Balance in art: Definition, types, and why it matters

Art, why are we attracted to it? How does it make us feel the way we do, and how does one achieve artistic stardom? Art is a reflection of the soul, but to harness its true potential, there is much more to it than just creating a pretty picture. Luckily for us, we have centuries of art history, quite literally carved out by hand, that have sculpted the visual landscape we are all familiar with today. Seismic events such as the Renaissance period, realism, romanticism, and cubism have all played their part in forging artistic styles that, in turn, speak to us in very different ways.

Pioneering artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, an artist of the Renaissance period, discovered the significance of balance and proportion in such an impactful way that we are still referring to his work hundreds of years later. Salvador Dali, a progressive surrealist of the 20th century, pushed the boundaries of our imagination, creating dreamlike compositions that were often structured around the golden ratio, a universal, mathematical sequence of numbers that are present in the very fabric of all organic things.

It’s no accident that this balancing act has crept its way into the art scene. As we evolve, so do our dreams, and our conscious thinking often seeks perfection. Even in the most daring pieces of intellectual creations, we validate them as an observer based on our emotions, and the space and feelings we get from a painting can often be felt between the elements on the canvas. It’s this arrangement that can be the make or break of an artist destined to change the world, providing us with new perspectives that cause us to question and ponder.

Today, artists and designers rely heavily on the concept of balance to create visually appealing and impactful works of art, whether it’s for personal or commercial purposes. It even weaves itself into the rule book of design principles, a guide for designers seeking hierarchical perfection. Whether it be through color, shape, texture, or space, balance plays a critical role in the communication of an idea. Mastering balance is essential for creating art that is both compelling and effective. In this blog post, we will delve into the different types of balance in art and how to utilize them effectively in your designs.

What is balance in art?

The balance in art definition refers to the visual equilibrium of elements within a composition. It is the act of distributing weight and elements in a manner that creates stability and harmony. Every artist needs to master this skill, regardless of their preferred medium, as it is an essential aspect of creating stunning and impactful works of art.

Achieving balance in art requires a deep understanding and appreciation of the fundamental principles of design, such as contrast, unity, symmetry, and asymmetry. To create a balanced composition, an artist must manage the elements of their artwork, such as colors, shapes, lines, and space, in a way that ensures every element plays a part while remaining harmonious with the overall composition. A balanced artwork will engage the viewer’s senses and leave a lasting impression.

What are the types of balance in art?

As we are about to find out, the arrangement of your canvas can have deep psychological effects depending on how your elements are placed within a space. This spatial awareness can often occur naturally without the artist being aware of it, a gift that often shows signs of artistic greatness. Depending on the type of balance your composition conveys will ultimately affect the emotion felt from a painting, photograph, or design.

Symmetrical balance

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Symmetrical or formal balance is achieved when one side of an artwork is a mirror image of the other. This type of balance is often used in portraits, cubism and modern art. It creates a sense of stability and order, as well as evoking a sense of symmetry and harmony. It is commonly used in all artistic styles.

One of the most famous paintings to use symmetry balance in art is Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, whereby all the elements in the composition are equally balanced, creating a sense of hierarchy that emphasizes the stature of its prominent subject, Jesus Christ. Symmetrical balance can be achieved through the use of color schemes, the placement of objects or shapes, and the repetition of patterns.

Asymmetrical balance

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Asymmetrical or informal balance is achieved when two sides of an artwork are not identical but still create an overall sense of balance. This type of balance is often used in more modern and contemporary designs to create a sense of tension, energy, or movement within the work.

Vincent van Gogh’s A Starry Night is a beautiful example of elements being arranged in this manner. As you observe, you will notice that each element has its own weight. The stars, the tree, and the town on the hillside all interact with one another, all while using up the entire space of the canvas. In this painting, he has been able to leave us feeling spaced out instead of restricted and confined, all thanks to applying perfected stability. Asymmetrical balance can be achieved through the use of contrast, the placement of objects or shapes, and the use of negative space.

Radial balance

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Radial balance is an essential concept in the world of art and creativity. It refers to the symmetrical arrangement of elements around a central point, forming a harmonious composition that draws the viewer’s attention inwards.

The use of radially balanced artwork can be found in various forms of creativity, including painting, sculpture, and graphic design. From mandalas to stained glass windows, radial balance is a potent technique that can lend an air of balance, stability, and completeness to an artwork. Beyond art, it can be used in creative projects such as web design and logos.

Crystallographic balance

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Crystallographic balance is a term that may sound complex. However, it simply refers to the symmetry and harmony achieved by creating repetitive shapes and patterns within a composition. Its use not only enhances the beauty and visual interest of the artwork, but it also reflects a deep understanding of mathematical concepts and natural forms. Commonly used in textile and wallpaper designs, they are perfect for decorations or interior design that convey a sense of timelessness. Through crystallographic balance, artists can convey a sense of stability, order, and balance while keeping their creations captivating and thought-provoking.

Gestalt balance

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Gestalt balance is achieved when the composition of a design is balanced through the use of visual weight. This type of balance occurs when an object with a strong visual weight is balanced with one or multiple objects with lesser visual weight. It’s about achieving harmony in elements that seem disparate at first glance.

This concept has been used in graphic design, photography, and even architecture and has become a cornerstone in different styles such as Art Nouveau, Surrealism, and Cubism. By incorporating Gestalt principles, artists aim to create works of art that elicit a sense of unity, symmetry, and proportionality, leading to a powerful visual impact. It is no wonder that Gestalt principles have stood the test of time and continue to inspire creatives all over the world.

How to use the types of balance in art

When it comes to applying balance to your artwork, it’s crucial to decide whether it will influence your piece of work or whether your work will influence balance. It would be a shame for your creativity to be overshadowed by the need for balance therefore, making judgment at the right moment is critical.


There are more than enough fantastic pieces of art from all around the world that showcase all the forms of balance previously mentioned. Take Leonardo’s Last Supper as a striking example. You may not have even realized at first glance the significance of its symmetrical structure until now. It’s subtle. However, cubism and mathematical art can be the very opposite, almost showing off their formal structures in plain sight. Taking inspiration from such pieces can help you find exactly what it is you are after when forming compositions of your own and lead you to question how far you will take it.


One way to help balance out your canvas is to use a grid. You can divide your artboard up using imaginary lines that will help you structure your composition. For symmetrical artwork, dividing your canvas into two equal parts will help structure your art accordingly. This method is used time and time again when drawing a human face, for example.

For asymmetrical compositions, using grid structures like the Golden Ratio is also a great way to seek equilibrium in your creations. It uses the Fibonacci sequence, a set of numbers that are the blueprint for divine proportion. If it’s good enough for Salvador Dali, then it’s good enough for anybody! To learn more about the golden ratio and its influences, check out this in-depth article, The Golden Ratio in graphic design.

Furthermore, we have the rule of thirds. This is especially familia to those who work in photography. When looking through a lens of a camera, using the rule of thirds can help compose balance and equilibrium in the same way an artist would using a grid on their canvas. It can help guide photographers into structuring depth of field or the placing of subjects within the frame. Filmmaking can also benefit from using such a grid structure, and it doesn’t matter what aspect ratio you work with, it will only help create more aesthetically pleasing scenes that aid your audience with spatial awareness.

Putting balance to practice

Art is all about trial and error. Give yourself a chance to explore these helpful methods of creating stunning artwork and get the most out of their benefits. What’s great about this concept is that it can quite literally work for any type of discipline. Whether you’re creating art using paint and materials in the traditional sense, or if you’re a more digital-based artist using Photoshop, the art of balance is universal, and in a sense, it unites us in a way we all can understand. So putting it to practice wherever you can may lead to a more successful art installation, featured work on a website, or even a commissioned wall mural for a trendy bar or cafe.

The importance of balance in art

Artists and art enthusiasts alike understand the significance of balance in their craft. It allows the elements within a piece to seamlessly come together and create a cohesive whole. Without balance, a work of art can feel overwhelming or underwhelming, and its message may be lost. Achieving balance is no easy feat, but with practice and a keen eye, any artist can master this crucial element. Through the proper use of space, color, and composition, they can evoke the desired emotions and reactions from their audience. Whether it be the tranquility of a calming landscape or the energy of a bold abstract piece, balance is a key ingredient in creating truly impactful art.

Learning the basics of balance could be the very thing that excels you in your craft in creating stunning artwork that not only you as an artist can appreciate but invites in anticipated audiences to look deeper into your visuals, unveiling your intellectual ideas and concepts for all of us to appreciate that little more.