Zine Making/Writing the pages
To some extent the way you write your pages depends on what you're doing. If it's a zine of your hand-drawn cartoons then your best option is to hand-draw some cartoons. If it's an art zine then the appearance is going to be defined by what you're trying to achieve artistically. And so on. But here are some things to bear in mind:
- For most copying purposes, colour is much more expensive than black-and-white (for photocopying, printing, etc). That's why most zines are in black and white. There are lots of things you can do to add a bit of colour, such as using coloured paper/card for the cover, or including one or two full-colour sheets in your zine (rather than the whole lot; it depends on your production method whether you can do this), or adding some colour after the zines have been produced.
- If you're going to use a photocopier or a computer printer to print the pages, you'll probably find they don't print all the way to the edges of the paper, so you should probably experiment a little bit and make sure you don't go all the way to the edge on your "master copy".
- Especially if photocopying, you'll probably find that subtleties of lightness and darkness won't come out very well. Stark black-and-white will photocopy most clearly.
- If you have access to a scanner, try scanning the master copy to a computer instead of photocopying. Benefits include the ability to see exactly how the printouts will look, and the ability to make adjustments, without having to use paper and ink.
Hand-written / hand-drawn things can be brilliant.
- Remember the point above about being able to copy it - if you photocopy something done with pencil on paper, often it comes out really faint. Biro (disposable ballpoint pen) can come out faint too. You can fiddle with the photocopier's brightness settings to make it clearer, or if you can scan it into a computer you can make it come out much clearer and have a lot more control over it. Alternatively, just trace over the pencil lines with a dark pen. You might not like the way the lines can look doubled-up, but often the photocopier pretty much loses the pencil lines altogether and the end result looks pretty good.
Typewriters are great and can make good-looking text that's not as boring as printed-out text from a computer, yet more legible than handwriting... but typewriters are becoming rarer and rarer these days so for many people they might not be available. However you can get a typewriter on eBay for pretty cheap, also check garage sales and thrift stores or even ask friends or relatives who have updated to computers.
OK, so computers are capable of quite a lot, and we can't possibly cover all of it here. You can type/draw things directly using your computer, you can add photos from your camera/phone/etc, you can scan drawings/writings/etc in.
- If your zine is really quite text-based then a full word-processor like Apple iWork Pages, LibreOffice Writer, Google Docs, Microsoft Word or AbiWord can be fine.
- If you want to make your zine look pretty and have things laid out interestingly then a word-processor gets a bit limiting and it's difficult to stop things looking a bit samey, so you might find it better to just use a graphics program. Alternatively you can write your text, then print it out and then use cut-and-paste or whatever to organise/decorate the text more interestingly.
- In most word processors you can use the columns feature to help arrange things. For example, use the page setup to set the pages as landscape, then use the "columns" options to specify that there should be two columns on each page. Hey presto, you now have a layout that can easily be typed and then folded to make the standard codex (book-like) folded zine.
- If you're going to be scanning and printing a lot, then a good graphics program is helpful. (The "paint" software that comes with your computer can be a bit frustrating!) Commercial programs like Photoshop and Paintshop Pro are well-known and they're very good. If you can't afford those, or even if you can, you should definitely check out the free and open-source equivalent, which is a piece of software called GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). Despite the weird name, it's a full-featured and very good piece of software, and you're very likely to be able to do everything you want to do with it. Inkscape is also good, especially for vector graphics.
- For desktop publishing software Scribus is free too.
- LaTeX, a piece of Free software used for professional type setting, particularly in the maths and sciences, is another possibility.
Cut and paste
A lot of zine-making involves cutting and pasting, to compile your images and/or words. People also use it to incorporate things from other sources.
We're not going to consider anything about the legal/moral/political dimensions of making cut-and-paste works out of other people's stuff here. It can look brilliant; but at the same time if you're just taking someone else's work and dropping it into your own zine then you haven't really done anything.
Practically, remember the thing about contrast if you're going to be making copies. Also remember that if you're cutting-and-pasting from glossy paper (such as magazines) then it can sometimes photocopy really badly because the gloss on the paper just shines when it gets in the photocopier, and you end up with a bright white thing instead of your desired image (at least partially).
If you've cut and pasted your stuff all together then it can be very helpful to photocopy it to get a kind of "master copy" that doesn't have bits everywhere.
Photos rarely photocopy nicely. Choose ones with lots of contrasts, not too much detail (e.g. a face rather than a crowd of people) and that aren't too dark. If you can, you can probably improve results by scanning a photo, adjusting it (fiddle with the brightness, increase the contrast), and printing it back out again.
I've seen some really good zines that make use of sewing, cross-stitch, and crafty things like that. If you're going to be photocopying or something like that, then you can still do crafty things like this, as they can often come out quite well when copied (you'll need to have good colour contrasts though). If you're going to hand-make the crafty bits on each copy then of course you have more freedom and can make perhaps more exciting items, but of course you need dedication...