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How to…make a zine

Written by Susannah Pickering

Zines are a great way to try out publication with full control over content, style and distribution. Zines can include both text and image and are relatively cheap to produce, so there is plenty of scope to experiment either on your own or with a group of friends.

If you don’t have access to a computer or printer you can still make a zine, either by creating one master copy and having it photocopied (there are high street copy shops where you can have this done) or by hand making all the copies yourself. If you can make a zine you’re only a whisker away from being a published author.

There are many ways to make a zine, but here writer and maker Susannah Pickering offers us her recipe for the perfect zine.

Ingredients

– 4 sheets of paper
– A4 light card
– A ruler, pencil and eraser
– Bone folder (or a spoon!)
– Fastenings (staples and long arm stapler/ needle and thread)
– Glue
– Masking tape
– Scissors

 Method

Whatever kind of zine you are making, first make a ‘mock up’ so that you can plan what will go where. You might need to try this a few times until you have the right number of pages for your content so don’t use your best paper for this part! Estimate how many pages you want in your zine and fold enough A4 sheets of paper to create that number of pages (one A4 sheet once folded will give you four pages). Now slot the folded A4 sheets inside each other so that you have something that looks like a book. Use this to decide what will go on each page. Try to avoid having text or images that will go across the folds in your paper – this makes photocopying really difficult. Once you have worked it all out, number your pages (this is a really important step).

Until we get to fastening the whole thing together, the method is different for each different kind of zine so we will look at them individually:

1. Individually handmade zine
Once you have worked out what will go where using your mock up, you can start making the real thing using your mock up as a guide and putting the pages together ready for fastening.

2. Handmade master copy zine
Make the real thing using your mock-up as a guide. You need to think about what will photocopy well (yellow text doesn’t, for example) and also how much you want to pay for photocopying (black and white will be cheaper than full colour). If you don’t want to hand write all the text, you can print out blocks of text and glue or masking tape this into your master copy. Make sure everything is securely attached so that it doesn’t move about or become detached during copying. If you don’t want the edges of images to show up on the copies tearing rather than cutting can minimise this effect as can using masking tape. And remember to avoid going across pages with text or images. Once you have completed your master copy and got your photocopies done, you will need to fold and put your sheets together in the right order ready for fastening.

3. Printed zine
You will need to dismantle your mock-up to work out how you are going to lay the text out in a document on screen. Assuming that you don’t have access to any design or publishing software, the easiest way to do this is by using tables in a Word document:

– Open a blank document in Word and go to File and then Set-up
– Change the orientation of the document to landscape
– Go to Tables and select Insert and Tables
– Select a table with three columns
– Adjust the columns so that the middle column is narrow (this is the spine of your zine, the right hand margin of your left hand page and the left hand margin of your right hand page) and the other two are of equal size. Print a copy after you have input the text and check that your text looks central to the page once the sheet is folded.
– So that the tables don’t show in your final printed zine, go to Table, Select and choose Table then go to Format and Borders and Shading. Select the Borders tab and on the Preview diagram click all the borders so that they disappear.
– Make sure that the front and back of each A4 sheet of your zine are on adjacent pages in your Word document
– For each new page of your zine press the tab key to create a new row in your table to ensure that the position of the text is the same on every page
– Once you have printed off a test page and are happy that you have the text in the right place and have all the text typed into your document you need to split the table so that all the rows are separate. To do this, go to the second row of your table and select Table and then Split Table. Then go to Insert and select Break and then Page Break
– Continue to split the table (always from the row below the one you want to separate from) until you have each page of your zine on a separate page in Word
– Now you just need to work out how to print your pages back to back referring to your mock up to help with this. If you have a printer than prints double-sided (duplex), this is relatively easy, but it may take a bit of trial and error so don’t use your best paper!

If you haven’t got a duplex printer, you will need to print the first sheet of your zine and then feed the sheet back through the printer to print the second sheet on the reverse and so on (3 with 4 on the reverse, 5 with 6 on the reverse etc). To work out how to do this, put a pencil mark on the first piece of paper you are going to print on (before it goes through the printer) to indicate where the top left hand corner is. Just print one page of your zine (by selecting Current Page when you are printing). Once this sheet is printed you can work out which way up the sheet of paper needs to go back into the printer to ensure that you print on the reverse. Try it out with the next page of the zine.

Once you have worked all that out print your zine copies, fold them and put them together in the right order for fastening together!

Fastening

Long-armed stapler: with your zine collated and all edges in line, open the zine out flat so that the middle page is uppermost. Decide how many staples you want and where you want to position them. If you want to be precise, use a ruler and pencil to mark the positions before stapling.

Needle and threadusing a large darning needle threaded with a strong thread, make a hole in the centre of the central page (inside your zine), and pull your thread through, leaving a 10cm tail of thread inside the zine. Make a hole 5cm in from the top edge of your zine, and pass the needle and thread back through to the inside middle of the zine. Make a hole 5cm from the bottom edge of your zine and pass the needle and thread through this hole back to the outside of the zine. Finally, pass the needle and thread back through the hole in the centre of the zine’s spine to the inside of the zine, pull both ends of the thread tightly and tie off securely. Trim the thread to desired length.

Paper-covered wire or stringfor both of these the method is similar to the above, but you need to make the three holes first (large enough for the wire or string to pass through) and then thread the wire or string through, tie off securely and trim.

And now you have a zine! Give it to people, leave it on buses, hide it in places where you know like-minded people will go – get the word out.

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