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How to Make Your Own Mexican Bark Painting

“Mexican Bark Painting” by Arin

Colorful Bark Paintings made by the people of Xalitla, Mexico, are the primary source of income for their entire community. These paintings are made on amate paper (from the bark of the wild fig tree) and typically depict flowers, birds, plants, and animals.

You’ll need:

  • Brown paper grocery bag 
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Black (F) Sharpie 
  • Heavy books or iron for pressing the paper flat
  • Tempera paint in assorted colors, plus white
  • Q-tip


1. Cut apart a brown paper grocery bag. (I can usually get 3 or 4 “bark papers” from one bag.)
2. Draw fanciful designs of birds, plants, or animals on brown paper. Leave some space between your drawing and the edge of the paper.
3. Outline with a black (F) Sharpie and erase any pencil lines still showing.
4. Crinkle paper, smooth it out, and repeat until your paper is an even, “crumpled” texture.
5. Smooth out the paper again and press it under heavy books to flatten it. You can also iron your paper on a medium setting (no steam!) if necessary.
6. Use tempera paint to carefully paint inside your black lines. (Neon tempera is especially fun for this project, although it’s a bit more expensive.) Leave the background unpainted to show the “bark” paper.
7. Use a Q-tip to add some dots of white.
8. After your paint is dry, you can use your Sharpie to go back over any lines that were covered up by the paint.


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  1. Wow! I am in love with this painting!! I will have to try it out. Thanks for reminding me how cool that krafty brown paper look can be.

  2. Fun to marble the paper to give it a faux bark look. This project turns out great and the kids love the neon paint.

  3. I can not wait to try this with my third graders :D As a second year art teacher I especially appreciate all of your lesson sharing and pointers!!!! Thanks Again XO

  4. This is gorgeous! I love how there is always background information and information about artists.