Symmetrical Balance in Art: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Is Symmetrical Balance?
  • 0:22 What Does Symmetrical…
  • 0:45 What Makes Symmetrical…
  • 1:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Jennifer Swoboda
Expert Contributor
Jenna Clayton

Jenna received her BA in English from Iowa State University in 2015, and she has taught at the secondary level for three years.

In this lesson we will discuss symmetrical balance and how it is represented in art, architecture, and other imagery. Visual aids are included to help illustrate the this commonly used device.

What Is Symmetrical Balance?

Symmetrical balance refers to balance that is achieved by arranging elements on either side of the center of a composition in an equally weighted manner. Symmetrical balance can be thought of as 50/50 balance or like a mirror image. In other words, the image would look the same on either side of the center.

What Does Symmetrical Balance Look Like in Art?

A symmetrically balanced image is visually equal on either side of the center. Look at this painting (see video). You can easily imagine that if a line was drawn down the middle of it, the left side would be virtually identical to the right. It is a very structured, orderly way of designing a work of art. Because of the orderly nature of symmetrical balance, it is also referred to as formal balance.

What Makes Symmetrical Balance Desirable?

Because of its very structured and equally balanced nature, symmetrical balance is perfect for when the desired effect is a sense of order, clarity, and consistency. It is easy for our eyes to follow shapes and patterns when they are repeated; it is a restful type of visual rhythm that puts the viewer at ease. For example, government buildings and institutions that need to inspire trust often use symmetrical balance. Capitol buildings, courthouses, museums, banks, churches, etc., are often great examples. It is important for such major public structures to convey a sense of orderliness.

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Additional Activities

Symmetrical Balance Writing Activity

Short-Answer Essay Questions

For this activity, respond thoroughly to one or more of the following short-answer essay questions. Make sure to be as specific as possible when writing your response. Since these are short-answer questions, only 2-3 paragraphs should be needed in crafting a response.


  1. Why would an artist or architect want to use symmetrical balance in his or her piece of art or architecture? Explain.
  2. Describe some examples of art or architecture with symmetrical balance that you have seen. Why do you think the artists or architects behind these pieces chose to use symmetrical balance?
  3. In your opinion, do buildings with symmetrical balance seem more orderly and trustworthy than other buildings? Why or why not?

Possible response

Question #1:

An artist would strive for symmetrical balance if he or she wished to create an orderly piece of art that is visually gentle on the eyes. Since our minds usually look for patterns or symmetry naturally, pieces of art that are symmetrical are more easily understood and are, therefore, able to be received by a larger audience. Also, many people enjoy images that are symmetrical because it harmonizes with their desire for balance and order.

In a similar way, architects design symmetrically balanced buildings because it is visually appealing. Also, since this design encourages a feeling of order, many architects choose this technique as it sets the tone that one can expect upon entering a building. For example, an architect would probably choose to create a symmetrically balanced courthouse because it conveys an image of order, which one is expecting to experience if going into a building like this.

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