Zines 101: My Digital Method

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Last week, I shared my cut and paste approach to making zines; this week, it’s all about digital, baby.

I know this would be vastly easier to do if I had InDesign, but alas, I am blessed only with LibreOffice and Photoshop CS4, so that’s how I currently assemble my literary zine, Wonderlust. It tends to be a larger project overall, so the easier I can make it by working entirely on the computer up until printing, the less of a headache I end up with at the end of everything.

1. Start in Word (Or, once again, LibreOffice in my case)

Like with my cut and paste zines, I set up the page size in my Word document using the Page Layout option and go from there, copying, pasting, typing, and arranging everything I’m including in the issue. I usually start with a rough table of contents because that can be copied and pasted between issues with only the names, titles, and numbers changing. This step is made up mainly of waiting for submissions to come in, followed by deciding what order to put them in and simply reflecting that within the Word document.

2. Set Up a Cover in Photoshop

When I’ve got a cover image selected for the issue, either from submissions or a photo of my own if I haven’t received any, I begin laying it out in Photoshop.

I’ll set up my file to 8.5″x11″ in landscape (at 300 dpi), that way I can see both sides of the cover (front and back) at the same time. I prefer to use landscape photos for the cover that way they wrap all the way around the back simply because I think it looks more appealing, but it’s always an option to print on only one half and have a portrait photo for your cover instead.

From there, I’ll drag down the little guide lines from the rulers and set them at one-eight of an inch on each edge because that’s usually where printers stop, as well as in the middle; all this to help make sure the cover text is centered as best as possible. Then I set up the image in the way I find looks the best within the guidelines, sometimes allowing a bit of overhang past the lines because the dimensions are a little funny, and it won’t hurt anyway.

Lastly, I lay in the text, which includes the title, issue number, and season/year. Rather than place this in the same spot each issue, I allow it to move around to whatever space looks best with that issue’s cover photo, otherwise it might cover up a part of the cover that you’d actually want showing.

3. Save for Printing

I literally work where I get my literary zine printed, so I know that the best way to save the files is as PDFs. Other places may have other preferences, but I think PDF is always your best bet if you’re digitally assembling a zine to be printed later on. Plus, PDFs are the most common files used for downloads in my experience, so if you’re looking to offer it as a download at some point or maybe upload it to Issuu (which I’ve been considering), you’re all set.

I know different programs have different methods for saving as a PDF, so I’d say poke around what you’re working with (or google it, of course) to learn that one.
04.13.15 / wonderlust lit zine issue two
Et voila! I have a beautifully printed literary zine to share with the world.

In a way, creating a zine digitally is a lot easier than the cut and paste approach: It’s not as messy, can be done while lounging on the couch rather than hunching over the floor or coffee table, and is far more organized to start with. Nonetheless, I much prefer the cut and paste method on an aesthetic level as well as a creative one. It makes sense to do Wonderlust digitally, but I don’t know if I’ll ever put my other zines together this same way.

Now that you’ve seen my two approaches, what do you think? Which is more appealing to you? Why?

June 15, 2015
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