How to Make Rubbing Plates With Natural Materials

Your child will love adding interesting colors and textures to paper with this family art project.
By Diana MacKenzie
Feb 10, 2017




Feb 10, 2017

Editor's note: This post was originally published on June 24, 2015.

Rubbing plates are an easy way for your child to add interesting colors and textures to paper. Molded paper sets are available for purchase, but at The Eric Carle Art Studio, we've found that the best rubbing plates are the ones we made ourselves! Below, you'll find the steps for making a set of rubbing plates with your child using leaves and grass, but you can follow these steps using many other natural materials too.

What You'll Need to Do This Project

  • Thick chipboard, mat board, or corrugated plastic
  • Natural materials from outside (sticks, leaves, grass, etc.) or textured items from the kitchen (such as beans, rice, grains, etc.)
  • Modeling paste
  • A thick brush or spatula
  • Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic Gloss

 How to Make Rubbing Plates

Step 1: Collect pieces of thick chipboard, mat board, or corrugated plastic to use as the plate backing.

Step 2: Gather natural materials from outside, like leaves, grass, seeds, twigs, or bark. Alternatively, you can purchase beans, grains, seeds, or other materials from the store. Experiment with different materials to see what you and your child like best!

Step 3: Next, cut down the boards to your desired sizes — our's are in 5-inch or 6-inch rectangles or squares. Spread an even layer of light modeling paste (available at art supply stores) across the top of the gessoed (or primed) side of the board using a thick brush or plastic spatula. Above, we pressed the natural materials into the paste so that they weren't peeling away or lifting up. The paste has a consistency much like thick cake frosting.

Step 4: The paste acts as an adhesive as it dries. Try attaching leaves with the raised side facing up so you will get the best rubbing once it's dry. Set the plates aside overnight to dry completely.

Step 5: The next day, trim any excess material hanging off the edge of each plate (grass, string, etc.) and make sure that the surface is thoroughly dry before sealing it.

Step 6: To seal your plates, you can use Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic Gloss (available in the paint department at the hardware store) and brush an even coat over the top and sides of each plate, right over the leaves, grass, or whatever other texture was on the boards. You can also use a small paint roller instead of a brush. We left ours to dry outside in the sun to speed up the drying process. Brush on one or two coats, drying thoroughly between each coat. Usually, two coats does the trick to making everything sticks down for good.

Here are some more texture plates from a recent children's workshop I did in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Families used the rubbing plates to create texture squares to paint with watercolors, and then combine into paper quilts.


Have you ever used rubbing plate for a family art project before? We'd love to hear about it. Share your ideas on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.

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