Make Your Own Zine
August 19, 2020
DIY With Seawitches
Photo of Margaret Seelie by Beth O'Rourke
Have you ever wanted to make something in the world that doesn’t exist yet? Are you inspired by something already out there and want to make it different, better, or unique? Or maybe you just like to write, doodle, or sketch and it would be cool to see your work bound into a book?
If you said yes to any of these questions, then a zine might be the perfect project for you. One of the best things about zines is that they are totally free and open; there are no rules, investors, or people telling you what to do, which means they’re a great place to be honest and have fun.
We started Seawitches in 2017 because we were bored with what the mainstream surf media was offering and we wanted to hear stories from diverse perspectives. In the last 3 years, we’ve learned a lot and attempted things that did and did not work. But we keep trying, and in December our fourth issue came out and we really love it. With each issue, our process gets better and more concise. We believe the key to a great zine is to have fun!
We want to share what we’ve learned in this do-it-yourself (DIY) guide to making your own zine.
Materials for a 5.5 x 8.5-inch zine:
11 x 8.5-inch sheets of paper (letter size), stapler with staples.
Optional materials: paints, markers, pens, a typewriter, magazines, scissors, glue, copy machine, bone folder, etc.
Pick Your Passion
The word “zine” is short for fanzine, which means your zine should be about something you’re passionate about.
We love water, so Seawitches is a zine for water people. Within the water theme, we publish fun artwork, talk about menstruation, mental health, environmental issues, and so much more. When choosing your theme, it’s important to pick something specific but not too specific. So, what do you want your zine to be about?
Consider Your Content
When you’re thinking about what you want to go inside your zine, the two main topics to consider are who and what medium.
The first question to consider is, whose creations or ideas do you want in your zine? Do you want to collaborate with other artists and writers, or would you rather go solo and create a zine of your own stuff?
Next, what do you want to put in your zine? More specifically, do you want your zine to be full of photos, drawings, sketches, stories, poems, etc.? Or a mix of different mediums?
At Seawitches, we take submissions from artists, activists, and writers from all over the world. We publish all kinds of content from articles and interviews to paintings and poems.
Make Covers (optional)
This step is listed as optional because you can add it to the design step if you wish to print the covers the same way you print the interior of the zine. The Seawitches cover design process is super fun but requires a lot of time and effort.
A quick overview of our cover making process:
1) Create a dye from plant matter. In this photo, you can see covers dyed with ink from avocado pits (pink), eucalyptus bark (grey), indigo (blue), and oxalis flowers (yellow). (We’ll be sharing our secret recipe for making avocado pit ink in another issue of Sisu, so stay tuned!)
2) Hand-dye sheets of recycled, non-synthetic paper
3) Letterpress print the cover art
4) Foil stamp Seawitches
Your covers can be digitally printed, collage, hand-drawn, or anything you like!
These covers are dyed with inks made from indigo plants, oxalis flowers, eucalyptus bark, and avocado pits. Each cover is designed by a different Artist in Residence.
This is another fun step where you get to be super creative! Some of our favorite zines are drawings, collages made from cut-up magazines, cartoons, or graphic novels. Some fun things to try are choosing a color palette for your zine, like 3 or 4 of your favorite colors. Or some funky layouts that flip words upside down or layer images. Let your creativity run wild.
Our process is a bit traditional. Leah Koransky, our layout designer, takes all of the content for the issue—articles, photos, artwork—and puts them into Adobe InDesign. Our zine is about 40-48 pages, so she puts as much content into those pages as she can. Then we send these digital files to our printer and have them professionally printed.
Historically, zines have been hand-made without a computer. Usually, one zine is drawn or made and then copied at a Kinkos or on a printer at home. You can make two zines or 200!
Layout design by Leah Koransky of a photo-essay by photographer and filmmaker Beth O'Rourke about legendary skater Elissa Steamer.
The best DIY binding is a saddle stitch, which is basically a fancy way of saying stapling.
How to saddle stitch:
1) Stack your pages in order with the cover on the outside
2) Fold them down the middle. If you have a bone folder, we recommend using that to score the pages before folding them
3) Staple on the fold at least 2 times—3 staples are recommended so the pages don’t slip or move
4) Trim to remove the ragged edges with an Exacto knife and ruler (optional)
5) Press the zines under something heavy. Again if you have a bone folder, use it to flatten the fold more (optional)
If you have more than 40 pages, you could pay a printer to perfect bind your zine, which means the pages will be glued together. Then your cover will be wrapped around the glued pages to create a spine, like a book. It looks great but can be expensive.
The pink zine is saddle stitched and the blue zine is perfect bound.
Get your friends together and have a reading, art show, or ritual to celebrate your zine!
Seawitches, a zine for waterpeople, is a bi-annual print publication. We are here to tell stories inspired by water that are rooted in nature and diversity. Margaret Seelie is an artist and writer living in San Francisco. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Seawitches.