Making a Zine: The Who, What, Where, Why & How of Zine Creation

Posted on November 8, 2022 at 6:00 am

By Abra Cole

What Is a Zine?

Zine (pronounced “zeen”) is short for magazine or fanzine. A zine is a publication that is not professionally published and not officially related to any brand, series, or company.

Fanzines started in the 1930s as science fiction enthusiasts wrote and published their ideas about the topic to share with fellow enthusiasts. Since that time, zines have evolved into platforms for sharing thoughts, ideas, and creative endeavors about a wide variety of topics.

While there is no official definition of what a zine has to be, most zine creators agree that they are typically self-published and have a limited production run.

In the 1990s, zines grew popular as a method for marginalized populations to share their perspectives. Counterculture zines, feminist zines, anti-racism zines, LGBTQIA zines, and others have arisen from the world of zine making over the decades since the 90s and are still among some of the most well-known zines available today.

In fact, zines may be making a comeback now as a result of DIY learning tools in classrooms and online.

What Can Go in a Zine?

Zines can be on any subject, use any medium, be any size, and be nearly any length (8 to 92 pages seems to be the norm). Zines can be:

  • Endlessly adaptable, informative, artsy, and/or silly
  • Colorful or black and white
  • Full of poetry and/or prose
  • Dense or brief
  • Short or long

There are zines that tackle big topics such as feminist theory, sexual assault, racism, and mental health issues, and others that focus more narrowly on content, such as bicycle repair, meal preparation, or even how write a zine.

Of course, all topics won’t appeal to all people. Zines are a platform for free speech, personal narrative, artistic expression, and activism.

Some Zine Examples

Here are a few places to start browsing zines online:

To see zines in person in the Spokane area, you can visit:  

If you know of other zine library locations in the Spokane area, let me know in the comments.

You can view 90s zine pioneer Pagan Kennedy’s “Pagan’s Head” series, which has been republished into the book ‘Zine, available as an eBook in our Overdrive collection and on the Libby app.

Anyone can make a zine, so the zine community includes representatives from many and varied perspectives. These experiences help others know that they aren’t alone in their beliefs, viewpoints, or experiences.

Mary Jo Godwin, librarian and editor, said that “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.” This also applies to zine libraries. Just like with book in a library, if you don’t like a zine, you can always find another one to read and explore.

Making a Zine & the Materials Needed

The library has resources to help you make a zine. Here are two titles that can provide inspiration and help you get started:

Our digital resource Creativebug is the go-to place for online crafting and art classes, and it just so happens that you can view the class: How to Make Zines. The class is just over an hour long and split into five video sessions. You’ll learn how to:

  • Create four different single-page book structures
  • Create single signature zines using folded 8 ½” x 11” sheets and a 3-hole pamphlet stitch
  • Add artwork and create content within your single-page zines
  • Reproduce zines on a photocopier

This might be a good time to mention that you can get free photocopies of up to 80 pages per week at our libraries with your library card. If you need help with this, be sure to stop by the service desk.

Spokane Print & Publishing Center offers classes on skills that could be applied to zine creating, such as letterpress and relief printing.

Zines come in a variety of materials, shapes, and sizes. The binding for zines can vary. You can use a stapler, a needle and thread, glue, or a simple accordion fold.

To get started, basic supplies include paper, pencils, scissors, and a sharpie. If you want to get fancy, you can use a self-healing mat and a utility knife to precisely cut out words or pictures to be glued to the pages. You might also use digital design software on your computer to create the effects you seek.

The Studio at Spokane Valley Library and The Lab at North Spokane Library both have laptops with Adobe Creative Cloud software that you can reserve with your library card to use while in the libraries. Adobe Creative Cloud includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and other software programs that can be used to digitally design a zine.

To learn how to use the digital design software, you can take an online class from resources found in our Digital Library, including LinkedIn Learning and Udemy.

Zine Topic Ideas

Publishing your own zine requires no special credentials, no particular experience or knowledge is necessary. You can zine alone or with friends, on any subject that inspires.

If you aren’t certain what your zine should be about, consider the things that interest you and are important to you. Do you write poetry? Are you passionate about photography? Consider documenting your life’s story. Or make up a silly story.

If writing isn’t your thing, you can create a wordless zine comprised entirely of drawings, paintings, and digital art. Or create a mix of art and a few words by drawing a short graphic novel.

If drawing isn’t something you want to do and you still want to zine (it’s a verb too!), grab some old magazines, and start cutting and collaging. Collage techniques can be used to create zines that have varied looks depending on how the pieces are shaped and put together on the page.

Instead of writing about what you know, your zine could be about something you would like to learn more about. Creating a zine can be an expedition into the unknown.

When exploring, your zine should include any sources you’re quoting. The short video “Zine Presentation,” by Violet Victoria on YouTube, you can see a brief example of a references page (also called a sources or citations page) for her zine.

Still stuck for ideas? Try a zine writing prompt from the Zine Librarians Interest Group to see if they kickstart your zine writing journey or inspire an associated idea.

You might also try this zine idea generator for some off-the-wall ideas.

Submit Your Zine to a Contest

The 8th Annual Washington State Zine Contest, presented by The Washington Center for the Book, is just around the corner. The prizes are awarded by age and anyone at any age—kids, teens, and adults—can send in their submission. You have until February 23, 2023, to get your entries completed and submitted.

Abra Cole works as a Public Services Specialist at Spokane County Library District. She enjoys hearing about your latest favorite reads, talking about how your garden is growing, and helping you to solve your most challenging technological troubles, including the use of the library’s 3D printer and Project Memory equipment. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, expanding her fiber arts skills, and hanging out in the woods with her family.

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