Last semester I attended one library event and one library event only: Zine-making with William McHenry. When I entered the Loud Section on that fateful evening, I had no idea what a zine was, but I was intrigued by the notion of putting “writing or artwork into a pamphlet,” probably because I am about as much of an English major as you can get.
Anyway, I absolutely fell in love with zines, yet I didn’t have the materials (or the time) to pursue them further, so I decided to abandon them until they became more applicable to my daily routine, and, as luck would have it, the world shut down, distancing me from my normal hobbies and placing me in extreme proximity to my elementary art supplies.
So, before I get into what you need to make a zine, I’ll define what exactly a zine is. Basically, it’s a self-published booklet of art. Yes, that simple. There’s no qualification as to what type of art. There’s no regiment on the validity of its publication. Though historically, zines have been used to promote grassroots movements or independent artists, today you can find them on about anything (music reviews, self-care, infographics, comics… the list goes on).
So what do you need to make a zine?
The simple answer is paper and a writing utensil. Because, like I mentioned before, there are no real requirements for a valid zine, you could get away with writing a single word on a folded piece of paper and call it your masterwork, but I like to use my zines to tell a story or convey an aesthetic. Over the last month, I’ve put together a short list of art-zine essentials and helpful optional materials.
The nice thing about zines is that they are inexpensive. It’s likely you already have some art supplies left over from those extensive supply lists public schools just love handing out. You shouldn’t have to break quarantine to head to Michael’s if you’re resourceful. If you can’t find watercolors, use colored pencils. If you’re out of printer ink, cut pictures from magazines. The items below are the materials I personally can’t work without, but it’s likely that if you don’t have them you can either buy them for cheap or, even better, find a substitute.
1. Paper: Paper is non-negotiable. I use a standard letter sheet, but you could dig up construction paper, old poster boards, or even use cardboard from the boxes you have piling up because we have been restricted to online shopping.
2.Scissors: To make an A5 zine (a pretty standard size), you will need some sort of cutting implement. I also use my scissors to clean up my edges and cut from found materials
3.As many coloring materials as possible: Think markers, colored pencils, gel pens, and paint. Right now I use my watercolors the most frequently, though I’ve been venturing farther into marker territory, and my gel pens are great for when I want a word to stand out. Colors are useful to create aesthetic backgrounds, outlines, and, of course, create images.
4.Found materials: Found materials are a zinester’s best friend. I’ve been rummaging through my mother’s junk mail and stealing all sorts of things. You know those charity organizations that send you stationary? I’ve cut up the prints and pasted them onto my pages. If you were anything like me as a kid, you probably have a massive reserve of stickers that you never used—toss them into your kit. Models from magazines make beautiful additions to your pages, and pressed flowers always add to a soft aesthetic. You can even use wrapping paper or scraps of fabric (I took advantage of a square of denim left over from my mom’s adventures in cut-off jeans). The opportunities are endless.
5.Adhesive: If you are going to use found materials, you will need some way to keep them in your zine. I alternate between glue sticks and liquid school glue, but many artists opt for double-sided tape because of its clean finish.
6.Pens: If you are going to spend money on anything in this process, I would suggest investing in a set of nice art pens which do not bleed (I wholeheartedly endorse Micron). That being said, you can use the same ball points you use for your homework, you just have to make sure to give the ink some time to dry before you erase around it or close the booklet.
Now, I’m including a few additional materials that are in no way necessary but have helped me to no end. The best part is, you probably already have them:
1.Hair dryer: If you use watercolors as often as I do, you know how egregious it can be to wait for them to dry before layering. Sometimes, the process can take so long that you lose your initial inspiration. My hair dryer has become my secret weapon, and I use it for everything—drying paint, setting gel pens, speeding up glue, etc…
2.Ruler: A ruler is nice for straight lines, plus you can use it to center your words or crease your paper more effectively.
3.Stamps: Rubber and silicone stamps are a nice way to include pictures without taking up a ton of time. Ink pads were actually what I chose to spend my money on because my mother happens to have a series of gorgeous ocean and garden stamps. They’re entirely unnecessary, but fun.
4.Now that you have your materials, we can actually get to basic zine creation. So far, I’ve only created A5 zines because they are quick, easy, and forgiving (they put a layer between each page, so your color has a hard time bleeding through). It’s also nice that they only take one sheet of paper.
Take an 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper and fold it into eighths following the lines below.
Fold it along the vertical center line and get your scissors.
Cut along the center line from the fold to the crease.
Lay the paper flat again, then fold it along the horizontal center line.
Open the hole in the center then press the edges of the paper toward the center.
Fold one segment over and you have your first zine!
Elise Kelly. Elise Kelly is a sophomore at Simon's Rock and The Weekly Cad's President and Director of Creative Publications.