Zines 101: My Cut & Paste Method

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About a week ago, I had a quick Twitter chat with Emily about zines when she asked if I’ve ever posted about my process and what it is, and I realized that I’ve never done an in-depth exploration of exactly how I go about my zines. So that’s what we’re up to today.

Now, before I start let me just say that I am by no means a How-To Expert, so if I miss any steps or anything is unclear, please let me know and I’ll do my best to clarify.

I have two ways of going about my zine making process: cut & paste and digital. Today I’m just going to go over the cut & paste process because it’s my favorite method and it’s a little more fun to talk about. Don’t worry, though; I’ll be sharing my digital method next week.

1. Starting in Word (Well, LibreOffice)

To start, I type up my pieces on the computer, making a Word/LibreOffice document with the pages set up to the size that I want. The first issue of Whatsername, for example, was half US letter (8.5″x5.5″), so that’s what I made my Word pages with about a quarter-inch margin. Older issues of One-Girl Bicycle Club were always a quarter US letter (4.25″x5.5″), so when I did those, I set up the Word document at that size with something between an eight and a quarter-inch margin.

From there, I type everything out, including the cover text at the very end of the document. This gives me a general idea of the page length my zine will end up with and how I’m going to lay out the pages when I get to the cutting and pasting.

When I have everything typed and have edited until my eyes are ready to bleed, I go ahead and print the Word document two pages to a sheet, which you can find in the print options box.

2. Images

In One-Girl Bicycle Club, I would take scrapbook paper and glue my paragraphs on top, then glue in the scrapbook paper onto my zine template, thus creating a little patterned border around my paragraphs. In Whatsername, I took a new approach, choosing photos on my computer and heavily editing them in Photoshop, boosting the contrast and applying filters (the Torn Edges and Half Tone being my favorites).

3. Cutting and Pasting

Once I’ve got everything printed, I get to jump into the fun, messy part: cutting and pasting.

The first step here is to create your template. I usually take however many sheets of paper I need to create the number of pages my zine will be (for example, a twelve-page, half-size zine–including covers–would take three sheets of paper) and fold them in the layout I’m going for, either in half or in quarters.

I always always always cut one essay at a time, otherwise I mix up the paragraphs without fail (and sometimes I even mix them up within the same piece). This is also where plenty of paper clips come in handy because I’ll cut out all the pages and paragraphs to one essay and clip them together, separate from the rest of the issue. With scraps of paper strewn about and glue inching its way across every surface, it’s already a messy project, so the more ways I can remain organized as I go the better.

Compared to the writing, this part is a breeze, especially if you’re like me and enjoy puzzles because it’s all about finding the best way to fit everything into your issue. This step usually takes me a day or two, depending on how motivated I’m feeling, and I almost always glue something to the wrong page at least once, which is why I highly recommend setting up a template before you begin rather than trying to remember exactly which page you’re working on.

4. Copying

Once you’ve got all your flats assembled, then you’re ready to take them to your copy shop of choice and start making copies. I usually do ten issues at a time because I don’t tend to run out very quickly, but that’s personal preference of course.
06.07.15 / zine flats
Like every other part of this process, when the time comes to make copies it feels like the most fun part because you get to play around with settings on the photocopier and choose fun colored sheets for your zine. The first issue of Whatsername is actually my first time using a colored sheet for my cover, and since I couldn’t decide between pastel pink or lilac, I went with both!
05.27.15 / whatsername #1
I use a long-arm stapler for my assembly, which is especially useful now that I’m doing half-size issues, because otherwise I would have to fold over the pages to reach the middle and that just doesn’t look great. It was about a $30 investment, but for how long I’ve been doing these and how long I plan to continue, it was more than worth it.

And there you have it! How I most often assemble my zines. Like I said, I’ll be sharing my digital method next week, which isn’t too different but uses only Word and Photoshop, rather than both and then printing–but you’ll see.

Any questions or suggestions? Anything that could be clearer or more detailed? Are you at all interested in making your own in this style now? If you already make zines, how do you go about it?

June 8, 2015
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  • Kay

    Nifty! I think I would favor cut and paste over digital as well. I just like the physical hands on approach more.

    • Sonya

      Agreed! And while it’s probably possible to get a similar look doing everything digitally, it’s still not quite the same.

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