How to make a zine – zine making tips and advice


How to make a zine: Zine-maker Indigo shares their tips on everything from ideas for zines to the nitty-gritty of construction.

What are zines?


Zines are small scale independent publications that have been around since photocopiers became a thing. They are of all different sizes and of different lengths, but usually they are quite small in size, and are of an easy to read sort of length. You are the creator, editor and publisher of your zine. You are the master and commander of your zine submarine, the lord and lady of your zine parliament, the king and queen of your zine kingdom (if you’re into the concept of a monarchy, of course). You get complete control over what goes into your work of genius—if you like, you can write every single word of your zine and scribble every single doodle. Or you can employ the help of your mates. That’s the beauty with zines. You really get to decide what goes.

How do I make a zine?


Type ‘how to make a zine’ or ‘zine making’ into google. Different sources will tell you different ways of making a zine. Some people like to make their zines from one huge A3 piece of paper with a few carefully placed cuts, so that the whole thing can be neatly folded down into a couple-page publication. This method also eliminates the use of glue (although you may decide you would like to stick stuff onto your big A3 page, so it would be good to have a glue stick on standby).

Some people make teeny weeny zines that are smaller than A5 size for ease of postage and exchange. Me, I grab a couple of A4 pages, fold them in half to make a little booklet and put my words and illustrations on from there. Then when it’s time to print, I take the little booklet apart, photocopy each page on both sides, make however many copies I want of each page, and assemble each copy by hand. It may seem a little bit long-winded and laborious but it’s the method that works for me. Do a wee bit of research and pick which method you think will work the best for you and your purposes.

Here are the bare essentials you will need to make a zine:

  • Paper of some description, depending on what format you choose for your zine
  • A pen (in my experience inky sorts of pens are the best for photocopying purposes. Ditch the biros and get some gel pens)
  • A craft knife and/or scissors
  • You will probably need a glue stick even if you’re doing a sans-glue style zine

What do I put in a zine?


What do you put in your zine? ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING. Zines can be about anything you want. Have a rad anarcho-crust punk band that sings only about cats that you want everybody to know about? Go spread the word. Love Adventure Time more than anything? Get your fandom out there. Want to share your bitchin’ vegan recipes? There are hungry vegans out there waiting for inspiration! Don’t have one single theme and want to include a bit of everything in your zine? Then you’re just like me. The world needs to know about your divine eclecticism. Get your ideas on paper and start to brainstorm.

But really, what do I put in it?


Everybody’s creative process is different, but I find when you’re making a zine it’s good to start with a) how many pages long you want it to be b) what you wish to include in it, and how many pages you are allowing for each respective feature. All the other ideas can and will slot into place later on. Maybe draw a story-board of sorts and doodle things into each little rectangle so you can see how things will slot in together.

MEGA TIP: Set time-bound, realistic goals for yourself. If you’re a fast worker, you could get your zine done in a day or week. If you’re more inclined to let your ideas mature like a fine wine, that’s okay too. Just give yourself a goal to hit and space out your work nicely. You don’t want to be frantically panicking and cursing yourself the night before that all important zine fair. Well, don’t curse yourself if you can help it, because you’re awesome.

I have something to say, but I don’t think my ideas are really that good. Should I still make a zine?


Definitely. Double-definitely. Your voice matters and your ideas are most certainly good ones, and it’s beautiful that you want to share them with the world. Plus you can make your master zine and decide you don’t want to print it just now, or indeed ever. You may find the catharsis for you is simply in the creation. Take the extra step and get involved with your local zinester community—it’s a brilliant way to meet like-minded folks, circulate your publication, and get to see other folk’s works of art. Zines are just a vehicle for getting your thoughts and ideas out there—so get your butt on that fabulous zine train and give it a shot.

Miscellaneous tips:

  • It’s totally up to you whether or not you want your zine to be in black and white or colour, but as a rule, colour photocopying tends to be a whole lot more expensive than black and white. For example, in the photocopying place I used for my first zine, it is 5 cent for one B&W page and a whopping 70 cent for one colour page! That seriously adds up when you’ve a few zines to print, so consider how much you want to spend on your project, as well as if you want to make your money back, and if so, how you will make your money back.
  • If you decide to print in B&W there’s not much point in making your master copy in all different colours. Keep it simple. Consider how everything will look when you photocopy it. If you write on dark-coloured paper (such as red) with black ink, your writing will be almost indiscernible when photocopied. Sad times. Play it safe and put black ink on white or very lightly coloured paper, and silver/white ink on black or darkly coloured paper.
  • Even though printing in B&W does limit what you can do, you can still use patterned paper to make a good-looking background. As a rule, placing white paper with black text on a patterned background looks great when photocopied.
  • Lots of guides will tell you to absolutely not handwrite anything in your zine. If you have legible handwriting, I don’t see why the hell you wouldn’t. Writing in block capitals is usually a safe bet. If you’re worried, ask a couple of mates to read your writing and to give you an honest opinion regarding its legibility.
  • Anybody can make a zine regardless of their artistic abilities. If you can’t draw to save your life, don’t worry. Your zine can be entirely about the words. Equally if you’re no wordsmith, you can fill your zine with lush illustrations. Zines are a great project for those who like to be creative in different ways because they can call for so many different skills. If you like drawing, writing poetry, creating comics and whatever else, you can employ all of your skills in the making of your zine.

Above all else, zine making should be enjoyable! Don’t stress or worry about your zine. Enjoy the creative process, and when it’s all done, make sure to enjoy the oh-so-delicious fruits of your labour. You are a freakin’ publisher, after all – how awesome is that??