The Artist's Toolkit: Visual Elements and Principles
Explore the Toolkit
See Artists In Action



The Artist's Toolkit: Visual Elements and Principles


Balance can be achieved with just color values alone. A small amount of color can offset the visual weight of a large area of neutral values. Similarly, a small area of warm color can balance a large area of cool color.

Balance diagram  


This Pop Art image illustrates symmetrical color balance. The color distribution on the right side mirrors that of the left side.

Allan D'Arcangelo, Proposition #9, 1966, Acrylic on canvas, Walker Art Center, Art Center Acquisition Fund

Allan D'Arcangelo
Proposition #9
Acrylic on canvas
Walker Art Center
Art Center Acquisition Fund


This sculpture is an example of balancing color asymmetrically. The smaller red cherry has more visual weight than the neutral grey of the spoon, even though the spoon is larger than the cherry.

Claes Oldenburg, Coosje van Bruggen, Spoonbridge and Cherry, 1985-1988, Aluminum, stainless steel, paint, Walker Art Center, Gift of Frederick R. Weisman in honor of his parents, William and Mary Weisman

Claes Oldenburg, Coosje van Bruggen
Spoonbridge and Cherry
Aluminum, stainless steel, paint
Walker Art Center
Gift of Frederick R. Weisman in honor of his parents, William and Mary Weisman


Even though the sizes and shapes of these figures vary, the large orange figure and small blue figure on the right balance the large blue figure and small orange figure on the left.

Yinka Shonibare, Dysfunctional Family, 1999, Wax-printed cotton, polyester, wood, plastic, Walker Art Center, Butler Family Fund

Yinka Shonibare
Dysfunctional Family
Wax-printed cotton, polyester, wood, plastic
Walker Art Center
Butler Family Fund


Balance through color is one principle that unifies this composition. Although the canvas is filled with grayed tones of blue and green, orange (the complement of blue) is a secondary theme and can be seen on the roofs, the cattle and in the grass. Our attention is further drawn to the figure in the red jacket, showing that a small area of warm color can offset a larger area of cool color.

Meindert Hobbema, Wooded Landscape with Watermill, 1665, Oil on canvas, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, The William Hood Dunwoody Fund

Meindert Hobbema
Wooded Landscape with Watermill
Oil on canvas
The Minneapolis Institute of Art
The William Hood Dunwoody Fund

Symmetry and Asymmetry  |  Balance with Color  |  Other Types of Balance

Walker Art Center The Minneapolis Institute of Arts ArtsConnectEd