Design 01 – Asymmetrical Balance

June & July 2009

Visual balance is a principle of design that deals with arranging visual elements.


For example, consider a weight scale. When the weight on each side is equal, the scale is in balance. This can be achieved by having the same number of large or small objects on each side of the scale; or by having several small items on one side and balanced by one large object on the other side.


This month we will discuss Asymmetrical or Informal balance. Asymmetrical balance is the opposite of Symmetrical balance (last month’s topic).


Informal balance is the balancing of opposite sides of a design so that unlike objects have equal visual weight or eye attraction. Informal balance may appear more casual and less planned when viewing, but it is in fact usually harder to achieve because we must plan the layout carefully to ensure that there is a balance of unlike objects. An unbalanced picture creates a feeling of tension – as if the objects might slide off the canvas or as if the picture will tip. When standing back and viewing your picture, it just does not seem ‘right’; you feel that you must rearrange the objects in the picture.


Informal balance is less obvious than formal balance, because its subjects are often not uniform. An asymmetrical design appears more dynamic and allows for more freedom of creativity because we are not limited to ‘mirror’ images – we have unlimited arrangements possibilities. This in turn allows for a more interesting composition.


Ok, we now have the definition of Asymmetrical balance and understand the concept of balancing a design, but what elements other than size can we use in our One Stroke painting. We can also achieve a visual balance using texture, position, intensity of color, warmth and coolness of color – or what is called visual weight.




Our eyes are drawn by color. Small areas of vibrant color can be used to balance larger areas of more neutral colors.



Value refers to the darkness or lightness of objects. Black against white has a much stronger contrast than gray against white. To balance these two colors, you would need a larger area of gray to balance the stronger value of black; or one darker item may need to be balanced by several lighter items.


Large flat areas without much detail can be balanced by smaller irregularly shaped objects since the eye is led towards the more intricate shape.



Smaller areas with interesting textures (variegated light and dark, or random fluctuations) can balance larger areas with smoother, untextured looks. Notice how the eyes are drawn to the birdhouse and hummingbird and you are not aware of all the blue sky.




Using a balance beam, a larger weight closer to the center point can be balanced by a lighter weight further away from the center. Sometimes larger elements on one side of the canvas can be balanced by a smaller element that is positioned by itself at the far end of the other side of the canvas.

Eye Direction

Your eye can be led to a certain point in a picture depending on how the elements are arranged. Don’t you feel like you are floating with her? Your eyes are drawn to the face and wreath.


I hope you found this month’s painting tip helpful.

Until next month – Keep Your Brushes Busy!