Faux Gyotaku


Looking for a project with "sole"? Introduce the Japanese art of Gyotaku while experimenting with creative coloring techniques.


1. "Gyo" means fish and "taku" means rubbing in Japanese. Gyotaku is the Japanese art of making prints with fish. This technique was originally created by fisherman in the 1800’s to record their prized catches and over time has evolved into a unique art form.

2. Find examples of Gyotaku prints. Research the techniques, colors and variations. What makes each one unique?

3. Creating authentic Gyotaku uses real fish and paint to make the print. This "scaled" back version lets you create a fun facsimile of this technique with construction paper and crayons. To create the body of the fish, place a piece of construction paper over the bottom of your shoe. Sneakers are the best choice for this project. Take a crayon with the label off and rub it back and forth over the tread of the sneaker. Watch the texture and pattern of the sneaker’s tread appear on the paper. Experiment with different colors and by applying different amounts of pressure with the crayons. This crayon rubbing will become the scales on body of the fish.

4. Using authentic Gyotaku prints for inspiration, add details like a fish eyes, fins and a tail to the body of the fish with crayons.

Safety Guidelines

Adult supervision is required for any arts & crafts project. Observe children closely and intervene as necessary to prevent potential safety problems and ensure appropriate use of arts and crafts materials. Some craft items, particularly beads and buttons, are potential choking hazards for young children. Avoid use of such small parts with children younger than 3 years. Craft items such as scissors, push pins and chenille sticks may have sharp points or edges. Avoid use of materials with sharp points by children younger than 4 years. Read all manufacturers' safety warnings before using arts and craft supplies.


  • Display the student’s prints in a "Hooked on Gyotaku" bulletin board to share this art form with the school community.
  • Create a haiku to describe your Gyotaku. A haiku is traditional form of Japanese poetry. A haiku consists of three lines. The first two lines have five syllables; the middle line has seven syllables. The lines don’t need to rhyme; they just need to describe the Gyotaku each student has created.
  • Japan has many other art forms to explore. Learn about origami, the art of paper folding or the Japanese tea ceremony as an extension of this lesson.

Related Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans

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crayola supplies
  • Crayons
  • Construction Paper
  • Metallic FX Crayons
household supplies
  • shoe



  • Grades 1 to 3


  • Social Studies
  • Visual Arts


  • Less than 1/2 hour


  • Children research Gyotaku print origins, techniques and examples.

  • Students create faux-Gyotaku prints using the crayon with labels off texture rubbings technique.


Research Canada Standards
Research UK Standards
Research U.S. Standards