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How to Make a Grave Rubbing

Discover the ancient art of gravestone rubbing to record beautiful headstone images or to enhance your genealogy studies. It only takes a few simple tools and you're on your way.


  • Step 1: Obtain permission Obtain permission for making gravestone rubbings from cemetery authorities. Then show respect by learning and following cemetery rules.
  • Step 2: Choose a headstone Choose a headstone in good condition with clearly cut lines, but not deep lines, for the best results.
  • TIP: Examine headstones carefully for signs of cracks and flaking which may add to headstone damage during the grave rubbing process and avoid those stones.
  • Step 3: Clean the stone Clean the stone. Remove dirt, grime, and stains to create the best possible gravestone rubbing, remembering to use only plain soap and water.
  • Step 4: Cover with paper Cover the headstone with paper, using masking tape to secure the paper to a large stone.
  • TIP: Use lightweight paper, like newsprint, rice paper, or vellum tissue for the best results.
  • Step 5: Rub Rub the pencil gently across the paper over the headstone's engraved area, focusing on lines and features you want to capture, and continuing until you are satisfied with the rubbing.
  • Step 6: Remove paper Remove the paper from the headstone, and then spray it with a fixative to avoid smudging. Now your image is ready for display or to serve as a documentation of history.
  • FACT: Boston's Copp's Hill Burying Grounds is one of North America's oldest cemeteries and the final resting place of the nation's early artisans and merchants, as well as, buried in unmarked graves, African Americans who lived at the base of the hill.

You Will Need

  • Permission
  • Water
  • Soap
  • Paper
  • Masking tape
  • Pencil
  • Spray fixative
  • Newsprint
  • rice paper
  • or vellum tissue (optional)

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