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The Principles of Art are like decorating a cake…

It takes thoughtful planning and careful execution to design a stunning cake. Whether your planning a simple cake for a birthday party, or an intricate competition cake, the design planning alone can take hours, if not days, weeks or months! The 7 principles of art each combine the elements of art in various ways.

Do you stress about the cake design? 

If you said yes – ME TOO! I can literally spend hours scrolling through Pinterest and Google / images looking for inspiration. I create ‘mood boards’ which is basically a cluster of pictures I’ve collected. From there I pull out my favorite parts and start designing my cake.

Using the principles of art can really help to set the tone of your piece. The principles offer ideas for variety and contrast. This creates interest and, hopefully, that WOW factor!

1. Principles of Art – BALANCE

Balance is a way of combining elements to add a feeling of stability to a work of art.



Elements are organized so that one side mirrors the other.

This piece by curiAUSSIEty Custom Cakes is a great example of symmetrical balance. Both the left and right sides are the same from top to bottom.

Principles of Art Symmetrical Balance
Symmetrical Balance cake design by Sharon Spradley, curiAussiety Custom Cakes



When one side of a cake doesn’t exactly reflect the other side.

This gorgeous cake is an example of asymmetrical balance. The offset placement and repetition of the flowers achieve this. Created by Olga Danilova.

Principles of Art Asymmetrical Balance
Asymmetrical Balance cake design by Olga Danilova

2. Principles of Art – PROPORTION

Proportion deals with the relative size and scale of elements in a design and their relationship to each other.

We must look at the context, or standards, we use in general to determine the expected proportions. When expected proportions are off, this alerts us to see that something is disproportionate. For example: if a painting of a woman has a larger than usual arm, we notice that her arm is not in proportion to her body.

Calli’s amazing hand painted piece is successful in proportion. Had she made any body part too large, or too small, it would not be as pleasing to the eye. Not only would the people appear disproportionate, most likely the placement on the heart would appear off as well. Beautiful painting Calli!

Principles of Art Proportion
Beautiful painted design showing proportion by Calli Creations


 3. Principles of Art – UNITY

Unity is when all the elements of art work together to support the design as a whole. Our minds combine the elements and simplify the design to form unity. If a design is not unified it is not considered successful and is considered chaotic or unreadable.

Unity is based on the gestalt theory of visual perception.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Art elements are combined in various ways to increase visual awareness.



Proximity is the closer elements are the easier it is to group them together to make a whole.

In this design Marlene Debattista has created two elements which use proximity; The grouping of the flowers around the top tier, as well as the circle balls around the bottom.

Principles of Art Proximity
Cake design showing Proximity, by Cake Heaven, Marlene Debattista



Repetition is when similar elements are grouped together.

This amazing cake design by Marianne Bartuccelli uses repetition beautifully with the swords and scales. It is even more appealing since all the different elements have the same look and feel from top to bottom.

Principles of Art Repetition
Beautiful example of Repetition, cake design by Tastefully Yours Cake Art



Alignment is when elements are lined up along their edges (such as using a grid) or through the centre.

This cake, created by curiAUSSIEty Custom Cakes, depicting the birds and fish motif – ‘Sky and Water I’, June 1938, by M.C. Escher ( , is a perfect example of centre alignment.

Principles of Art Alignment
All in Alignment, cake by Sharon Spradley, curiAussiety Custom Cakes



Continuation has the eye follow from one element to another in a continuous pattern. Unity is created when your mind groups the pattern together.

This piece, by Claire Anderson of Clairella Cakes, is a perfect design to show unity – in marriage! A stunning cake which draws your eye from the bottom to the top in a continuous pattern.


Principles of Art Continuation
From bottom to top – Continuation cake by Claire Anderson, Clairella Cakes

4. Principles of Art – HARMONY

Harmony is the arrangement of elements or parts that make a piece pleasing as a whole.

It is the harmonious relationship between the elements that make us feel something for the design. Similar to harmony in music, a song is enjoyable to listen to if all instruments play together in tune and on key. For art, all the elements blend together to create a piece that is pleasing to the eye.

This beautiful winter cake, by Cake Heart, combines many elements to create an harmonious design. The skates, the painted landscape with textured snow, and the knitted material texture.


Principles of Art Harmony
So pleasing to the eye – Harmony, cake design by Cake Heart

5. Principles of Art – VARIETY

Variety is the SWEET and SPICE of LIFE!

Without variety, a piece is dull and uninteresting. Variety is a compliment to unity, as they balance each other to create a stunning design.

How to create variety: Change lines, shapes, colours, values and textures.

Cakin’ Janes’ wonderful ‘Holly Hobbie’ Easter cake has many examples of variation. To start, all the lines are varied. The smooth lines of the trees and grass against the starker lines of Holly Hoobies clothing. Plus the ribbon used on the cake board. This piece uses many shapes, colours and values from light to dark. And the illusion of texture for Holly’s clothing, plus the dimension of the basket of flowers.

Principles of Art Variety
Lots of Variety, cake design by Cakin’ Jane

6. Principles of Art – EMPHASIS

Emphasis in art is when an element is given dominance over the other elements making it the focal point.

This part stand out from the rest of the design which draws the viewer’s eye to it first. It makes a piece interesting to look at. Using contrast often achieves this desired affect.

This gorgeous cake by Jeanne Winslow showcases the emphasis principle. The heart is definitely a focal point being front and centre on the cake. This creates viewer interest and compliments all other elements.

Principles of Art Emphasis
Heart Emphasis, cake design by Jeanne Winslow

7. Principles of Art – RHYTHM AND MOVEMENT

Rhythm is the repetition of elements which create pattern, flow or movement in a piece.


Regular rhythm is when the intervals between the elements and the elements themselves are similar in size and length.

The similar size and height of the watercoloured fondant pleats on this wedding cake create a pleasing, regular rhythm. Cake design by The Cake Witch.

Principles of Art Rhythm
Regular Rhythm, cake design by The Cake Witch



Flowing rhythm is more organic and gives a sense of movement.

This awesome gravity defying abstract cake by JT Cake has a flowing rhythm as the tree branches climb up each square.

Principles of Art Flowing Rhythm
Flowing Rhythm, cake design by JT Cakes



Progressive rhythm shows a sequence of forms through a progression of steps.  Like moving from small to big or visa versa.

This design by Shannon Bond shows progressive rhythm. Following the crack and flowers in the cake, your eye is drawn upwards from the larger bottom tier to the smaller top tier.

Principles of Art Progressive Rhythm
Progressive Rhythm, cake design by Shannon Bond Cake Design