Sunday, June 15, 2008

How to make a Zine

There are many good resources out there on how to make a zine, Alex Wrekk's Stolen Sharpie Revolution probably being the best choice. But, it occurred to me that there may be people out there who are like me and don't like reading directions. Although the zine guides available are great and well done, I am the kind of person who would not read it and just start doing it. I am pretty much like this with everything except putting together Ikea furniture.

I started making zines in 1994 without really having seen one (except the fanzines they had at Tower Records) and with no knowledge of how to do it. I had a word processor back then that typed the pages. I would have the text reduced to the size I needed it and then would literally cut and paste it onto a template. I have graduated to a computer now, but in many ways I still do it like I did then.

So, If you want the no-frills down and dirty easy way to make a zine, here it is. This is the way to get it out when you want tactile control and are kind of lazy and impatient like me.

Size: If you want the easiest size to make a zine, choose the standard size paper folded in half like a booklet. This is called 1/2 size. When it comes to putting it together you will be glad you chose this size, no cutting involved and real easy.

If you want smaller. Choose the 1/4 size, which is a standard paper cut in half (either way) and then folded.

Content: Type up all the stuff you want on your computer or typewriter. Scan all the images you want. Remember paragraphs and don't discount the value of white space. It makes it easier to read to have a little break once in a while, no matter how punk rock your zine is. Very few people want to read big blocks of text and images all jammed together. If you don't have access to a scanner, get a real good copy of the image you want and make it a few different sizes, so you will have a choice.

Layout: If you are doing it on the computer, write it up in a word program (I am sure there are better programs, but this is the easy and accessible way, remember). Make the page landscape (if that is what you want, let's assume you are doing a standard 1/2 page zine) and put in 2 columns. Now you have 2 pages. This way you can see what it is going to look like. If one article is taking up too much room you can change font size or the font to get it to fit how you want.

The word program gives you a view choice and you can look at it at 50% or something like that to get an idea of where it lands on the page. You can also, of course, insert images, but I am trying to keep it to the easiest down and dirty way to make a zine.

Once you get all your articles the way you want and have your images printed (don't forget headers for the articles, if you didn't include them) and images ready you can start laying out. Here is what I have done in the past and it worked pretty good.
  • I get card stock as the base and fold them in half. You can use paper, too, and I have, but the card stock works better. I basically guess about how many pages I need.
  • I layout the zine from the first inside page (save cover for last so it doesn't get messed up). I use a removable glue stick, sometimes it is called post-it glue stick, because in my experience I have needed to move things around a lot.
  • I lay it out how I want, changing if need be. As I get closer to the middle pages I reevaluate to see if I really need this many pages or do I need more? If I need more I add to middle, if less I take some out of middle.
  • Continue laying out zine, when it is all done and you are definitely sure it is how you want, glue it down with real glue.

I know this probably seems so archaic that this is how I did it for so long and mostly how I still do it. But, it works for me and I like the physical act of laying it out, although my text is often crooked. I also kind of like the panic of having one or two pages left with nothing for it, sometimes what I do with that one page is some of my favorite stuff.

Some tips that are very important:

  • Margins. make sure you allow at least a 1/2 margin around all your pages or your text will get cut off and that looks like crap and people can't read it.
  • Keep the pages really clean, in a file folder, and be clean with the glue so they don't stick together. Sometimes I have even used wax paper between them.
  • Number the pages. This tip is for me, too, as I seldom do it and I always regret it.
  • Get yourself a deadline, like a upcoming zine symposium, perhaps. It helps with the motivation. Even if you don't table you can use your zine to trade and go home with lots of new zines and comics.
  • Make sure you are done laying out and copying your zine at least a week before the deadline. Then begin collating, folding and stapling. You might find some pages missing or something you need to redo, so you need the extra time.
I guess that covers the basics. Now go out there and make a zine! If you have any questions let me know.


comfies said...

ah, yes, this is next on my list. a zine! i've always admired them from afar...

PonyBoy Press said...

Oh, I would love to see the one you make. Hope this info helps!

Laura-Marie said...

My way has lots in common with your way!

Sherbet Head said...

Hello ponyboy press,
I came across your blog when conducting a search on zines as I've been wanting to make my own for a while now. I've read a few books but never really felt that excited about their content. I understand your method alot better, so thank-you!
I started my first one today. I'll scan and send you a link when I'm finished =)

PonyBoy Press said...

I would like that, thanks!

Cough Drop Queen said...

I know I'm only four years or so late to the party but thank you so much for this! I'm writing my 1/2 size zine and I've been stressing about how to put together. This is the least stressy method I've encountered. I'm now back to 100% psyched to make this happen!

PonyBoy Press said...

So glad you found it, Cough Drop Queen. Good luck on your zine!

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