Oil Pastel Nature Rubbings

  • Art & Art History
  • Grades 6-8
  • Grades 4-5
  • Grades 1-3

Collect and rub leaves with oil pastels to create a fun nature scene. Pair this craft with Earth Day or after a nature walk.


  • White Paper
  • Nature elements (bark, leaves etc)


Step 1. Gather your supplies.

oil pastel techniques


oil pastel rubbing


Step 2.


Carefully unwrap the oil pastels you will use for this project. Since we created a rubbing of leaves and tree bark we chose to work with natural colors, like brown and green. The darker green will work best for this project.Tip: It’s okay if the pastels break, you will still be able to use the smaller pieces.

Nature rubbing


Step 3.


Observe the leaves and tree bark you collected. Notice how the leaves are different shapes and sizes depending on what trees or plants they came from.

Oil pastels for kids


Step 4.


Lay a piece of bark on the table and place the paper on top. While holding the paper and tree bark with one hand, gently rub a brown oil pastel over the tree bark. You will see the texture of the tree bark appear on your paper. Tip: Use the side of the unwrapped pastel for the best results.

Oil pastel art


Step 5.


Lift the paper and move the tree bark to another part of the paper and repeat the rubbing. You can repeat a third time, so that you have 3 tree trunks on your paper.

Art rubbing


Step 6.


To add leaves to one of the tree trunks, place a leaf on the table and lay your paper on top. Gently rub the leaf with the side of the green oil pastel. You will see the veins of the leaf appear in the rubbing. Lift the paper and move the leaf to create additional rubbings.

using pastels


Step 7.


Repeat Step 6 with the other 2 tree trunks, using a different type of leaf for each trunk. Examine the texture each leaf type creates.

leave art


Step 8.


To finish your piece, rub some leaves along the bottom of the paper to create the feel of grass.

Once finished make different nature rubbings with other found objects from the natural world!


Explore the ways nature and art come together with an oil pastel rubbing technique!

  • Inspiration Everywhere: Nature-inspired the works of many famous artists, like Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Monet’s Water Lilies. How can the outside world inspire your students to get creative? For this project, encourage them to find leaves and other natural objects in their backyard or neighborhood park!    
  • Picasso’s Pastels: The 20th-century artist Pablo Picasso helped pioneer oil pastels as a formal art technique. He used vivid colors to brighten the works he created during his Blue and Rose Periods, which revolutionized cubism and surrealism art movements. Ask your students to observe Picasso’s work — how did he create different colors and shades with oil pastels?

This project gives a realistic impression of nature by rubbing the details of each leaf and bark onto paper with oil pastels — creating tons of unique lines and shapes! Encourage your students to step out of their comfort zones and find some inspiration from Picasso: How can they draw natural elements in the cubism or surrealism style?