Design 02 – Symmetrical Balance

May 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.


We can also achieve a visual balance using other means – such as texture, position, size, intensity of color, warmth and coolness of color – or what is called visual weight.


This month we will discuss Symmetrical or Formal balance.


Symmetrical balance is mirror image balance. This is the easiest type of balance to achieve.


We use symmetrical balance when we paint our Urns. We will take our pattern (which is only 1 side of the urn) and trace the left side and then the right side. When we begin painting the urn design, we will paint each side exactly the same. You would be able to draw a line down the center of the urn, and both sides would be exact.


Because we are using the symmetrical urn as our focal point, a person’s eyes are drawn to the center of the urn when looking at the picture.


With painting, it is difficult to be exact on each side – and I would not stress myself out over this because another example of symmetrical balance is the human face. On one side we have an eye, an ear, a check, and 1/2 of nose, mouth, chin, and forehead. It would be a very rare person in deed to have all these parts exact and equal!


I found the definition of approximate symmetry – the stability of formal balance (or symmetrical) with some small differences on each side of the main axis. Hurray! Our Urns will be balanced – even if not an exact mirror image.


You will create a calm, harmonious effect when painting a formal or symmetrical picture.


Another example of Symmetrical balance in One Stroke Painting is when we paint a scroll work design on a cabinet door. Each side is exact. This is not the same scroll work as in the 2008 Christmas Trio project. I have not taught a class using this method, but in Level 2 certification, we painted a symmetrical design on canvas. This is on my list of ‘to teach’ subjects when I find the proper surface in the store.


I hope you enjoyed this session on design. Next month I will discuss asymmetrical (or informal) balance.


Until then – Keep your brushes busy!


Nancy, Level 2 OSCI

The Painted Vine