How to print a zine in 2021
May 18, 2021 1:59 PM   Subscribe

I want to print a zine. Assume the content is all sorted out (text, drawn images, maybe photos) but still needs laying out. Likely to be B&W. The last time I did anything like this was for the college newspaper, where we designed everything in Quark Express and got it printed at a local facility, so definitely a bit rusty. What's the best way to get this project off the ground? What is the current state of the art for making a zine at home nowadays? What hardware/software and printing options do people typically utilize?

Should I find the best free equivalent of Quark (any recs?), design it there, and then get it printed at a FedEx store? Do people still use copy machines or mimeographs? (Apparently those are very expensive, but they look fun to use one.) Are there any good recent books on how to make a zine that you'd recommend? I read this story and it would be very cool to duplicate the feel and print of Gidra. I'm happy to spend some money to make this a reality.
posted by miltthetank to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:20 PM on May 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Scribus is a cross-platform open source DTP application. I haven't personally used it in mumble years, but I did use it extensively (as a hobbyist, for what essentially qualified as a zine) in the past and it was already usable then, if a little rough around the edges. I think it's a much more mature project today.

For image pre-processing you can use some combination of the GIMP and Inkscape. A specific suggestion I have for scanned B&W line art is to clean it up in the GIMP while it's a bitmap (remove smudges and speckles, correct levels, etc.), then import into Inkscape and play with the "trace bitmap" function to obtain vector art which will print crisply at a high resolution. (Crisp doesn't mean smooth; you can preserve a lot of original drawn detail while avoiding pixelation.)

It is possible at this point to use LaTeX frames in Scribus, if that is your jam (it may not be appropriate for this kind of aesthetic, but it is a thing you can do!).

From Scribus you export / print to a PDF file -- with individual pages in the normal order.

The actual printing I would still do at a favourite local print shop (one that can print to the appropriate page size and ideally fold and staple everything for you). The print shop should be able to take your original PDF document and do the correct 2-upping in booklet order; that's a standard feature of pro printing software, so you shouldn't have to mess around with it yourself.

I highly recommend doing a test print on a cheap paper size -- there are some image issues you can only pick up in print, like a gray backround that you forgot to clear to white, or a too-low resolution.
posted by confluency at 2:21 PM on May 18, 2021

It’s not free, but Affinity Publisher is a tiny fraction of the cost of Quark or InDesign, and it’s a one-time fee, not a subscription. It just might be worth the investment.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 2:27 PM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

My friend runs a Riso zine making workshop — might be worth looking into! Here’s a link for the upcoming session...
posted by actionpact at 3:01 PM on May 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Ok it’sa little out there but me and my kids have had so much fun laying out zines in the Electric Zine Maker. Amazing Retro feel and surprisingly good for quick layouts. I use indesign for work and if you are doing serious stuff where the text needs proofing, templates blah blah sure, consider a monthly Adobe subscription after the trial as a reasonable investment. But for sheer fun and cool creativity, EZM is so good.

Also if you are only printing a couple of dozen copies and thinking of doing this regularly, it may be more flexible to just get a colour laser printer at home. For a large print run, a local copy shop is great but small frequent runs can be pricer. Not applicable if you need to print to A3 folded into A4, because A3 home printers are crazy ex, but A5 is good at home and you just need a long arm stapler.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:52 PM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Julia Evans has some tips on zine making from her blog: How to write zines with simple tools.

Most of her zines are digital, but she has some cool ideas and tips on zine making.
posted by ralan at 7:17 PM on May 18, 2021

Another vote for Affinity Publisher. It goes on sale often, and is capable of doing fully professional design and layout. Unless you are publishing a 600-page issue of Vogue Magazine, you will never need anything else.

As for the printing, I will also second a laser printer and home production for anything up to a hundred copies. And you could easily do more, but that's where I would personally pay for a copy shop to do it.

I've been having a ton of fun printing pamphlets and chapbooks at home and then saddle stitching them during the pandemic. I got started with this very simple tutorial, and it's really all you need. Although if you catch the bookbinding bug then you'll probably want to move on to a good YouTube channel like DAS Bookbinding.

Saddle stitching by hand doesn't take anything special besides waxed thread-- everything else can be improvised. Use a thumbtack for an awl and a piece of cardboard as a healing mat, and you probably already have a needle, or they cost just pennies to buy. Alternately, there are also tutorials for hand forming staples to do a saddle binding, or a home quality saddle stapler can be had for not too much money.

Whatever you do, have fun with it!
posted by seasparrow at 8:49 PM on May 18, 2021

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