Aboriginal Australian Dot Painting

Indigenous Australians use art as a way of expressing their beliefs and their oneness with nature. Various forms of expression include rock carving, bark painting, sculpture, wood carving and sand painting. Sand painting was made on the ground using sand, stones, seeds, flowers and feathers. The symbols created were used to teach young members of a clan about their history. Today, these designs are also created on boards and canvasses and referred to as dot paintings. The dots are used to make patterns and symbols.

Symbols commonly used in Aboriginal art include circles and curved lines. Circles usually represent campsites or waterholes. Curved lines usually mean rain or water traveling underground. Straight lines may indicate traveling, and when joined with circles may show the pathway traveled by ancestors. Animal and human tracks are often shown, and top views of lizards and snakes are commonly painted. Have a look here at some Indigenous Australian art to get ideas for your own painting:






  • canvas board (available in dollar stores and art supply stores)
  • tempera or gouache paints
  • brushes: #2 is a good size for outling and dotting, larger sizes for laying base colours down
  • sponge brush (optional): good for applying base colour and creating texture


Have a look at the sites listed above to explore the work of Australian Aboriginal artists. Notice the earthy colours that are traditionally used, as well as the symbols. Keep this in mind when mixing your own colours and creating your design. Sketch out your ideas on paper, then draw the basic shapes with a pencil onto your canvas. Paint your base colours on the canvas and allow to dry before adding any details such as outlining or dots. When making the dots, load your brush with paint and gently touch the canvas. You should be able to make several dots before having to load your brush again. Make sure to hold the brush upright, and not on an angle. This helps to give the dots a better shape.

Photos of what some children made:


Aboriginal Art by Wally Carauana

Icons of The Desert: Early Aboriginal Paintings From Papunya

Kurtal Explores Australian Aboriginal Art by Tony Haruch



Filed under Aboriginal Australian art, Multicultural Art

4 responses to “Aboriginal Australian Dot Painting

  1. Very interesting work with what looks like a drop technique with the little circles. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love teaching about Aboriginal art. It is beautiful and so meaningful.

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