Make Your Own

Supplies included in Kit:

  • Fish Printing Guide
  • 3 - 1" Soft Paintbrushes
  • 1 Small Paintbrush
  • 10 Sheets of Printing Paper
  • 4 - 1 ounce Containers of Water Clean-up Non-Toxic Permanent Printing Ink
  1. Note: If printing on fabric, allow 72 hours drying time before washing fabric.
  2. Note: Inks are not opaque and should be used on white or light colored papers and fabrics only.

Other Supplies Needed:

  • Old Clothes or an Apron- These inks will not come out of fabric.
  • Paper Towels
  • Old Newspaper
  • 3 foot by 3 foot piece of cardboard or rigid foam
  • 6-10 inch fish
  • Mild Detergent, Lemons, or Vinegar
  • Straight Pins (Not Absolutely Necessary)



Please read all of these directions before attempting your fish rubbing.

Select A Fish

  • Catch a 6-10" fish or buy one at your local market.
  • The easiest fish to print is one that is flat with large rough scales and hard spines in the fins. Flounder, perch, and bass are all good beginner choices; but odd shaped fish can make very interesting prints! Try to select a fish that has no broken fins and all of its scales intact.
  • You can freeze your fish but thaw it out before printing.

Cleaning Your Fish

  • Scrub your fish gently with some detergent, lemons, or vinegar; to remove all of the dirt and slime from the fish. Be careful not to damage any of the scales or fins. Avoid letting the fish soak in water or it may take a long time to dry.
  • Blot dry the fish with some paper towels.
  • Place the fish on a table covered with old newspaper or cardboard.
  • Gently stuff the gills, mouth, and vent of the fish with small pieces of paper towel to prevent leaks. If the fish's insides have been removed, gently stuff the belly with paper towel until it is firm.

Pinning (This step is not absolutely necessary)

  • Place your fish on a piece of cardboard or rigid foam board.
  • Spread each fin out as far as it will go and pin it to the board.
  • Gently brush the fish from tail to head with a paintbrush to help raise the scales, but try not to remove any.
  • Allow the fish to dry for 1 to 2 hours. This process can be sped up by placing the pinned fish in a refrigerator. (Do not put the fish in the freezer!) You can tell when the fish is dry enough to print by removing a few pins. If the fins don't move you're ready! If the fins move, replace the pins and wait another 15 minutes or so.
  • After the fish is dry, carefully remove all of the pins.


  • You can usually make at least 6-10 rubbings from a fresh fish. You can use 1 color or many colors to make a print. It is best to start off printing in 1 color and then progressing to many.
  • Place the fish on a clean paper towel.
  • Open your paint containers and have your brushes ready. Paint the fish with a thin layer of ink, brushing from tail to head. Paint the body of the fish first and the fins last because they dry faster. Try not to apply too little or too much ink to the fish. Applying too little ink will result in a very weak print. Applying too much ink will result in an unsightly blob. Do not paint the eye of the fish, it does not print well.

Pre-Print Clean Up

  • Transfer your inked fish to a clean paper towel. Wash and dry your hands. Look for blotches of ink on the paper towel and board surrounding your fish. Cover the ink blotches with pieces of clean paper towels. You don't want ink smudges on your print!
  • A clean table is a must before printing!


  • Take out a sheet of printing paper. The paper included in the kit is newsprint. Rice paper is the nicest when you get really good. A flexible absorbent paper is best for fish rubbing.
  • Hold the paper a few inches above the fish and adjust the paper to the angle you want your fish to appear on the paper. Carefully lay the paper on the fish. Leave the paper wherever it falls; do not move it or your print will get smudged.
  • Place 1 hand on the fish's belly to hold the paper still. Gently rub the rest of the fish with the palm of and fingers of your free hand. Try to "see" the fish with your fingers. Rub everywhere on the fish's body but try not to rub the same place twice to avoid smudges. The paper will wrinkle some but that is how you can tell a real fish rubbing!
  • When you feel you have finished rubbing; gently pull the paper away from the fish. You've made a Gyotaku!
  • Study your rubbing. If you see a blank spot you probably didn't rub the fish in that spot; if you see a smudge you probably moved the paper a little. Don't worry! Be happy! You can master these points on your next rubbing.
  • If you are going to make another print with the same color re-ink the fish now. If not, wash your fish and wipe it clean before re-inking.
  • Set your rubbings in a safe place to dry. Paint in an eye with the small paintbrush and sign your name.

Good Luck in All of Your Fish Rubbing Adventures!


Your IP Address is:
Copyright © 2018