Single-sheet zine designs – basics

Single sheet zines - step oneThere are as many ways to create, modify & embellish a single-sheet zine as there are artists!

Here’s a very simple way to create one:

1. Take any white sheet of paper.  Pull one out of your desktop printer, or rip one out of a notebook.  (Think of the lines as pinstripes!)

2. Fold the paper in half.  Most people fold it so it becomes a four-page zine, with each page being 8.5″ tall and 5.5″ wide, but anything’s possible!

Single sheet zines - how to make them
3. Write and draw (and create other art) on each page, until it’s full.  (Alternative: Create your zine, digitally, and then print it.)

Single sheet zines - the layout and design4. Flatten the sheet so you can photocopy (or scan) it.

5. Print copies, two-sided (back to back), and fold them.  (Optional: Embellish by hand.)

6. Mail copies of your zines, sell them (at your site or Etsy, for example) or give them to others, sharing your ideas and artwork!

Single sheet zines - print and share
(If you live in a city, especially one with a student neighborhood, go hand some zines out and watch people blink in amazement.  They’re used to advertising flyers, etc., not actual gifts of art & inspiration.)

If you want to make and share zines, this is one of the simplest ways to make them!

Single-sheet zines – Expanded

Single-sheet zines can be easy or complex.  In my earlier article, Single-sheet Zine Design – Basics, I showed one of the simpler ways to create a zine.

Now, let’s talk about a more complex approach… that still uses a single sheet of paper.

But first, a little history:

In 1977, I published my first zine. It was one piece of paper, photocopied, folded, and sent out with someone’s name & address written on the outside, with a stamp.

In time, I graduated to two or three sheets of paper, and I started embellishing my zines with rubber stamps and glitter. Each one was hand-decorated.

Then, I began experimenting with artistamps (faux postage that I created for my imaginary country) and other forms of mailart.

Since then, I’ve tried nearly every possible zine format, from paper to fabric to zines-on-CDs to… well, lots of stuff.

So, if you have a question about zines, I can probably answer it or point you in the direction of someone else who can.

From what I’ve seen, the majority of people who swap or sell zines take a bunch of letter-sized printed pages (8 1/2″ x 11″) and fold them in half. Each sheet of paper is four pages of the zine.

Here’s how a single-sheet zine would look:

Single sheet zines - the layout and design

See? This can be really easy!

You can print a free zine — a variation of the single-page zine — at Free Zine #1.  (Warning: I wrote that around 2002, and included several topics that were popular/trendy at the time.  If the mention of Feng Shui offends you, skip that link.)

An average zine (major oxymoron!) is five to 15 sheets of paper, meaning 20 to 60 pages.

In swaps, most zines are at the small end of that figure.  Many of them are just a sheet or two of paper, printed (and sometimes cut) and folded/stapled to make a zine.

Once you’ve made a few classic, single-sheet zines, you may want to try something more complex.

If you’re a purist, you’ll love this. If you’re on a budget, you’ll also love this: It’s a 16-page zine created with one sheet of legal-sized paper, period.

I don’t count the cover as a “page” when I number my zine pages, so my own version of this is 12 pages plus an outside cover & inside covers. Here’s how it fits on the paper:

16-page zine

Cut on the solid lines and fold on the dotted lines.

Staple in the center. One staple is usually enough.

One stamp on the envelope is enough to mail one of these zines.  (You can tuck them in with your bill payments, with your notes to friends, with your swaps, with your orders to catalogues, and so on!)

You can also scan your zine, uncut, and put it online so others can print their own copy, cut & assemble it. Easy!

This zine won’t hold much info unless you write small enough for a magnifying glass, or you find clever ways to expand the available space, such as adding fold-out pages & stuff.

However, this 16-pages-from-one-sheet-of-legal-paper is generally regarded as the classic zine, if we’re talking all kinds of zines, including poetry, fanzines, perzines (personal zines), and so on.

There are many other ways to make zines. Look at books about making handmade books, for the best inspiration. The concept is the same, but zines are usually smaller & more informal, that’s all.

If you want to create a zine that’s a work of art, that’s fine. If you want to get wild & crazy with design, have fun with it!

Remember that a zine can be one piece of paper, b&w, printed on both sides, and folded in half. That’s a four-page zine.  I have several in my collection, and I think some of the simpler ones are better than a few larger ones I’ve seen.

So, put your art & soul into your zine, and don’t worry about the size or technical stuff.  I love almost every zine I see; size and expertise often have nothing to do with how enthusiastic I am about a zine!

If you’ve wanted to create a zine for fun, just do it!

Give them to friends.  Sell them (at your website or Etsy, for example).  Hand them out on the street or at school.

Or, you can join a zine swap or launch your own, on- or offline.  They can be tremendous!

In addition, if you swap, you’ll receive fabulous zines that you might never see if you hadn’t swapped.

Zine-related links (at other people’s websites – they open in a new window)

Zines101.pdf – Some basics and suggestions, not just about art zines.

Wikipedia: Zines – So much information, it’ll make your eyes glaze over or your pulse race… or both.

Zine Resources – from Underground Press.  Useful & worth bookmarking or sharing.