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Aboriginal Art Lesson - X-Ray Art


Aboriginal X-Ray Art is an indigenous style of painting where the artist visualizes not only the external shape of the subject (usually animals, humans or spirit beings), but also its internal structure. These images are not anatomically accurate drawings; they are elegant designs that focus on those elements of the musculoskeletal system that are important to the artist.

The X-ray painting technique is most commonly used in Aboriginal bark painting. It comprises outlined shapes, painted with flat colors and shaded with 'rarrk', a traditional style of cross-hatching.


Aboriginal Art - Dot Paintings


  • Our method of teaching this style of Aboriginal art is to create an example of x-ray painting that we break down into the various stages of its development to help you understand how the image was built up.

Aboriginal Bark Art - Barramundi

  • Our x-ray painting was inspired by the bark painting of a barramundi above which is by an unknown artist from West Arnhem Land c.1961.


  • The symbols and images used to create our paintings are taken from the two pages above. These illustrations, which were designed to support our Aboriginal Art project, are free to download and and print for your own use. The symbols and images are by no means exclusive and you should feel free to add your own.

The Step by Step Stages of our Aboriginal X-Ray Painting

To help you understand the technique used for our painting, we have deconstructed its development in the form of a slide show. Once you see a step by step analysis of how the image was constructed, it may provide you with a model that you can adapt for your own ideas.

  • Slide Show

(Click on the play buttons or swipe back and forward to explore each stage of our painting.)

Key Stages of the Painting

  1. Start with a black sheet of paper, board or canvas.
  2. Outline the barramundi drawing with white color pencil or chalk.
  3. Cross-hatch the background with ‘rarrk’ using ochre colors – direction 1.
  4. Cross-hatch the background with ‘rarrk’ using ochre colors – direction 2.
  5. Paint in the interior of the barramundi with a light ochre color.
  6. Cross-hatch the interior with ‘rarrk’ using a lighter color – direction 1.
  7. Cross-hatch the interior with ‘rarrk’ using a darker color – direction 2.
  8. Paint in the organs of the barramundi with a deep red.
  9. Paint in the flesh, fins and bones with a light ochre color.
  10. It is important to leave some sections of the painting empty for areas of contrast.
  11. Outline and unify the entire image with a thin white line.

Many of the topics in our Aboriginal Art pages are illustrated with a painting that was inspired by the theme of that page. For each of these we have created a step by step slide show to enhance your understanding of the technique and inspire new ideas of your own.