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Craft Rubbing

Rubbing is an old art form used to rustically duplicate or copy a hard raised surface such as a headstone or monument. Use our step-by-step tutorial and try it on your next project.



  • Thin Bodied Paper: Thin is best for this technique using such papers as newsprint or copier paper
  • Wax Crayons: Wax crayons work the best, but you can also try pencil, pastels, oil pastels, and crayons.
  • Low Tack Tape: This is used to hold the paper in place.
  • Permission: It is best to ask permission before doing a rubbing on a public or private item. This is especially important for older tombstones/headstones. You can damage crumbing stone during a rubbing.

Step by Step

  1. Optional: Clean the surface you wish to rub by gently wiping with a paper towel and water. Do Not Use Soap Of Any Kind on public or private property.
  2. Cover surface with thin paper and tack in place with tape.
  3. Hold rubbing tool (crayon, pencil, etc) almost flat against the paper. Pastels need to be flat on the surface.
  4. Gently rub over the image until outline of image or words starts to appear and continue rubbing until you’ve covered the entire area you wish to rub.
  5. Finish with a fixative or sealant if desired. Pastels require a fixative or the chalk will rub off over time.


  • The image is rarely crisp, clear or clean. That is the nature of rubbings.
  • You can “clean up” the rubbing with an art eraser. Most experts recommend a knead-able eraser for the job.
  • Experiment with color. Do a black and white rubbing, and then do it with a single color, then one with several colors.
  • Pastels effect is a bit murky and more smudged. Pencils are crisper while crayon appears more solid. Again, experiment with several of the mediums.
  • Rubbings make great background papers and also serve as memorabilia.

Maria Nerius is the author of Creating Your Family Heritage Scrapbook: From Ancestors to Grandchildren, Your Complete Resource and Idea Book for Creating a Treasured Heirloom.

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