Archived copy for reference only


Graphic Design / Interactive Design / Fine & Applied Arts / Parkland College

Graphic Design Exercises
Illustrator: Balance Systems

(Archived from 2019)


To learn to Adobe Illustrator production techniques by example. To review the design principles unity and balance by creating four stamps similar to the examples below.


There are four ways to balance a design:

  • Symmetrical
  • Asymmetrical
  • Random
  • Grid (mathematical)

These four systems are so powerful that designers sometimes refer to them as "systems of visual organization." The key to using these systems is that only one can be used successfully in each design. Mixing these systems will create chaos.

Once you have chosen a specific system, make a conscious effort to use it to its full extend. In other words, if you are using a grid to balance your design, find as many ways to align objects as possible.


Making the heart

  1. launch Illustrator, file > new (letter, portrait, CMYK)
  2. save as "Jane's"
  3. practice Adobe's navigation keyboard shortcuts (space; space+cmd; space+cmd+opt)
  4. rename "layer 1" as "heart", add new layers "box," "type"
  5. go to "heart" layer (lock others)
  6. make a heart: draw a square, rotate 45 degrees
  7. object > transform > reset bounding box
  8. convert corners to curves on sides (use convert direction point tool underneath pen tool)
  9. adjust anchor point positions
  10. adjust angles of side handles (side joins should be smooth)
  11. optional: delete half of heart, reflect remaining half, join

Making the stamp

  1. go to "box" layer
  2. draw a rectangle representing the stamp
  3. draw a circle representing a hole; make a copy (move with option+shift), transform again (cmd+D) until you have a column of circles; group
  4. copy column of circles 3x, position for cutting, execute minus front (window > show pathfinder)
  5. repeat until all sides are cut
  6. adjust stamp layout, add color
  7. using the type tool, type "USA" and "42¢"; choose a font (cmd+T); adjust size
  8. make three copies of your first stamp (move with option+shift)
  9. create four designs using each of the four types of balance (symmetrical, asymmetrical, random and grid)
  10. if you need to select a hidden object, view outlines (cmd+Y)
  11. if you need precise alignment, view > smart guides=on


  1. submit b&w laser proof with your name and the exercise number on it for grading
  2. file your graded proof in your Process Book for individual review

Last updated: 5/7/21