From fan zines to activist zines, zines are a staple of DIY culture. Since they’re so easy to make, it’s no wonder why. Short for “magazine,” a zine is non-commercial and often homemade publication exploring a niche interest. Zines are a forum where creatives can their express ideas free from the motivation to make a profit, the oversight of an editorial staff, and the need to appeal to a mainstream audience. Why not spend an afternoon making one of your own?
Though zines come in all lengths and sizes, this tutorial teaches you how to make an eight-page mini-zine from a single sheet of paper. Let’s get started!
(P.S. If you really want to nerd out, check out this article about the history of zines.)
You will need:
An 8.5x11 inch piece of paper
A computer (if you’re designing your zine digitally)
A scanner (if you’re making your zine by-hand)
Access to a printer
Step 1: Choose a topic.
A zine can be about anything. That’s the beauty of the medium. Some people make zines to speak out against injustices; others make them to share their art; still others use them as literal how-tos. A zine can even be as silly as an illustrated list of nicknames for penises.
Since you’re making this zine by yourself, you are free from any editorial oversight. With no one to stop you, why not run wild? Make a zine about that special interest of yours that you just can’t shut up about. The more specific it is, the better. Remember, you only have eight short pages.
Step 2: Write the content.
Now that you have your idea, the content should come easily! An eight-page zine includes a cover, three sets of facing pages, and a back cover. The three inner spreads are the most information-heavy sections. When drafting content, I like to think of the first set of facing pages as my introduction, the second set as my argument, and the third as my conclusion.
Keep in mind that since this is a mini-zine, the pages are small. I usually get away with including 100-150 words per page while maintaining readability.
Step 3: Design the pages.
As with pretty much anything zine-related, you have complete creative freedom—you can design your zine virtually or on paper. I design most of my zines on my computer in InDesign using this template. You can also design a zine using this template on Microsoft Word.
If you want to go old-school, you can design the zine by hand on paper, just like the punks did in the 70s. Just fold a piece of paper into eighths, label the page numbers, and get to work—here’s a video example for all of you visual learners out there. This method allows for so much creative variation it’s worth the hand cramping. Experiment with a cut-and-paste style; embrace the hand-written look; try out some watercolors.
Step 4: Print and assemble the zine.
So you’ve finished your zine, and it’s ready for the press. If you made your zine on your computer, this step is as easy as hitting “print.” If your zine is handmade, just scan it to your computer as a pdf and then print it. For my own zines, I like to print around 40 copies for the first run.
This video shows exactly how to fold a zine into a booklet. This is my favorite part of the process — there’s something so satisfying about watching all of the little booklets pile up.
Step 5: Distribute the copies.
Okay, I take it back. This is my favorite part of the process. Thinking of creative ways to share your work is half the fun.
Some artists mail their zines to friends. Others share them by tabling at zine festivals or donating copies to their local zine library. I like to scatter my zines in public places. Some of my favorite locations to target include the coffee table in my building’s lobby, the tables in my school’s dining hall, and between the ridges of public benches. Let your creativity take the reins.
Congratulations! You made a zine.