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Posted by on Oct 14, 2013 in Bootcamp, Stars and Stamps | 12 comments

All Things Being Equal (Balance in Design)

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In this month’s lesson we’re going to explore the Principle of Balance. Balance is easy to understand in a three dimensional object. If it’s not balanced the object tips over. When it comes to compositions we have to use our imagination to carry this through to our designs as we aim for the equal distribution of visual weight in a design.Visual balance occurs around a vertical axis. There are 3 basic forms of balance: Symmetrical, Asymmetrical and Radial.

Symmetrical Balance, is where elements on one side of an imaginary vertical axis are repeated in reverse on the opposite side in what is essentially a mirror image. Symmetry achieves balance through this repetition. Symmetrical Balance is considered formal. It creates an ordered, stable design and is also sometimes called bilateral symmetry. Humans are bilateral creatures, draw an imaginary line down the center of a human being and you’ll see the mirror image concept in our two eyes, two ears, legs and arms etc. Symmetrical balance can often be found in nature, architecture and classical design.

Asymmetrical Balance is achieved through contrast. It is often off-center and uses non-identical elements in a way that gives them equal visual weight. It is also called informal balance. In Asymmetry a design is visually balanced and in perfect Symmetry a design is (in theory) both visually and mathematically balanced. Asymmetrical designs are generally more dynamic and tend to convey movement. It would be considered casual balance making it a good choice for more playful and contemporary designs.

Radial Balance occurs when the elements radiate out from one central point creating a strong focal point in the center of your design. In Radial Balance the visual weight is evenly distributed as it emits from the central point. To picture Radial Balance think if flowers, a kaleidoscope or the sun.


balance diagrams


With Symmetry you can rely on the more straight-forward ‘mirror image’ concept to help you achieve your goal, but in Asymmetry you need to consider the visual weight of your various elements. Visual weight can be influenced by many things including color, shape, positioning and size. Here are some things to consider:

  • Color: Bright & intense colors are heavier than muted & subtle colors
  • Value: Dark colors are heavier than light ones
  • Shape: Complex shapes feel heavier than simple ones
  • Size: Larger feels heavier. A large object at the focal point can be balanced by a small object positioned further away from the focal point.
  • Position: Your focal area should contain your heavier elements
  • Quantity: Multiple small objects can balance one larger object
  • Texture: Elements with complex textures are heavier than ones that are plain and simple

Let’s look at a few card samples that show these various types of balance in action.  In the cards that use symmetrically balance, if you sliced this down the middle vertically, the shapes on the left would be mirrored on the right. Those that are Asymmetrical would not be mirror images but instead elements (and remember that white/blank space is an element too) are balanced against each other.


Julie SYM

A Symmetrical Layout/Design (OWH Sketch #21) by Julie.



Nancy SYM

A Symmetrical Layout/Design (created for the last OWH Virtual Card Making Party) by Nancy.




A Symmetrical Layout/Design (OWH Sketch #189) by JoAnn.



Lee Mae

An Asymmetrical Layout/Design by Lee Mae.


Sandy ASYMAn Asymmetrical Layout/Design by Sandy.


Barb H. ASYM

An Asymmetrical Layout/Design by Barb H.



radial symmetry

A Layout/Design based on Radial Balance by me (Paula).


Balance in a design is vital. Knowing and recognizing the differences between the types of balance will help you achieve your desired effect and no matter which you choose when it comes to your designs you just need to remember that building a design is like building a real-world structure: it needs to be balanced or it doesn’t work.



Most people will find themselves more attracted to either symmetrical or asymmetrical designs. Which are you, symmetrical, asymmetrical? Maybe radial? Choose a category and create a card to share here with everyone here.


  1. Paula, this was a fun one. Thanks for another great lesson!

  2. Paula, would the triple-time stamping technique be Symmetrical or Radial? Or both?

    • Hi Marilyn, Hmmm, good question and it would depend on what you’re looking at , the image, vs. the layout. Depending on how the images are stamped it could be symmetrical but if they were stamped in a way that the radiated out from a center focal point it could be radial. If you are just taking the layers into consideration then it would definitely be symmetrical since one is centered precisely on top of the next. 🙂

  3. I looked through my photos and cards and see I’m not a radial designer. I wonder if that’s because the others are easier to cut an plan for me. Thanks for putting these three designs here for us so we can examine our work to determine our style and challenge us to branch out.

  4. cool, thanks for the tutorial. Is there a list of winners from the blog hop somewhere?

    • Not that I’ve seen. I think you’d need to check back at each stop that was offering a prize to see.

  5. Another clear and informative lesson in good design– thanks, Paula!

  6. i guess i am symmetrical though i have been trying lately to become more asymmetrical. when i look at the samples, i definitely am drawn to symmetry. must be my natural instinct for order.

  7. Thanks for another great tutorial. I’ve been learning so much about design from your Boot Camp lessons. Some concepts I have learned by trial and error, but it’s so helpful to learn about the theory behind good design, too. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into these for OWH card makers like me!

  8. Thank you, Paula, for another well-designed 😉 lesson. You always make them so clear and easy to understand–just what I need.

  9. Hi, Paula! Having done a LOT of reading on composition as a visual artist (painter), I have come across this concept numerous times over the years. I must admit, though, that I have never understood how to make asymmetrical balance work in a composition. I can understand the theory, especially the way you summarize it, but it just seems so hard to make it work right in practice. Maybe one of these days, the light bulb will finally go on for me! Your explanation, though, seems to be moving me more towards that moment! Thanks for the lesson.

  10. Thanks for another great lesson, Paula. Your explanation and samples make it so much easier to understand the concepts.



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