Japanese Gyotaku Fish Prints


Gyotaku means ‘fish rubbing’ and is a printmaking technique traditionally used by Japanese fishermen to record their catches. It was the perfect project for my Japan-themed art camp.

We began by watching this brief video of Hawaiian gyotaku artist/fisherman Naoki.

The campers were really excited to start!


  • rubber Gyotaku Fish Printing Replicas (or fresh real whole fish).
  • black tempera cake, water and stiff brush
  • copy paper
  • paper towels
  • chalk pastels
  • watercolors

(note: this post contains compensated affiliate links. Which means if you buy the rubber fish, I get a small commission. The rubber fish rock, BTW. They last forever, and you can share them with other teachers).



We tried printing with thin Japanese paper and with copy paper. The thin paper wrinkled and copy paper stayed smooth. We also tried printing with liquid orange tempera.

Paint the fish with black tempera cake. Cover fish with copy paper and rub (don’t wiggle the paper!). Pull the print.
If the fine details (such as scales) don’t show, try Naoiki’s method: re-coat the fish and then pounce with a balled up paper towel to remove some paint. Cover with copy paper and take another print. Let dry.

Color the print with chalk pastels

In the video, Naoki hand-colors his gyotaku prints with watercolors. We used chalk pastels to add color to our fish. Campers blended the pastels with their hands or with tissues.

I love how they turned out!

Campers also had the option of painting or decorating the negative spaces with watercolor. I really think they did a nice job.

The project was inspired by this post at the Fine Lines blog.


This project was taught in my Japan-themed art + cooking camp. Each day we made an art project and a cooking project.

Gyotaku Fish Printing Replicas

from: Blick Art Materials

Watercolor Marker Fall Leaf Prints

Second graders use watercolor markers to make colorful leaf prints. Allow two sessions.

The second graders just completed their annual fall leaf project. This year I used fall leaves to introduce second graders to the warm colors and printmaking in a two-part lesson.

Day 1: rub and paint

We discussed the warm colors and looked at some real fall leaves. Kids did leaf rubbings with real leaves and white crayons on white paper, and then painted over the paper with red, orange and yellow watercolors.

Day 2: watercolor marker printing

Today kids inked the backs of freshly fallen fall leaves with black watercolor markers and printed them on the colored paper. We used red and orange markers on rubber leaf stamps (similar to those used for gyotaku).

Allow time for extra time at the sink for hand washing.

What a hit!  All the kids loved the printing process. The second grade teachers LOVE the completed art as well and are trying to nab it for Thanksgiving place mats.

If you’ve never tried printmaking with watercolor markers, give it a try. There is almost no prep time and minimal clean up. You’ll be thankful!

I use Mr. Sketch watercolor markers. You could use any brand of water-based marker, but be sure they are very moist.


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