A thin aluminium sheet comprising of large polycrystals is pulled in uniaxial tension and the resulting surface profile is measured in a scanning electron microscope. The surface profile near the grain boundaries reveals a local deformation pattern of width of a few micrometres and is strong evidence for strain gradient effects. Numerical analyses of a bicrystal undergoing in-plane tensile deformation are also studied using a strain gradient crystal plasticity theory and also by using a strain gradient plasticity theory for an isotropic solid. Both theories include an internal material length scale. An interfacial potential that penalizes the dislocations in crossing the grain boundary is included in the analysis. The results indicate that the surface profile is strongly dependent upon the choice of this potential and on the material length scale.