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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Design Principles - Balance 4 comments  
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Using the design principle of balance to improve your scrapbook pages

Today I am going to introduce you to the design concept of balance and how you can use it to improve your scrapbook pages. The purpose of balance is to create a visual display that is pleasing to the eye, so you may find that a lot of these concepts are things that you have noticed naturally already. It helps though, to know what the concepts are, so that when you are looking at an unfinished page and thinking, “something seems off; this needs something, but what?”, you can review the design concepts and they will help you figure out what is missing, or off.
There are two main types of balance: symmetrical or formal, and asymmetrical or informal. Symmetrical is pretty easy; it just means that things are the same on both sides. The center line can be horizontal or vertical. A mirror image on the left and right or top and bottom also counts as symmetrical balance.

Symmetrical Balance

Vertical Symmetrical Balance
(two vertical halves are symmetrical to each other)


Horizontal Symmetrical Balance 
(two horizontal halves are symmetrical)

Here is an example of a page with vertical symmetrical balance. Notice that the left and right halves of the page have the same elements.


A subcategory of symmetrical balance is radial balance. Radial balance means that everything is oriented around a center point. This is often the result of combining vertical and horizontal symmetrical balance; you have the same thing on top and bottom, and on left and right - creating a circle, more or less.

Radial balance is a little more difficult than horizontal or symmetrical balance because it is pretty severely limiting. You need to follow the ‘rules’ about keeping the radial symmetry. 

Here is an example of radial balance on a scrapbook page:


Pages created using symmetrical balance (horizontal, vertical or radial) are likely to be pleasing to the eye and fairly simple to put together. You probably won’t be pushing things around on your page looking for just the right spot if you use a symmetrical balance. However, having to follow the rules of symmetry can be quite limiting and the pages often end up looking quite formal.

These limitations are why most scrapbookers instinctively choose asymmetrical balance for the majority of their pages. Asymmetrical balance takes the rules of symmetry into account, then bends them. The balance isn’t broken exactly, but elements of differing weights are used to create a balance. There aren’t any specific rules, but there are some things to keep in mind about what creates a differing weight on an object.

Asymmetrical Balance

dark (vibrant) vs light (neutral)

Dark or vibrant colors have a greater weight than light or neutral colors. Therefore, for example, a small red brad could be used to balance a much larger kraft circle.

detail(texture) vs plain(flat)

Similarly to the color weights, texture or detail creates a greater weight than flat or plain items. Therefore, you can use a detailed (small) rose embellishment to balance a much larger, but similarly colored flat chipboard circle.


Center Point Balance

Finally, an item’s distance from the center point also determines the weight. Items that are close to the center exert less force. Picture a scale, or a seesaw, an object that is closer to the center seems to weigh less than an object at the end.

This is why you often see pages with a lot of whitespace laid out with this general formula


The three concepts that I discussed above are the most basic and most important. In addition to those, here are some others to keep in mind:

  • warm colors have more weight than cool colors
  • elements on the top or right are often heavier than items on the bottom or left
  • filled space is heavier than empty space
  • an item surrounded by empty space is heavier than an item surrounded by other items (i.e. clustered)

Here is an example of a layout that uses asymmetrical balance. You can see that I used the centerpoint balance 'formula' that I described above. I also used the detail and color of the smaller circle to balance the larger, but still colorful grouping.

To further illustrate how different colors have different weights. Here is this same layout in a prior incarnation. I thought I was done, but something was just not quite right. The butterfly on the upper left circle is striped and fairly light, it didnt create enough contrast to balance the darker blues in the bottom cluster. Compare this layout with the one above. That simple switch of the butterfly color makes a huge difference don't you think?

Finally, I used a sketch to create this final layout. It may seem that with a sketch, you don't need the rules of balance because the elements are already placed for you, hopefully in a balanced fashion, but look at the sketch below. Notice how it is seemingly unbalanced, all the 'stuff' is in the upper left corner.

Now look at the page I created. I used the bright busy paper on the bottom to balance the cluster of elements at the top. Obviously, there are lots of other ways to interpret this sketch. I'm not claiming that my way is the best or the only. A plain blank area can also balance a busy grouping. I just want to point out that you can apply the rules of balance even with a sketch, where your elements are mostly fixed. You can look to the other ways that items are given weight - size, dark vs light, texture vs flat, etc.


Supplies used:


Posted by megamay

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Reader Comments ...
10/28/11 4:35 am
Oh, how I need lessons like this! Thank you, thank you.

debamas . Milton, FL
10/27/11 10:37 pm
Thankyou for this.

10/27/11 11:26 am
Wow! I learned a lot from this article. Thanks so much!

writerlady . Southeast Connecticut
10/27/11 10:30 am
Love this reveal! Hope you keep going. Great layouts.

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