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Working with images: balance and symmetry in visual composition

Visual images in print can communicate your message quickly and effectively--the old "picture is worth a thousand words" bit. A well-chosen image can make a document more attractive, more informative, and more effective. Readers can "read" images faster than they can read words. Here are some basic design concepts that will help you work with images.


The way in which visual elements are arranged to create a feeling of equilibrium in the composition. There are three types: symmetry, asymmetry, and radial symmetry.

Balance is also affected by color and the relative weight of individual elements within the composition.

Symmetry: Bilateral

The property of being divisible into symmetrical halves on either side of a unique plane.

Bilateral symmetry is a mirror image on either side of a dividing line. That line can be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal, but you will still find the same weight on both sides.

Symmetry: Radial

The property of symmetry around a central axis.

Radial symmetry is the kind of symmetry you would see in a star fish, a flower, or a drawing of the sun. The elements radiate from the center out toward the edges of the composition.


The absence of symmetry, not identical on both sides of a central line.


Asymmetrical shapes or compositions cannot be divided equally by a dividing line (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal). However, compositions that are asymmetrical can still be balanced.

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