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back to project tree project treeleaf rubbing

Leaves come in an incredible variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the type of tree and where it grows. They can be rounded, oval, spear shaped, heart shaped, or triangular. Some leaves have smooth edges, whilst others have tiny points, called ‘teeth’. They can be as big as 3 metres across, like the Giant Rhubarb plant, or as small as a generous pinhead.

Look closely at a leaf and you can see the spreading network of lines, known as ‘veins’, which run throughout it. Notice how these veins connect together to the main stem of the leaf. The veins of a leaf have two important jobs: they are the pipelines carrying food and water between the leaves and the rest of the tree, and they are the scaffolding giving strength to the leaf.

Veins also give the back of the leaf a nice bobbly texture, and we can use this to make a record of the shape of the leaf with a simple but effective technique called leaf rubbing.


Click on the pictures below to see some good examples of leaf rubbing.

To make a leaf rubbing you will need the following:

  1. a leaf with an interesting texture
  2. a hard surface to lean on
  3. a thin sheet of plain paper
  4. wax crayons or pastels



Collect leaves of various shapes and sizes. Find a good leaf to draw from, with an interesting texture.


Place a leaf bottom side facing up on a hard flat surface (so the veins of the leaf are facing upwards), and lay a thin sheet of paper on top of the leaf.


Rub the side of a wax crayon or an oil pastel gently on the area over the leaf. As the shape of the leaf starts to appear, continue until you’ve rubbed over the entire leaf.

Other ideas to try

  • Once you’re happy with your technique, try using different colours, or using several colours on the same rubbing.
  • Overlap the rubbings to create a leaf print collage – just as leaves overlap on the ground.
  • Use leaves of different textures to compare how the rubbings come out.
    Make a scrapbook of your best leaf rubbings.
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