How To Make a Zine

By Alanna Why

Ever walk into a record store and find a bizarre pamphlet with collages, crazy anecdotes or insane comics? Congratulations! You found a zine (pronounced “zeen”).  Zines are usually photocopied mini-magazines or booklets made by whoever wants to make one. They tend to be either autobiographical in nature or devoted to some sort of passionate fandom.

Anyone with a pen, photocopier access and a little imagination can make a zine, including you. LET’S GET STARTED!

PART #1: Content

Now that you’ve decided to make a zine you need to decide what to write about. Is there a particular local band you admire? Call them up and interview them! Do you absolutely love the movie Ghost World? Write about it! Do you like to draw? Do some doodles and make a comic! With zines, the only limits are the ones you put on yourself. Write about absolutely anything and everything you want to. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little bit out there, in fact it’s probably better. Go ahead and express yourself.

PART #2: Format

You’ve got content; now you need to put it all together. Formatting is critical for zines and there are a lot of different ways to do them.  You can make a mini-zine, a quarter-size zine or even a zine without staples (see video below). Whatever size you choose to go with, make sure you leave wide-enough margins around each page. This makes sure that none of your content gets cut off by the photocopier (I had to learn this the hard way when I first started to make zines). You also need to decide some other crucial details. Do you want to type your text out on a computer or do you have an old working typewriter up in your attic that you could use? Another way of doing text is to hand write it. This adds a nice personal touch to your work. Whichever way you decide to write out your text make sure it’s legible! There’s no point in spending a lot of time writing great content if no one can read it. Also note what photocopies well and what doesn’t. Pencil marks and highlighters do not photocopy well, but india ink, markers and fine-tip pens all do. Experiment with different mediums (pastels, crayons, etc.) to find out what works and what you like visually.

PART #3: Making Copies

This is definitely the trickiest part of making zines. Ask around and see if you know anyone that would be able to make some photocopies for you. If not, you’ll have to pay for copies. Find a cheap copy shop, make a couple copies of your zine and go from there. Be nice to the staff. If you’re having problems with the copier (this WILL happen) or are unsure about anything, ask them to help you out. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know how to make double-sided copies.  It’s always better to ask for help than to fumble around on the photocopier wasting your time and your money. If you’re making a zine that needs to be stapled you’re probably going to need a long-arm stapler (the regular sized ones will be too little). Most copy shops have one and they will most likely let you use it if you ask nicely.

PART #4: Distribution

Yay! You’ve made your own zine! Bask in your creativity and then give them to all of your friends. You can also sell your zine at either a local craft/zine fair or punk flea market. A general rule for pricing goes like this: the amount it takes to photocopy it, either doubled or rounded to the nearest fifty cents. As well, a nice thing to do is to simply leave your zine in public places for people to find. Leave copies at the library, the dentist’s waiting room, a vintage store, a record shop or on the bus. Someone’s day will definitely be better when they read about how much you love Buffy The Vampire Slayer and what your top ten albums of the century are. Now go get started on issue #2!

Additional Resources:

Stolen Sharpie Revolution by Alex Wrekk – This is a great intro to making zines, filled with tons of handy tips for novices and zine pros alike. (http://www.stolensharpierevolution.org/)

Global Mail’s “How To Make A Zine”- An extremely comprehensive (and free) guide to making zines. (http://www.zinebook.com/resource/zinetips.html)

Whatcha Mean, What’s A Zine? by Esther Watson – A solid book filled with handy resources and advice from long-time zinesters. (http://www.amazon.com/Whatcha-Mean-Whats-Esther-Watson/dp/0618563156)

Alanna is 17 years old and lives in Ottawa, Canada. She makes the zines “Puker Nation”, “Backwaves” and “Scoopin’ Times”. 

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19 Comments on “How To Make a Zine”

  1. […] that you are a bona fide zinester, let’s take a look at how zines originally started and developed. Fanzines are most commonly […]

  2. […] Check out some excerpts of her zines below! (Also check out her articles on zine history and how to make a zine!) #gallery-1151-2 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1151-2 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; […]

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