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Aboriginal Art Lesson - Hand Stencil Painting


Hand stencils are the earliest and most personal symbols that we see in Aboriginal rock art sites. They are a primal way of marking territory and their individuality is often emphasised by framing them within a circle.


Aboriginal Boomerang Designs


  • The aim of this lesson is to create a dot art painting using a stencil of your hand as the main image. You can combine it with some of the symbols and images from our sheets below to compose an Aboriginal inspired artwork.
  • Our method of teaching this lesson is to create our own example which we break down into the various stages of its development to help you understand how the artwork was built up.
  • The idea in our example above links the individual (the hand) with the group (the camp) in a gesture that acknowledges the value of both.


  • 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 Hand Stencil 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 design.)

The step by step stages of the design:

  1.     Draw the outline of a hand in white chalk or pencil on a black sheet of card.
  2.     Frame it with a double circle.
  3.     Add waterway channels to each corner of the image.
  4.     Break up the background into different patches of terrain.
  5.     Paint in the background with ochre colors ranging from light to dark.
  6.     Dot in the background with mid-tones.
  7.     Dot in the waterhole and waterways with concentric circles and parallel waves (1).
  8.     Dot in the waterhole and waterways with concentric circles and parallel waves (2)
  9.     Outline the hand, waterhole and waterways with white dots.
  10.     Paint in symbols of people around the camp in black.
  11.     Highlight the symbols of people with bright dots.
  12.     Add concentric circles of white dots to the hand, linking it symbolically to the camp.

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.