Elementary Art: Balance and Symmetry

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artbalance1Invite kids to explore the basic principles of balance and symmetry in art utilizing the rich content of the Internet. Students will learn how to see various art forms in a new way as they gain an understanding of balance and symmetry.


Begin this lesson with a class discussion. Ask your students about the art museums they have visited. What kind of art did they see? Can any of your students remember a work of art that he or she especially liked? What was special about that particular piece?

Next, talk about art your students have seen outside of museums. Are there statues or sculptures in your community? Do any of your students have art in their homes? What about art that reflects culture, such as a special rug, quilt or vase? What do your students like about these types of art? Explain to your class that there are certain art principles, or things about art that we may not notice right away, such as balance, which can affect our feelings when we look at a piece of art.artbalance2

Start with the Artist’s Toolkit for a simple explanation of balance and a collection of fun activities. There are hands-on examples that students may observe. Click See Artists in Action and watch both video clips. Next click Explore the Toolkit. Under ‘Balance’, click Symmetrical and Asymmetrical and work with this applet. Click back to return to the toolkit. If time permits, allow students to investigate the other options. Invite students to experiment with shapes and balance; for this activity they will need paper, pencils/crayons/markers, and a ruler.


Are your students ready to look for the “hidden” balance in some different pieces of art? Take them to Sanford & a Lifetime of Color, where you will find examples of symmetrical balance, asymmetrical balance and radial balance using famous works of art. Discuss each painting and why it has “symmetrical”, “asymmetrical” or “radial” balance.

Next visit SBC Pacific Bell’s Eyes on Art Visual Glossary. Listed here are various elements of artistic design, including balance, symmetry and asymmetry. First, scroll down the page and look at the paintings under the “balance” and “symmetry and asymmetry” headings. Ask your students to answer the questions provided. Now allow students to explore on their own. Have each student look at the other paintings on the page. How did the artists use balance in their work? Ask each student to write down the names of 3 paintings (and their artists) from this page with asymmetrical balance and 3 paintings (and their artists) with symmetrical balance. Your students can get a better look by clicking on each title to enlarge the picture. Have each student choose his or her favorite painting from this page. Ask your students to write down the name of the painting and the artist, and to write one paragraph describing how the artist used symmetry or asymmetry in the painting.

artbalance3After your students have completed this part of the lesson, ask how each of them felt when they looked at the painting they chose. Do your students think that the artist’s use of balance affected how they felt about the painting? Do artists use balance in other types of art? What about sculptures or statues in your area? What factors about art reflect various cultures?

Balance and Symmetry in Art Reflecting Culture

Remind the class that earlier in the lesson you spoke about art that your students may have at home which reflects culture, such as a special rug, quilt or vase. Then take your class to visit this WebQuest Native American Art – Design a Navajo Rug, a lesson in symmetry. Read the Introduction and the information under “Symmetrical Balance” with your class. Help your students to see how the Navajo rug on this page could be folded left-to-right and look the same on both sides. You may want to print the page, fold it, and pass it around the classroom to illustrate this point. Next, assign students the task of Designing Navajo Rugs of their own. Try out different Navajo designs.


Is asymmetry ever used to make cultural art more beautiful? What does your class think? To learn about this concept, check out The Art of Oriental Carpets by the Textile Museum & The Math Forum @ Drexel. Be sure that your students have an opportunity to visit the Rug Gallery. Click on the images to enlarge them, and allow your students to look for asymmetry in these designs that first appear to be symmetrical.

Interested in continuing the study of balance and symmetry in art? If you have not already joined Pinterest, jump in and join in the Kids Art: Balance (Symmetry) community board now!

Wrap up this lesson by allowing your students to share their thoughts about symmetry and asymmetry in art. Do your students believe that symmetry and asymmetry can make art more beautiful? Earlier in the lesson you asked your students whether balance affected how they felt about a particular work of art. Now that your students know more, what do they think?


TEKS §117.17. Art, Grade 5
(b.1.b) Perception. The student develops and organizes ideas from the environment. The student is expected to identify in artworks that color, texture, form, line, space, and value are basic art elements and that the principles such as emphasis, pattern, rhythm, balance, proportion, and unity serve as organizers.



Artist’s Toolkit – Arts Connected

Study Art - Sanford

Eyes on Art Visual Glossary - SBC Pacific Bell

Design Navajo Rugs – University of Arizona

The Art of Oriental Carpets - The Textile Museum & The Math Forum

Kids Art: Balance (Symmetry) - Pinterest

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