Books + Comics

How to Make a Zine

Zine-making isn’t about rules or knowledge; it’s about freedom and POWER.

Zines are self-published, small-circulation, often nonprofit books, papers, or websites. They usually deal with topics too controversial or niche for mainstream media, presented in an unpolished layout and unusual design. Everyone, from a major NGO to a teenager like you, can be an author (and also an editor, art director, and publisher) of a zine, and that’s part of what makes them so awesome.

Since the invention of the photocopy machine, zine-making has been one most popular forms of independent publishing, especially in underground communities. But it’s hard to generalize about zines, the same way it’s hard to generalize about culture. Not just hard—impossible. Because like all art and media, zines can be anything and everything. And they are.

There’s a whole wiki devoted to zines here. If you type “zine making” into Amazon, you’ll get 10 pages of results. But to be honest, I’ve never read a book about zine-making, and I don’t think you have to, either. For me, zine-making isn’t about rules or knowledge; it’s about freedom and (guess what?) POWER.

Zines are super powerful! They can communicate rebellious words and strong ideas. People who feel a burning need to share their energy with the world make zines, so it’s no coincidence that zine culture is often associated with some of the most energetic movements: punk, feminist, queer, etc. Some publications that sprang from those subcultures, like the punk fanzine Chainsaw, enjoyed cult status; others, like Bitch, got so popular that they turned into regular magazines that you can find in bookstores.

But zine-making has always been about being a nerd, too. Someone who creates a zine has become obsessed with a subject so small and niche and bizarre that there isn’t even a magazine for people obsessed with it: a celebrity who’s seen better times; pulp science fiction; games; or something so weird you can’t imagine more than one person being into it. Zines are not looking for a broad audience. They’re not supposed to appeal to everyone. That’s the point: they’re exclusive. And “exclusive” can mean anything from “anyone interested in Doctor Who” to “only you and your girl gang” to even “only you.”

Nowadays (boy I sound old all of a sudden) you can make a digital zine/mag and reach people on the other end of the planet in a blink, but what’s nicer than a little handmade book you can hold in your non-virtual hands? Or the unique feeling of being one among a tiny group of special people in possession of a carefully made publication?

There are tons of ways to make a zine, of course. But the one I’m going to show you is one of the cheapest, quickest, and easiest—perfect for spreading your message widely! You will need only three items (that you certainly own) to make it, plus a one-sided printer to make copies.

You’ll need:

  • A cutting knife (like an X-ACTO)
  • A ruler
  • An A3 sheet of paper (you can use another size, but an A3 will make a postcard-size zine—ideal for snail mail).

You will NOT need:

  • Glue
  • Tape
  • A stapler

None of that junk is necessary!

How to make your zine:

1. Fold the paper in half so that the two longer edges line up.

2. Fold it again the other way, so that the two shorter edges line up.

3. Fold it one last time, in the same direction as you did in step two, so that it’s the size of a standard postcard.

4. Unfold the paper. In the picture below I’ve mapped out where on the paper the different pages of your zine will live, as long as you’ve folded the paper the way I’ve laid out here. (It’s OK if you folded it some other way, but this map of pages won’t be the same for you.)

5. Cut a slit in the paper, lengthwise between the two outer folds (the pictures below do a better job of describing this than words ever could).

6. Fold the paper along that same line, bringing the two longer edges of the paper together.

7. Grab the two sides of the paper and push them together to form a cross, like so:

8. Take the top and bottom legs (arms?) of that cross and fold them over so they sandwich the arm (leg?) on the right.

9. See that last double page that’s sticking out on the left? Fold it over the top of the other pages (you’ll move it clockwise, as shown below).

10. Flatten the zine by creasing the edges with your finger. It’s almost ready!

11. Now you can start working on the art and the rest of the content. This is one of my zines, inspired by old punk/feminist zines that were made from newspaper cutouts (it’ll look really cool when I Xerox it in black and white!):

12. As you probably noticed, all the pages are double, giving them a blank inside layer—that’s because we only used one side of the original sheet of paper. You can add secret notes in the “hidden pages” that are different for every copy of your zine.

That’s it! You’re now an independent publisher. Congratulations! For more inspiration, I suggest you check out publishers such as POGOBOOKS, Café Royal, BOLO, and Nieves, all of whom are doing a great job navigating zine lovers through the sea of boring stuff flooding the internet, and plucking out only the very best for your enjoyment. ♦

61 Comments

  • MissKnowItAll May 1st, 2012 7:14 PM

    yess! Thank you so very much! I’ve been wanting to do this for a while but I’m too impatient to read a book about zine making. I wanted to do a few about art and obsessing over 1D but I thought it would sound a bit stupid. I might just do it now.

  • ladyjenna May 1st, 2012 7:17 PM

    Does zines rhyme with jeans, or signs?

  • airplanes.books May 1st, 2012 7:20 PM

    fya!

  • loonylizzy May 1st, 2012 7:21 PM

    i was literally JUST looking for something like this YESTERDAY. i love zines and i wanted to know how to make one but i couldn’t really find anything helpful. this is amazing! YOU READ MY MIND ROOKIE!!!

  • missblack May 1st, 2012 7:24 PM

    oh my God this article came at The Opportune Moment – I was JUST going to make a zine for a giveaway on my blog!!! It’s like Rookie is reading my mind!!!

    Little&Trivial

  • taste test May 1st, 2012 7:27 PM

    aaa this makes me so happy. I’ve been really interested in zines and zine-making lately, but I always thought of it as this massive undertaking I’d be insane to attempt. but I used to make little books pretty much this exact way when I was in elementary school! no joke! only minus the collage part. they were usually little poorly-illustrated picture books about talking cats. but anyway, YES. I CAN TOTALLY DO THIS.

  • hazeleyedgirl May 1st, 2012 7:27 PM

    Every single month I am amazed by the flawless tutorials that Rookie comes up with. THANK YOU SO MUCH! ‘PROFESSIONAL’ ZINE MAKING HERE I COME!
    Seriously, this is brilliant.

  • tessatalkalot May 1st, 2012 7:31 PM

    Cool cool, I’ve really been wanting to do one for my feminist club.

  • KinuKinu May 1st, 2012 7:39 PM

    OH MY GOODNESS THIS IS SO HELPFUL RIGHT NOW I CAN”T EVEN…….I….AM….SO……HAPPY!!!!!!
    I’m gonna try this format of zines next time. I’m taking my VERY first zine to the library this Saturday, so I’m excited. I tried making a zine for a year…but my lack of creativity stopped me in my tracks…. No, I think it’s cuz I criticize myself too much.When I first write something it’s, like, YES WHY AM I SO AWESOME THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER. Then I reread it and it’s, like, I WRITE LIKE A 4 YEAR OLD WHY IS THIS CRAP IN MY HANDS. I throw it away and cry because it happens EVERY time. But I went with what I had this time around so hopefully no one else….thinks…I…write….like a……4 year old.
    This was so helpful….Thanks so much…I’m beyond happy right now.

    • KinuKinu May 1st, 2012 7:41 PM

      p.s. POLISH!!!!!

      • Emma Dajska May 2nd, 2012 12:51 AM

        I’m a Pole living in Poland – fortunately there’s Anaheed making my writing sound properly american!

        • KinuKinu May 2nd, 2012 11:55 PM

          Cool, my mom is Polish. I can only say a few things: I can say I Love You, Goodnight, and I can count to 5…I know, horribly lame. :D

  • boyfights May 1st, 2012 7:58 PM

    I wish Rookie existed when I was 15. But posts like these are just as useful to me now – thank you again!

    http://hannahandelise.blogspot.com

  • Mollylou May 1st, 2012 8:06 PM

    This is totally my favorite method of making zines. Single-sided copies!! One year I made valentines for my friends this way.

  • lyss May 1st, 2012 8:58 PM

    thank you for this! my older sister and i are now making a zine dedicated to kurt vonnegut. :’)

  • alanna May 1st, 2012 9:15 PM

    Zines are seriously the best things ever. I started making my own zines about a year and a half ago and so far I’ve got 11 different issues under my belt! For anyone considering making their own zine, don’t think to hard about it just go for it; the whole point of zines are that they are amateur-ish but also special, unique and awesome. Plus, it feels great to hold a stack of freshly-photocopied zines you just made yourself!

    My current zine is devoted to Richard Simmons and you can check it out here: http://pukeyparty.tumblr.com/.

  • teenager May 1st, 2012 9:17 PM

    LJNHBFKJDSHFKJDS YES thank the Rookie gods for this I am so excited to get started on this baby! brillllllllllllllllliant, it’s like you read my mind…

    http://interstellarsuburbia.wordpress.com/

  • LittleMoon May 1st, 2012 9:18 PM

    Ah! I’m going to make TONS of these!

  • caro nation May 1st, 2012 9:30 PM

    Thank you, Anaheed, I did NOT impatiently await this for a week. At ALL.

    • Anaheed May 1st, 2012 9:52 PM

      Aw yay, now go make yr zine!

  • moonchild May 1st, 2012 9:30 PM

    WHAT?? how is this even…?

    magic.

    Gwen
    http://under-a-bridge.blogspot.com/

  • Ellie May 1st, 2012 10:01 PM

    My brother are making a kids zine! Our first issue comes out this weekend. It features mostly activities like mazes and my original coloring pages. :)

  • emcarls May 1st, 2012 10:17 PM

    Ive been making zines for some time and they are amazing. Ive never made small like that though, i usually just take normal paper and fold it once and staple pieces together.

  • yourenotfunny May 1st, 2012 10:37 PM

    NICE! i’m working on a zine right now and i feel like a dummy for making it so unnecessarily complicated with trying to get the formatting in msword just so.ughh.

  • thereader99 May 1st, 2012 10:47 PM

    Is there a way to get more pages?!?!
    I’m in a maths class right now and I dont think I can fix in another mathematical question!!!

    ‘Ello from Australia.

    • Pashupati May 1st, 2012 11:25 PM

      I guess you could with a bigger page and doing a bigger cutout, while doing the exact same things.

  • starcollector May 1st, 2012 10:56 PM

    I’ve wanted to make a zine so bad… but I’m SO SCARED. I’ve just stuck to collaging fashion magazine pictures into notebooks and writing bad poetry.

    I don’t know why I’m so scared of it… but this article helped a little bit, so thanks. Maybe one day soon I’ll suck it up and take the plunge into the zine scene… get it? It rhymes.

    http://china-lily.blogspot.com/

    • Emma Dajska May 2nd, 2012 1:27 AM

      To avoid getting too intimidated by the challenge try to start with a really small size and only a couple of pages. Starting with a small size is my secret trick for every new art activity – smaller size smaller (potential) failure.

      PS. I think bad poetry can make a really good zine (or at least funny, as my own experience tells me).

  • ebcstar May 1st, 2012 11:12 PM

    I just finished my first zine and then I saw this ! I love rookie!

  • Pashupati May 1st, 2012 11:23 PM

    I made a few zines but never understood how to make on in this format before!
    Now, with pictures, it’s more understandable :) Thanks.

  • Adrienne May 2nd, 2012 12:11 AM

    Omg I remember doing this in 5th grade! It was so fun…. we had to make booklets about the human body though. You could also do comic books and whatnot. :)

    http://theaverageasiangirl.blogspot.com

  • lyrarose May 2nd, 2012 12:41 AM

    I realise that this might be slightly irrelevant to your [fabulous] tutorial, but I just noticed this and wanted to throw it out there. I should have noticed it in your name, but normally I don’t look at whom the writer is…and I noticed it on the pages of your zine (“Matka, który ty jesteś?), you’re Polish (if you’re not can you tell me how you found Polish magazines outside of Poland…I haven’t read in Polish since age 5…). I…the theme is power this month right? I think Polish is a powerful language, out of the few I’ve studied it feels commanding, but not oppressive. It’s beautiful and demanding, and its difficulty makes you feel omnipotent when you speak the words. I just wanted to say that for a second. Sorry, I talk too much.

    • Emma Dajska May 2nd, 2012 1:19 AM

      What you said of the sound of polish is really interesting! As I replied above, I’ve lived in Poland since I was born – but now there’s Internet and Anaheed patiently smoothing out my words so I can fulfill my teenage dream of being an american teenager behindhand (I guess that’s the result of watching too many high school movies back then)

  • Bren May 2nd, 2012 12:47 AM

    DOCTOR Who, guys.
    Spell it out.

    That being said…

    How cool is this! I love Rookies DIY, always something for everyone. :)

    • bethleeroth June 30th, 2012 6:43 PM

      Haha, I’m glad you mentioned it… Every time I see “Dr. Who” it’s a small inner conflict: “yay! someone’s talking about it!” vs “DOCTOR NOT DR. RAWRRRR” :D

  • ivoire May 2nd, 2012 2:09 AM

    POWER OF THE ZINE. It’s exam week so I will have to wait until I can make a zine.

  • Malik May 2nd, 2012 9:28 AM

    Woow first Polish girl :))

    Nareszcie można spotkać tu polkę :)
    Bardzo się cieszę, i życzę szczęścia w dalszej działalności na tej stronie !
    (chętne z tobą porozmawiam na ten temat :))

    • Emma Dajska May 2nd, 2012 5:24 PM

      <3 dziękuję! // do zobaczenia na fejsbuku!
      PS. mówię Ci: jest nas tu więcej!

      • Geevah May 5th, 2012 10:04 AM

        Ja też zauważyłam te napisy po polsku i byłam szczerze zaskoczona! W komentarzach udzielam się po angielsku i nawet nie sądziłam, że Polki też tu zaglądają, a nawet jedna z nich pisze tutoriale!! Pozdrowienia z Gdańska przesyła 17letnia fanka ROOKIE!

  • Annie92 May 2nd, 2012 10:45 AM

    wow this method looks great! I really liked that explanation of what zines are. Whenever people ask me what they are I find them kinda hard to define.

    “But it’s hard to generalize about zines, the same way it’s hard to generalize about culture. Not just hard—impossible. Because like all art and media, zines can be anything and everything. And they are.” – yeah!

    Also, I’ve found zines really useful for schoolwork: like for interesting revision notes, or as a hand-out for when you have to do powerpoint presentations in class.

    Anywhooo, if anyone wants to trade zines, I would love to: http://grinandbearitzine.blogspot.co.uk/

  • decemberbaby May 2nd, 2012 10:49 AM

    Thank you thank you thank you! I see obsessive, fangirl-ish Emily Dickinson zines in my future.

    Like ivoire, I can’t make a zine at the moment — so it’ll be one of my triumphant, end-of-exam-week celebratory activities.

  • Libby May 2nd, 2012 12:10 PM

    This is so cool. My brother, who is immensely cool (think amazing clothes, great mix of music and also the loveliest girlfriend ever) has just gone to uni and whenever he comes back to visit there are random zines that he’s collected around campus. So yeah.
    And I’ve got exams and too much homework right now, but I foresee a weekend of zine making related to random poetry?

  • indigosunday May 2nd, 2012 1:20 PM

    it’s really creepy you guys did this, because just yesterday, I was contemplating if I wanted to make a zine or not.

  • Harriet May 2nd, 2012 1:32 PM

    I probs totally missed the point of the article but I think a cute little book like that would be a really good tool to consolidate revision notes in, I just made one and it’s the perfect size and it also allows for minor procrastination from actual revision :D xxxx

  • MissGorgeous May 2nd, 2012 6:26 PM

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! :D I have been anticipating an article on zines, and I’m so happy this was posted. <3

  • Arielle May 2nd, 2012 6:29 PM

    Thank you for this! For a junior year research endeavor, I am interviewing several prominent figures in the zine world and compiling it all into a meta-zine, or a zine about the creation and distribution of zines. This really helps!

  • Kathryn May 2nd, 2012 8:31 PM

    this tutorial is so fantastic!
    ps there is a foreign exchange student at my school from poland and she has a very cute accent! not so relevant but the talk of poland above made me think of it.

  • Ben May 2nd, 2012 8:48 PM

    I made an email quadannula (is that a word?) fashion zine called (Jal-ap-en-o). I f you want you can email me here: jalapenozine@gmail.com to sign up for the mailing list. I’m almost done with the spring issue (I know spring’s almost over) I hope you like it!. It’s pretty cool, Also I love this article! I emailed it to all mt friends and asked them to all make some zines and we could share them and stuff! I’m so exited to see what they make! I really love when my friends make me handmade stuff and they all agreed they do too so yeah!

  • back2thepast May 5th, 2012 2:53 PM

    Convinced my yearbook teacher to let us make zines for our next project. 50 minutes of school time dedicated to zine making. Only. How sick is that

  • renegadekitty May 15th, 2012 5:19 PM

    i really wanna make a zine about my favourite band and start distributing it to a handful of fans through an online mailing list but i’m constantly racked by self doubt about my creativity/writing abilities/general appeal to other people in this world. any tips on how to get past my esteem issues?

  • bitcherry June 1st, 2012 9:19 AM

    I know this is an old article, but I really want to share this with you. I first read this when it was published, and the idea of creating a zine took the hold of me. I’m from Brazil (by the way, sorry for any mistakes) and even though there’re some zines around here, it’s very unusual to find one outside the comic books/mangas fandom. Even in college, and I know it ’cause I attend one, they’re pretty rare.

    Long story short, I made one about feminism. I’m pretty passionate about it and I felt the need of some sort of publication talking about the basics of the idea. The name is the portuguese for “Equality”, and in my unreliable opinion, it ended up being pretty cool. I made 200 copies and left some of them at my college.

    There was this incident where the boys I work with put one of the copies I gave them on fire, so yesterday I was kinda down with the whole thing. Later, I went to check on the copies I left in college and none of them were there. My first thought was “awesome, someone must have thrown them away” but I asked the woman who works there if she saw what happened, and to my surprise she said lots of girls and even some boys were reading and liking them! People were actually taking my zines! I got home and checked the twitter and the email I left on the zine and there were to messages saying they loved the initiative!

    Ok, I just wrote this really long thing to tell you all that despite all the work you go through making them, zines are all kinds of awesome! And to thank Rookie for being such a great site! ♥

  • LizBeth June 18th, 2012 9:03 PM

    This is an old post, but I still want to say thanks! I’m thinking of making a fiction/pictures-of-whatever-I-like zine of my own now, and leaving it in bookshelves at my local library and bookstores and whatnot. Too bad I live in the middle of nowhere, or I could do an exchange with someone!
    Thanks again!

  • gea June 24th, 2012 12:00 AM

    this is by far my favorite diy article on Rookie. May is my birthday month, and yeah it suits nicely with the “Power” theme. still reading the May issue back to back. thankyou xoxo

  • FiveDimesForNineLives July 20th, 2012 8:04 PM

    Wow this is so neat. Totally gonna make one!

  • MayaLily July 21st, 2012 3:33 PM

    Rookie is a bit like a non rebellious
    version of i-D for teenage girls was this the concept behind it ?

  • monalisa May 5th, 2013 4:03 AM

    Making some for my French fashion assignment! Thankyou so much!

    apappillon.blogspot.com

  • ueno54 May 29th, 2013 5:56 AM

    yesss, thank you for this post!

  • Dave Bo June 14th, 2013 7:59 PM

    This is awesome. I used to make zines all the time but it’s hard to share it when everyone juts wants to read it online something like http://www.ownzee.com is better I think. it’s still as intimate as my old print zines but it easier for other people