when elements within an artwork are distributed in a circular pattern with a central point. This type of balance creates a sense of movement and dynamic flow, drawing the viewer’s attention to the central point from where the elements begin to radiate out in a balanced manner.

Radial balance is often used in designs that require a harmonious yet dynamic look, such as mandalas or stained-glass rose windows. Mandalas are spiritual and ritual symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism that represent the universe.

They often have intricate details and patterns that are repeated symmetrically around a central point. The mandala’s balanced composition encourages viewers to explore the patterns and details and appreciate the visual harmony created by the repetition and distribution around the central point.

Stained-glass rose windows are commonly found in cathedrals and other religious buildings. Using colored glass and leaded techniques, these windows create a radial balance that usually depicts religious scenes.

The radiating colors and patterns create an overall sense of balance and unity. The central point captures the viewer’s eye, bringing them into the composition while the delicate repetition of lines and shapes lends to a sense of harmony.

Crystallographic Balance

Crystallographic balance, also known as mosaic or all-over balance, refers to a composition of randomized placements that create an organized but chaotic structure. This form of balance is often used in abstract art, where the elements have equal visual weight, therefore creating a sense of harmony and cohesiveness.

Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm: Number 30 is an excellent example of crystallographic balance in action, with randomized placements of lines and dots that create a sense of organized chaos. The visual weight of each element is balanced, letting the viewer visually explore the entire painting, with equal visual interest throughout.

Another example of a crystallographic balance can be seen in the artwork Number 5 by Jackson Pollock. The dripping technique used in this painting resulted in a composition that lacks a specific focal point but contains an organized and cohesive structure.

The use of organic yet repetitive shapes creates the overall sense of balance that ties the entire artwork together.

Summary of Balance in Art

Balance in art is created when elements are distributed equally and effectively throughout a composition. The principles of balance include the use of emphasis, rhythm, proportion, scale, unity, and contrast, among others.

The balance can be asymmetrical, with elements distributed unequally on both sides, or symmetrical, where there is a mirror-image replication of elements. Additionally, radial balance distributes elements around a central point, creating a dynamic circular pattern.

Crystallographic balance involves a randomized placement of elements that create a sense of organization within chaos. The use of these different types of balance in visual art allows the artist to create a variety of compositions, each with its unique visual impact.

By applying the principles of balance to their work effectively, artists can create an artwork that feels harmonious and complete. The elements’ visual weight should be spread throughout the composition, ensuring that there is no focal point that overwhelms the rest of the elements.

In conclusion, visual balance is an essential aspect of creating art, and artists must understand the principles and elements that contribute to their compositions’ visual balance. By using different forms of balance, artists can create visually captivating works that provide the viewer with an engaging and unified visual experience.

Understanding the unique balance types used within art can help you appreciate and analyze the artworks you see and recognize the techniques used by artists to create visually stunning compositions. Principles of Art: Understanding the Guidelines for Balance and Composition

When it comes to creating a visually appealing and harmonious artwork, artists rely on the principles of art.

These principles serve as guidelines or rules that help artists develop a well-composed composition. Balance is just one principle of art that plays a critical role in creating a harmonious feel within a visual piece.

In this article, we will delve into the principles of art, explore their relationship with balance, and provide answers to frequently asked questions regarding balance in art. Principles of Art: Definition and Explanation

The principles of art are fundamental concepts that guide artists in creating visually pleasing and impactful compositions.

They provide a framework for understanding and organizing the elements of art, which include lines, shapes, forms, colors, spaces, and textures. By incorporating these principles, artists can achieve a sense of unity, variety, harmony, rhythm, proportion, and movement in their artwork.

Relationship with Balance

Balance is a principle of art that refers to the distribution of visual elements within a composition. It ensures that no single element or part of the artwork overpowers the rest, creating a sense of unity and equilibrium.

Balance is closely related to other principles, such as emphasis, movement, rhythm, variety, unity, and harmony. These principles work together to achieve a composition that feels harmonious and visually balanced.

Balance plays a crucial role in maintaining the overall character of an artwork. In a balanced composition, there is an equal distribution of visual weight, preventing any single element from dominating the composition.

This distribution of visual weight allows viewers to appreciate the different elements in the artwork without feeling overwhelmed or unbalanced.

Creating Balance in Art

Achieving balance in art involves careful consideration of the art elements and their arrangement within the composition. Artists can create balance by utilizing different techniques and strategies such as:


Emphasizing larger shapes or objects: Placing larger shapes or objects strategically within a composition can help create a sense of balance and stability. 2.

Using colors to distribute visual weight: Colors can have varying degrees of visual weight. By distributing colors evenly or counteracting heavier colors with lighter ones, artists can achieve balance within their composition.

3. Employing lines and textures: The use of lines and textures can contribute to the balance within a composition.

For example, repeating lines or textures can help distribute visual weight more evenly. 4.

Utilizing space: The allocation of space within a composition can greatly impact balance. Leaving empty or negative space can provide a sense of balance and enhance the overall composition.

Types of Balance Explained

There are several types of balance in art, each with its characteristics and effects on the composition. The frequently discussed types of balance include symmetrical balance, asymmetrical balance, radial balance, and crystallographic balance.

– Symmetrical balance refers to a composition that is mirrored or replicated on both sides of a central axis. It creates a sense of stability and order, as elements on one side of the composition are balanced by corresponding elements on the other.

This type of balance is often found in traditional or formal compositions. – Asymmetrical balance, on the other hand, is achieved when visual weight is distributed unevenly in a composition.

Although the elements may differ in size, shape, color, or texture, they still create a harmonious balance. Asymmetrical balance adds dynamism and visual interest to a composition.

– Radial balance occurs when elements are distributed in a circular pattern radiating outward from a central point. This type of balance creates a dynamic and organized composition, with the central point capturing the viewer’s attention.

– Crystallographic balance, also known as mosaic or all-over balance, involves the randomized placement of elements in a composition. It creates an organized yet chaotic structure, with each element having equal visual weight.

Often seen in abstract art, crystallographic balance creates a sense of unity and cohesiveness.

Principles of Art Overview

In summary, the principles of art, including balance, emphasis, movement, rhythm, variety, unity, harmony, proportion, scale, and contrast, guide artists in creating visually appealing and balanced compositions. Balance, as a fundamental principle, ensures that the visual elements in an artwork are distributed harmoniously, preventing any single element from overpowering the composition.

Artists achieve balance by considering the arrangement of larger shapes, colors, lines, textures, and space within their compositions. Understanding the principles of art and their relationship with balance enables us to appreciate and analyze artwork more comprehensively.

By recognizing the techniques artists employ to create visual balance, we can gain a deeper understanding of how art compositions evoke specific emotions and engage the viewer’s eye. So, the next time you encounter a visually appealing artwork, take a moment to observe the balance and the principles of art at playit will enrich your appreciation of the artist’s skill and vision.

In conclusion, understanding the principles of art, particularly balance, is crucial for creating visually appealing and harmonious compositions. Balance ensures that no single element overpowers the rest, creating a sense of unity and equilibrium.

Whether it’s symmetrical or asymmetrical balance, radial or crystallographic, each type adds its unique visual impact to an artwork. By considering the arrangement of elements, utilizing techniques such as emphasis, movement, rhythm, and understanding the relationship between colors, shapes, lines, and textures, artists can achieve a harmonious and captivating composition.

So, the next time you encounter a work of art, take a moment to appreciate and analyze the balance employed by the artist, as it is an essential aspect that enhances our visual experience and understanding of the artwork.

Popular Posts