Are you ready to play artist? All you need to create images that are both subtle and sensational is paper, crayon, and something with texture.

If you have ever been to the Vietnam Memorial in D.C., you may have seen someone taking a rubbing of a name etched into the granite.

History buffs and archaeologists often make rubbings to keep records of gravestone markings.

You can do the same to help stage your home.

Once you see how easy it is to make a rubbing, your imagination is bound to jump into high gear. It’s a fun activity for children because the process is simple and quick but produces impressive results.
To make a rubbing you’ll lay paper onto a textured surface and use crayon to transfer an image of the surface. Crayon picks up the raised or incised areas of the surface.

If you look around you, you’ll discover lots of interesting surface textures to capture in a rubbing. Nature provides you with some samples, like leaves, wood, coral fans, evergreens, and ferns. But things like baskets, serving platters, jewelry, metal plaques, rubber stamps, wood carvings, and architectural elements like manhole covers, tin ceiling tiles, and signs are also good candidates.

Flat surfaces work best. Hold or tape the paper so it doesn’t shift while you work. Long, steady crayon strokes are best. Practice first before you waste your best paper. 

How to make a rubbing

The best paper to use is one that’s soft enough to flex but not tear. I've used sheets of kitchen parchment paper (wet, wrung out, air dried and ironed flat) to make rubbings and have been pleased with the results. Regular copy paper will make a decent picture as well. 
If you want to create your own raised surface, you can draw a design with a glue gun or with school glue on a piece of cardboard or foam core. Once it dries, you’ll have a “rubbable” surface. 

I made the print of the starfish in the above photo. But the surface was lumpy and it was tricky to keep the paper from shifting.

Other rubs

I wanted something large that would lie flat and stay in one place, so I used an elephant ear leaf from my garden. Leaves are great rubbing subjects.

I knew the raised ribs of the leaf would pick up in the rubbing. I used a brand new green crayon with the paper wrapper removed.

I placed the leaf upside down because the veins were more pronounced on the underside of the leaf. Most leaves have more texture on the underneath side.

Stylized geometric images make good rubbings,
even if they are 
rather primitive like this one. 
If you have them or if you want to invest in
some art supplies, oil pastels are
an excellent medium for this technique.

Why not indulge your printmaking whims by trying some rubbings, one of the oldest and most widespread printmaking techniques? It's a simple and economical way to produce interesting art for your home staging. 

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