What materials are used in Aboriginal art?

As an art style which has spanned thousands of years, the materials used in Aboriginal art are varied, and all are sourced from the native environment.

The materials used often vary depending on the specific art form, region, and cultural traditions of the artist.

Here are some of the more common materials used in Aboriginal art:


Ochre is a natural pigment derived from minerals and clay.

It comes in various colours, mainly red, yellow, black, and also white. You may realise these are the colours used in the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flag.

Ochre has been used for thousands of years in rock art, body painting, and dot painting.


In some Aboriginal communities bark is used as a canvas for painting.

Similar to Egyptians using papyrus, tree bark is carefully harvested, prepared, and used as a surface for creating intricate designs and storytelling.

Feathers and Fur

Feathers and fur from native birds and animals are incorporated into many ceremonial and decorative pieces.

These are often used for adornment, headdresses, or as decorative elements in sculptures and artworks.


We find wood is used often in Aboriginal art to carve sculptures, masks, and totems. Different types of wood are used based on their durability, workability, and cultural significance.

Natural Fibers

Fibers from various plant sources, such as grasses, reeds, or stringybark, are used for weaving baskets, mats, and other woven objects.

These objects often carry cultural and practical significance.

Canvas and Acrylic Paints

Canvas is used more often in modern contemporary Aboriginal art as it makes a better medium for paintings.

Acrylic paints have also gained popularity due to their versatility and vibrant colours. Vibrant colour is often important in Aboriginal art, and acrylic paints allow the artist an easier way to express their creativity while retaining cultural symbolism.

Stone and Clay

Some Aboriginal art forms involve carving or sculpting stone or clay.

These materials are shaped into various objects, such as tools, sculptures, or ceremonial objects.

One of the beautiful aspects of Aboriginal art is how the materials used can vary from region to region or based on cultural traditions.

It is also interesting to see the influence of modern materials and methods being adopted by Aboriginal artists, yet still staying true to their cultural heritage.

What materials can you find used in Aboriginal art?

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