Proportion vs. Balance: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 11, 2023
Proportion refers to the relative size or amount of one part to another, while Balance denotes equilibrium or equal distribution.

Key Differences

Proportion often deals with the relative size, quantity, or degree of something in relation to another. In art, for instance, getting the proportions right means ensuring that each part of a painting or sculpture is in correct relation to the others. Balance, on the other hand, implies stability achieved by equal distribution of weight, value, or importance. In that same painting, balance might be about distributing colors or elements so no part overwhelms another.
Proportion can be numerical, often represented as a ratio or fraction. For instance, in a recipe, the proportion of sugar to flour might be crucial for a cake's success. Balance, conversely, might be felt rather than measured, as when we say a meal feels balanced because it has just the right mix of flavors and nutrients.
In design, Proportion ensures elements fit together harmoniously in terms of size and space, ensuring that no one aspect overshadows the others. Balance, meanwhile, ensures that the design feels stable and grounded, which might involve symmetrical or asymmetrical arrangements.
Proportion can exist without balance and vice versa. A sculpture might have all its elements in correct proportion, yet feel off-balance if its weight distribution isn't centralized. Conversely, a meal can be balanced in flavors but have disproportionate amounts of ingredients.
Balance can also relate to mental or emotional states, signifying harmony and steadiness. One might seek balance in life, ensuring work, play, rest, and relationships are all given due attention. Proportion, while less frequently used in this context, might apply to how much time or energy one dedicates to various life aspects, highlighting the relational aspect more than equilibrium.

Comparison Chart

Primary Meaning

Relative size or amount of parts compared to a whole or another part.
Equilibrium or equal distribution.

Application

Often numerical, like a ratio.
Felt or perceived, like equilibrium in a design.

Contexts

Art, design, mathematics, recipes.
Design, meals, mental states, life choices.

Existence

Can exist without balance.
Can exist without proportion.

Implied Stability

Doesn't necessarily imply stability.
Typically implies stability or harmony.

Proportion and Balance Definitions

Proportion

A specified amount or share.
She received a large proportion of the inheritance.

Balance

Stability produced by even distribution of weight.
The vase had a wide base to provide better balance.

Proportion

A part or amount considered in relation to a whole
What is the proportion of helium in the atmosphere?.

Balance

The amount left over after making calculations.
My bank account balance is lower than I thought.

Proportion

A relationship between things or parts of things with respect to comparative magnitude, quantity, or degree
The proper proportion between oil and vinegar in the dressing.

Balance

A counteracting weight or force.
He used the weights to balance the scales.

Proportion

A relationship between quantities such that if one varies then another varies in a manner dependent on the first
"We do not always find visible happiness in proportion to visible virtue" (Samuel Johnson).

Balance

She found balance in her life through meditation.

Proportion

The agreeable or harmonious relation of parts within a whole
The statue seems out of proportion.

See Libra.

Proportion

Often proportions Dimensions; size
First measure the proportions of the room.

Balance

A weighing device, especially one consisting of a rigid beam horizontally suspended by a low-friction support at its center, with identical weighing pans hung at either end, one of which holds an unknown weight while the effective weight in the other is increased by known amounts until the beam is level and motionless. Also called scale.

Proportion

(Mathematics) A statement of equality between two ratios. Four quantities, a, b, c, d, are said to be in proportion if a/b = c/d .

Balance

A state of equilibrium or parity characterized by cancellation of all forces by equal opposing forces.

Proportion

To adjust so that proper relations between parts are attained
Have you proportioned the oil in the dressing properly?.

Balance

The power or means to decide
Matters that fell outside the judge's balance.

Proportion

To form the parts of with balance or symmetry
The artist proportioned the figure nicely.

Balance

A state of bodily equilibrium
Thrown off balance by a gust of wind.

Proportion

(countable) A quantity of something that is part of the whole amount or number.

Balance

The ability to maintain bodily equilibrium
Gymnasts must have good balance.

Proportion

(uncountable) Harmonious relation of parts to each other or to the whole.

Balance

A harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements, as in a design.

Proportion

(countable) Proper or equal share.

Balance

An influence or force tending to produce equilibrium; counterpoise.

Proportion

The relation of one part to another or to the whole with respect to magnitude, quantity, or degree.
The proportion of the parts of a building, or of the body

Balance

The difference in magnitude between opposing forces or influences.

Proportion

A statement of equality between two ratios.

Balance

Equality of totals in the debit and credit sides of an account.

Proportion

The "rule of three", in which three terms are given to find a fourth.

Balance

The difference between such totals, either on the credit or the debit side.

Size.

Balance

Something that is left over; a remainder.

Proportion

(transitive) To divide into proper shares; to apportion.

Balance

(Chemistry) Equality of mass and net electric charge of reacting species on each side of an equation.

Proportion

(transitive) To form symmetrically.

Balance

(Mathematics) Equality with respect to the net number of reduced symbolic quantities on each side of an equation.

Proportion

To set or render in proportion.

A balance wheel.

Proportion

To correspond to.

Balance

To determine the weight of (something) in a weighing device.

Proportion

The relation or adaptation of one portion to another, or to the whole, as respect magnitude, quantity, or degree; comparative relation; ratio; as, the proportion of the parts of a building, or of the body.
The image of Christ, made after his own proportion.
Formed in the best proportions of her sex.
Documents are authentic and facts are true precisely in proportion to the support which they afford to his theory.

Balance

To consider and compare or assess
Balanced the pros and cons before making a choice.

Proportion

Harmonic relation between parts, or between different things of the same kind; symmetrical arrangement or adjustment; symmetry; as, to be out of proportion.

Balance

To bring into or maintain in a state of equilibrium.

Proportion

The portion one receives when a whole is distributed by a rule or principle; equal or proper share; lot.
Let the women . . . do the same things in their proportions and capacities.

Balance

To act as an equalizing weight or force to; counterbalance.

Proportion

A part considered comparatively; a share.

Balance

To compute the difference between the debits and credits of (an account).

Proportion

The equality or similarity of ratios, especially of geometrical ratios; or a relation among quantities such that the quotient of the first divided by the second is equal to that of the third divided by the fourth; - called also geometrical proportion, in distinction from arithmetical proportion, or that in which the difference of the first and second is equal to the difference of the third and fourth.

Balance

To reconcile or equalize the sums of the debits and credits of (an account).

Proportion

The rule of three, in arithmetic, in which the three given terms, together with the one sought, are proportional.

Balance

To settle (an account, for example) by paying what is owed.

Proportion

To adjust in a suitable proportion, as one thing or one part to another; as, to proportion the size of a building to its height; to proportion our expenditures to our income.
In the loss of an object we do not proportion our grief to the real value . . . but to the value our fancies set upon it.

Balance

To bring into or keep in equal or satisfying proportion or harmony.

Proportion

To form with symmetry or suitableness, as the parts of the body.
Nature had proportioned her without any fault.

Balance

Mathematics & Chemistry To bring (an equation) into balance.

Proportion

To divide into equal or just shares; to apportion.

Balance

To move toward and then away from (a dance partner).

Proportion

The quotient obtained when the magnitude of a part is divided by the magnitude of the whole

Balance

To be in or come into equilibrium.

Proportion

Magnitude or extent;
A building of vast proportions

Balance

To be equal or equivalent.

Proportion

Balance among the parts of something

Balance

To sway or waver as if losing or regaining equilibrium.

Proportion

Harmonious arrangement or relation of parts or elements within a whole (as in a design);
In all perfectly beautiful objects there is found the opposition of one part to another and a reciprocal balance

Balance

To move toward and then away from a dance partner.

Proportion

Give pleasant proportions to;
Harmonize a building with those surrounding it

Balance

(uncountable) A state in which opposing forces harmonise; equilibrium.

Proportion

Adjust in size relative to other things

Balance

(uncountable) Mental equilibrium; mental health; calmness, a state of remaining clear-headed and unperturbed.

Proportion

Relative size or amount of one part compared to another.
The proportion of water to lemon juice made the lemonade just right.

Balance

Something of equal weight used to provide equilibrium; counterweight.
These weights are used as a balance for the overhanging verandah
Blair thought he could provide a useful balance to Bush's policies.

Proportion

A part in relation to the whole.
The proportion of students attending the seminar was high.

Balance

A pair of scales.

Proportion

Harmonious arrangement or relation of parts.
The house's rooms had a nice proportion to each other.

Balance

(uncountable) Awareness of both viewpoints or matters; neutrality; rationality; objectivity.

Proportion

The correct or appropriate relationship between parts.
The dress was tailored in proportion to her figure.

Balance

(uncountable) The overall result of conflicting forces, opinions etc.; the influence which ultimately "weighs" more than others.
The balance of power finally lay with the Royalist forces.
I think the balance of opinion is that we should get out while we're ahead.

Balance

(uncountable) Apparent harmony in art (between differing colours, sounds, etc.).

Balance

(accounting) A list accounting for the debits on one side, and for the credits on the other.

Balance

(accounting) The result of such a procedure; the difference between credit and debit of an account.
I just need to nip to a bank and check my balance.

Balance

(watchmaking) A device used to regulate the speed of a watch, clock etc.

Balance

The remainder.
The balance of the agreement remains in effect.
The invoice said he had only paid \$50. The balance was \$220.

Libra.

Balance

(transitive) To bring (items) to an equipoise, as the scales of a balance by adjusting the weights.

Balance

To make (concepts) agree.

Balance

(transitive) To hold (an object or objects) precariously; to support on a narrow base, so as to keep from falling.
I balanced my mug of coffee on my knee.
The circus performer balances a plate on the end of a baton.

Balance

(transitive) To compare in relative force, importance, value, etc.; to estimate.

Balance

To move toward, and then back from, reciprocally.
To balance partners

Balance

(nautical) To contract, as a sail, into a narrower compass.
To balance the boom mainsail

Balance

(transitive) To make the credits and debits of (an account) correspond.
This final payment, or credit, balances the account.
To balance a set of books

Balance

(intransitive) To be in equilibrium.

Balance

(intransitive) To have matching credits and debits.

Balance

To weigh in a balance.

Balance

To hesitate or fluctuate.

Balance

An apparatus for weighing.

Balance

Act of weighing mentally; comparison; estimate.
A fair balance of the advantages on either side.

Balance

Equipoise between the weights in opposite scales.

Balance

And hung a bottle on each sideTo make his balance true.
The order and balance of the country were destroyed.
English workmen completely lose their balance.

Balance

An equality between the sums total of the two sides of an account; as, to bring one's accounts to a balance; - also, the excess on either side; as, the balance of an account.
I still think the balance of probabilities leans towards the account given in the text.

Balance

A balance wheel, as of a watch, or clock. See Balance wheel (in the Vocabulary).

Balance

The constellation Libra.

Balance

To bring to an equipoise, as the scales of a balance by adjusting the weights; to weigh in a balance.

Balance

To support on a narrow base, so as to keep from falling; as, to balance a plate on the end of a cane; to balance one's self on a tight rope.

Balance

To equal in number, weight, force, or proportion; to counterpoise, counterbalance, counteract, or neutralize.
One expression . . . must check and balance another.

Balance

To compare in relative force, importance, value, etc.; to estimate.
Balance the good and evil of things.

Balance

To settle and adjust, as an account; to make two accounts equal by paying the difference between them.
I am very well satisfied that it is not in my power to balance accounts with my Maker.

Balance

To make the sums of the debits and credits of an account equal; - said of an item; as, this payment, or credit, balances the account.

Balance

To arrange accounts in such a way that the sum total of the debits is equal to the sum total of the credits; as, to balance a set of books.

Balance

To move toward, and then back from, reciprocally; as, to balance partners.

Balance

To contract, as a sail, into a narrower compass; as, to balance the boom mainsail.

Balance

To have equal weight on each side; to be in equipoise; as, the scales balance.

Balance

To fluctuate between motives which appear of equal force; to waver; to hesitate.
He would not balance or err in the determination of his choice.

Balance

To move toward a person or couple, and then back.

Balance

A state of equilibrium

Balance

A scale for weighing; depends on pull of gravity

Balance

Equality between the totals of the credit and debit sides of an account

Balance

Harmonious arrangement or relation of parts or elements within a whole (as in a design);
In all perfectly beautiful objects there is found the opposition of one part to another and a reciprocal balance

Balance

Equality of distribution

Balance

Something left after other parts have been taken away;
There was no remainder
He threw away the rest
He took what he wanted and I got the balance

Balance

The difference between the totals of the credit and debit sides of an account

Balance

(astrology) a person who is born while the sun in in Libra

Balance

The seventh sign of the zodiac; the sun is in this sign from about September 23 to October 22

Balance

(mathematics) an attribute of a shape or relation; exact correspondence of form on opposite sides of a dividing line or plane

Balance

An equivalent counterbalancing weight

Balance

A wheel that regulates the rate of movement in a machine; especially a wheel oscillating against the hairspring of a timepiece to regulate its beat

Balance

Bring into balance or equilibrium;
She has to balance work and her domestic duties
Balance the two weights

Balance

Compute credits and debits of an account

Balance

Hold or carry in equilibrium

Balance

Be in equilibrium;
He was balancing on one foot

Balance

A state of equilibrium or equal distribution.
The gymnast maintained her balance on the beam.

FAQs

Can you have correct Proportions but no Balance in art?

Yes, elements can be in proportion but still feel off-balance.

Often, but it can also be about harmony or stability.

Is Balance important in diet?

Yes, ensuring a mix of nutrients and flavors.

Can Proportion relate to fairness?

Yes, when talking about one's fair share or amount.

Can Proportion be measured?

Yes, often as a ratio or fraction.

Is Balance always physical?

No, it can refer to mental or emotional equilibrium too.

Can a room's design have Proportion?

Yes, if its elements relate harmoniously in size and space.

Is Balance always symmetrical in design?

No, asymmetrical designs can also be balanced.

Is Balance crucial in physical activities?

Often, like in gymnastics or dancing.

Are Proportions always visible?

Not always, they can be about amounts in a mixture or recipe.

Can Balance relate to finances?

Yes, like the balance in an account.

Can you proportion ingredients in a recipe?

Yes, to get the desired taste or outcome.

Is achieving Balance in life easy?

It can be challenging, requiring attention and adjustments.

Can Proportions be aesthetically pleasing?

Yes, often in art and design, correct proportions are sought for harmony.

How does Proportion affect aesthetics?

Correct proportions can make designs or artworks feel harmonious.

Sometimes, as in balancing opposing forces or ideas.

Can one find Balance in life choices?

Yes, by giving due attention to different aspects of life.

Can Balance relate to moderation?

Yes, not going to extremes and maintaining equilibrium.

Does Proportion always involve two things?

No, it can relate multiple parts to a whole or each other.

Are Proportions fixed?

Not always, they can vary based on preference or context.