Zines! How to Make a Revolutionary Piece of Literature on the Cheap
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Zines! How to Make a Revolutionary Piece of Literature on the Cheap

Stories/30 , Issues/Arts & Culture
Sydney NSW, Australia
17th Jun 2017
Zines! How to Make a Revolutionary Piece of Literature on the Cheap
Learn how to make a (revolutionary) zine on the cheap with zine-maker extraordinaire Joel.

Hey you! Yes, you! Do you want to change the world for the better but feel politically disempowered? Do you want to make protest art but lack the artistic talent? Do you dream of making revolutionary manifestos but don't have the time or the money? Well, luckily I have the perfect solution for you. Why don't you go and make a zine? 

Zines are independent publications that are often made in a non-professional settings. They are miniature magazines that are made on bedroom floors, kitchen counters and in drunken afternoons. They were first invented in the 1930s by science-fiction fans as a way of making their community more cohesive. However, the medium really took off in the 1970’s when the punk movement smashed heads with the accessibility of printing technology.

What attracted the punks to making zines was their inexpensive manufacturing costs and their lack of professional oversight. Other fringe communities started noticing that zines allowed them to express their ideas without censorship. Zines as a form of art activism skyrocketed and for the last thirty-plus years, they have been a backbone for feminist, LGBTQI+, and other subversive communities.

I have been making zines for the last six years and am a key contributor to both the UOW Lit Soc Zine and the Ugly Pineapple.  I also teach classes on how to make zines at both Shopfront and South Coast Writers Center. Now that we have got my qualifications out of the way, let ME teach YOU how to make a smashing zine of your own. 

Instructions on how to make a one page zine/poster

Materials Needed:

  • One black piece of A4 paper.
  • A sexy felt-tip pen.
  • A ruler.
  • Scalpel knife.
  • Something to cut one, a chopping board or a crappy table will do.
  • Some type of printer/scanner.
  • Old magazines, if you're feeling fancy.
  • If you have old magazines make sure you have a glue stick close to you.

STEP ONE - Divide your page into eights.

Get your ruler and pen and lay your paper in a landscape fashion. Measure a line that goes halfway through the paper. Don’t mess this bit up. Otherwise, when you fold your zine people will see your wonky line. Unless that’s the too-cool aesthetic you’re going for. I don’t know. I am not your mother. 

Now put a tiny dot halfway at the top or bottom of the page’s height. This mark should be 148.5mm across your page. Now draw a line going down. Repeat at the 74.25mm mark and the 222.75mm mark.

STEP TWO - Number your pages.

Now turning one piece of paper into an 8-page zine means that your page numbers will be in an illogical order. But they are vital for tracking what goes where. So just follow what’s on the photo. And if you can’t see what is on the photograph: get better Internet.

STEP 3- Make a fresh hot front cover!

Now, the secret to a great zine cover is visuals, a grabbing title, and a DIY vibe that distinguishes you from the Watchtower. Now visuals: your visuals don’t have to be flashy, they just have to exist. The worse the drawing, the better. And your title can be literally whatever you like. Make it unhinged, insane and something that a magazine will never publish. With zines there is no oversight, there is no censorship.

Oh, and how do you get that DIY, punk rock vibe? Don’t worry about that. That will come naturally… That will come naturally when you accidentally spill your tea on it.


STEP FOUR - Fill in the rest!

Well? What are you waiting for? Get going! Draw! Draw and write to your heart’s content. I recommend a mix between drawings and medium sized text. Don’t write too much, too small. You don’t want to strain the eyes of your potential revolutionary comrades.    

HOT TIP: Make sure to mention somewhere in your zine that it folds out into a poster. Otherwise, your artwork may never be discovered.

STEP FIVE - Flip that page and make a poster!

Now, here is where having some old magazines will really come in handy. It’s not essential to the process but making a collage poster will certainly make things easier. Firstly, it harps that punk DIY vibes in a really cool way. Secondly, if you have zero artistic talent other people’s pictures will adequately hide this fact. And finally, it makes the process so much quicker. Just find a big picture, whack it in the middle and bam. You’re done. You’ve arted. Congrats. Not to say that you can’t make one with just a felt-tip pen. But if that’s the case just make sure you have a lazy Sunday afternoon and a beer with you.

Here is what I came up with…

STEP SIX - Print that shit!

Now, it is time to go Officeworks. Or your parents. Or your richie rich friend. Whatever, doesn’t matter. Scan your zine front and back and turn it into a single PDF. Get it printed as many times as you please.


STEP SEVEN - Fold your zine along each line.

But make sure you unfold before folding the next one. You feel me? 

STEP EIGHT - Making the incision.

Place your zine on a surface that can be cut. Place your ruler along your height line. Take your scalpel and make an incision along the middle 148.5mm of your page.

STEP NINE - You can't really explain this step with words.

See what I mean? 

STEP TEN - Fold it into a zine-like shape.

STEP ELEVEN - You have a zine!

Dance with your pants off. Have an Oreo. Seriously mate, congratulations, you've earned it.

STEP TWELVE - Distribute your material

Zines are not a medium destined to live forever underneath your bed or in your kitchen drawer. They are meant to have readers. So go and distribute them. Drop some off at your local library, or leave some outside a church. Throw them into waiting rooms, restaurants, and strip clubs. Confetti them on the street until you get a ticket for littering. Legitimately though, please do this step. It will probably be the most fun you will have all week.

Joel Burrows is an artist, journalist and a professional zine-maker. If you enjoyed this article and want to support Joel in his efforts of avoiding real work, consider picking up a copy of his zine. It’s called the The Ugly Pineapple and you can find a copy of it here.

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