How to Do Gyotaku Fish Rubbing

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Making a Gyotaku fish rubbing is a way to preserve a permanent artistic record of a trophy catch and still eat your catch. Gyotaku is Japanese for fish (gyo) and rubbing or impression (taku). Create a colorful wall hanging or print a T-shirt to wear proudly as a reminder of your trophy catch. It's also a great way to memorialize your child's first fish. Here's how to do it.

Things You'll Need

  • Whole fish
  • Paper towels
  • Newspapers
  • Non-toxic textile paints in various colors
  • Several 1-inch-wide paint brushes
  • Fine tip paint brush
  • Rice paper
  • White T-shirt (optional)
  • Wash the fish thoroughly to remove any dirt and fish slime, and pat dry with paper towels. Large scaled fish make the best impressions, but you can make a good print with any fish.

  • Spread layers of newspaper on your working surface and lay the fish flat in the center.

  • Paint the entire exposed surface of the fish with 1-inch-wide brushes, using a separate brush for each color. You can try to match the colors to the colors of the fish or get creative and use any colors you like. Paint a thin, even coat and avoid blotches of paint to transfer a clean impression to your paper or T-shirt.

  • Clean and dry your hands before handling the rice paper or T-shirt. If you're printing on a T-shirt, fold it so only the area where you want to make the impression will touch the fish.

  • Hold the paper or T-shirt (the print medium) a few inches above the fish and lay it straight down on the fish. Try not to move the print medium around once it touches the fish, to avoid smearing your print.

  • Put one hand on the print medium over the fish's belly to hold it in place. With your other hand, gently rub the medium down onto the fish all over to make sure you get a good impression of the entire fish, including the fins.

  • Lift the print medium off the fish carefully and lay it, paint side up, on a drying surface. Use the fine tipped brush to paint in an eye with a contrasting color. Let the finished Gyotaku fish rubbing dry for several hours. Once it's dry, you can frame and hang the print. The T-shirt is ready to wear.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wash the fish off thoroughly before the paint begins to dry, and it's ready to clean and cook, if you wish.
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