The gyotaku process

Painstaking attention to detail is what makes our gyotaku prints so special!

printing gyotaku

It starts with the fish. The fish we use for our prints are caught by us, or brought to us by local fishermen for our trophy fish printing service. We catch our fish by diving, trolling, or bottom fishing on our boat, the “Gyotaku”, a 27′ twin diesel Force.

Maui’s clear waters supply the necessary fish

Maui’s bountiful waters are home to the large game fish species that make such dramatic prints: Au (marlin), Ahi (yellowfin tuna), Mahi mahi (dolphinfish), Ono (wahoo), Ulua (giant trevally), Uku (grey snapper), Onaga (red snapper), Opakapaka (pink snapper) are not only delicious and fun to catch, but make lovely prints, with their dramatic shapes and colors.

As well as the larger game fish, we also use some of Maui’s most beautiful and exotic reef fish, such as Humuhumu (triggerfish), Nabeta (wrasse), Manini (surgeonfish), Aweoweo (Hawaiian bigeye), for their beautiful shapes and colors.

Hand-painting the fish

Once we have removed the protective mucus coating from the fish, using natural rock salt, we paint it using non-toxic water-based acrylic paint or inks.

If printing on a white background, the fish is painted black and the print is transferred. The print itself is then hand-colored using watercolors or colored pencils.

If printing on a black background, the actual colors are applied to the fish, and then transferred to the print.

Years of experience have taught us the perfect colors and patterns necessary to bring out the fish’s natural beauty.

Pulling the print

Once the fish is painted, it’s time to pull the print. This part of the process is crucial – a steady hand is necessary, as is experience and knowledge – any false movement of the paper or fabric will distort the image.

The paper or fabric is carefully laid on top of the fish and gently impressed onto the fish, fin for fin and scale for scale.

The eye is left out of this process, and hand-detailed afterward – every print is unique!