Between thought and expression (black & white, stapled and folded)
March 7, 2006 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Getting a zine printed. Have you any experience with this?

Having settled on a page size, I'm wondering which file types a printshop will be able to go directly to print with. If PDF is an acceptable format, which design program is best to use: Acrobat Pro, iWork Pages, Ragtime Solo, something else?

Much of the information currently online explaining the steps to getting a zine printed has aged a few years. Software in 2006 is different than it was in 1998.

Any comments about the pros and methods of a more hands-on approach would also be welcome. i.e. paper, scissors, glue, photocopy machines, long-arm staplers...
posted by airguitar to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should pick a printstop and then ask them what kind of files they want. Different shops require different things.

Acrobat Pro is NOT a design program, i.e. you can't create anything with, merely edit and masage already made PDFs. I've heard good things about Ragtime, but never used it.

A more hands on approach is more fun and actually gives you a tactile sense of building something. But really, it's whatever you prefer.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:09 PM on March 7, 2006

Any comments about the pros and methods of a more hands-on approach would also be welcome. i.e. paper, scissors, glue, photocopy machines, long-arm staplers...

I was under the impression that low-tech, or at least sub-professional printing, was a requirement.

Perhaps what you are making is more of a "magazine," "journal," or "newsletter."
posted by jtron at 7:21 PM on March 7, 2006

My experience with printing zines was writing them in Word, cutting the paragraphs out with exacto knives, pasting with glue stick and then spending long nights after-hours at my Dad's work clandestinely photocopying hundreds of copies.

Not to say that's the best way to go about doing it.
posted by Brittanie at 7:25 PM on March 7, 2006

Contrary to popular belief, zines don't HAVE to be constructed by cut'n'paste. More power to you if that's how you want to do it, and definitely the cut'n'paste aesthetic is fun and cool, but nay to all those who would demand you use glue sticks, scissors and sharpies before proclaiming your product a "zine." The one exception to this would be the long-arm stapler, which is unavoidable (and actually kinda cool to have around).

Well, almost unavoidable: a neat trick I learned was to have a cardboard box around when you're stapling if you don't have a long-arm. Collate the pages, flip upside-down, place unfolded pages on top of the box. Then staple where the fold is, into the box, as if you were tacking a poster to corkboard. Remove pages from the box, fold staple arms in. Voila: a stapled zine without the use of a long-arm stapler. I don't recommend this method if you're producing a lot of zines, though.

PDFs are the easiest way to go. Depending on your tastes, you could us a page layout program like Quark, InDesign or Pagemaker (which are generally used for professional-quality layouts, though they can do messy) or hardcore graphics programs like Photoshop (if you enjoy that sort of thing). The only reason I even mention Photoshop as a layout program in this context is that you probably don't care about things like vector font reproduction, low file sizes or doing it "the proper way" if you're making a zine. If you really were making a magazine, I'd point you straight to Quark.
posted by chrominance at 7:34 PM on March 7, 2006

(actually, I'd point you straight to InDesign, as it's a much better program. It's just force of habit telling me to suggest Quark. Use InDesign instead.)
posted by chrominance at 7:35 PM on March 7, 2006

Friend of a friend's website about zines has this tutorial-ish thing about cut-and-pasting.

As far as I know from the zinesters I'm associated with, you can't go wrong with just photocopying and stapling. Then there's people who custom-craft each zine so it's like a beautiful little present. Then there's small press/vanity press stuff that's more like a "real" book. And everything inbetween. This guy has a hundred index cards.

So... you can do whatever you want. Maybe look at a ton of zines and figure out what you want yours to look like, then deal with the particulars? If you want to lay it out on a computer, then I would second the InDesign recommendation. But there's nothing stopping you from using Notepad, either. Or a Sharpie on coctail napkins, for that matter.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 7:41 PM on March 7, 2006

Have you actually gotten a quote from the printer? For most zines, printing is a waste of money. By "waste of money," I mean that you're most likely not going to recoup those losses through ads, sales, or subscriptions, and the amount can get really big in a real hurry. I've printed zines in variety of formats, sizes, paper styles, offset/copy shop/newsprint etc, and I think the best return on investment has been going through a copy shop even though it's not as "nice" as a printed product. Your cost is minimal, set-up time is minimal, the only thing you have to worry about is your human envoy between what you want and what you get, which you have to worry about no matter which way you do it ... unless you want to start carving screeds in potatoes. #1 tip: be there when the stuff starts flying out the back end. You don't want to walk in the next morning and the guy gives you 5000 screwed-up copies of your baby (this has happened to me in every format at least once).

If you really want to print it, I suggest trying to build up to it -- getting enough advertising/sales/subscribers to the point where you're not getting hammered by the printing cost. This is difficult.

Page layout: Thirding InDesign.

Special copy shop tip: They can't keep their margins locked, even on the big boys like the Xerox [Big Number here ... 9130?]. You will want to have them print it, because the quality is better, but use at least a half-inch margin all the way around (if you're not trying to bleed, which is probably going to look ugly off a copier anyway). Do some tests beforehand, just so you get an idea of what kind of finished product you'll be getting.
posted by user92371 at 7:49 PM on March 7, 2006

PDFs. InDesign. How big of a print run are you thinking about? They're often pretty costly.
As far as Xerox, my advice is to find a friend who works in an office that won't notice people staying late. Or, if you go to a Kinko's, find one that's open late and uses the key-counters (not the key cards). When you're done making your massive run, whirl the counter around a couple of times. It'll set the counter to, like, 999999, and you can tell the folks that you only made about half as many pages as you actually did.
(Alternately, you can make friends with the person who runs the Docutech, and whip 'em out there in a second. They can get a little pricey, but it's a lot of labor saved for a modest couple hundred copy run).
posted by klangklangston at 8:01 PM on March 7, 2006

I still prefer Quark, but perhaps just because I am more familiar with it. InDesign is pretty straighforward, though.

I have yet to go to a printer that couldn't easily handle a PDF.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:24 PM on March 7, 2006

If you use quark, be aware that pantone black is not true black. I had to correct this 1,000,000,003 times when I was troubleshooting at Kinko's.
posted by klangklangston at 9:10 PM on March 7, 2006

You might consider joining the Small Publisher's Co-Op and job-lot your printing, though this will require you to pay shipping from Florida to you and/or your distributors.

Maybe my pet printer is screwy, but he lets me give him physical print outs, from which he shoots film, and charges me $5 less per page than if he had to do outputs from a digital file. I've found that by handing him laser printed copies, the quality is quite reasonable, and I like knowing that the pages look exactly how I expect them to look.
posted by Scram at 9:46 PM on March 7, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everybody. The first run should be short. Maybe 100 copies on the Xerox. When it gets complicated I'll move to InDesign and a crafty printer.
posted by airguitar at 6:43 AM on March 8, 2006

in my day we just used a photocopier and a stapler..
posted by petsounds at 7:27 AM on March 8, 2006

In my day we used the office photocopier and a stapler.
posted by Hogshead at 8:09 AM on March 8, 2006

If it's a short run, definitely go with the old typewriter, scissors 'n' glue option, especially if you're making the fanzine with friends - drunkenly putting it all together can be the best bit of the whole process. Also, if you accept money orders for a subscription to your fanzine from lots of Japanese schoolgirls (they will be your biggest, and only, fans, in my experience), do remember to pay them back when you get bored of doing the fanzine after five issues, else face overwhelming guilt every time you see the word 'fanzine', even a decade on.
posted by jack_mo at 4:55 PM on March 8, 2006

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