How to make a zine: a beginner’s guide to getting started

Zines are self-published, small-circulation magazines or booklets that let creators communicate their opinions and concepts without the restrictions of more conventional publishing outlets. And if you want to learn how to make a zine yourself, this guide will equip you with the tools and know-how to go from idea to print. 

The free reign of zines allows for untethered creativity and unrestricted delivery of theories—making it a common medium for nonconformist countercultures and alternative communities. But today’s zines have taken new shape beyond yesteryear’s handwritten, photo-copied publications. They’re now an elevated art form that creatives make their own, whether mutual aid collectives or established artists. 

In this guide, we’ll explore everything from the origins of zines to practical steps to make one.

What is a “zine?”

A zine, short for “magazine” or “fanzine,” is a self-published print work, typically produced in small batches, featuring original content in a structure that may be journalistic, narrative, comic-like, or completely abstract.

Historically created and bound through various DIY methods, anyone can craft a zine with a sharpie and a photocopier. But today’s new-age zines are taking the shape of physical and digital forms, including online websites, Instagram accounts, and the classic typewriter handouts. They can cover a wide spectrum of topics, ranging from art, music, photography, social and political issues, sexuality, literature, personal memoirs, and much more.

The beauty of zines centers on a lack of rules. In addition to the subject matter, the zine’s content may be handwritten, typed, collaged, printed, or in any way that combines words and imagery. They’re typically small-circulation booklets reproduced via photocopier, but newer technologies have made it possible to create and publish zines online and distribute them digitally.

Zines are generally not intended for profit but rather to create and share ideas. While the early rise of the internet diminished its popularity, zine culture is now alive and thriving as it returns to the mainstream. But unlike before, the distribution of zines has taken new shapes through social platforms like Instagram and print-on-demand technology. 

A brief history of the zine

Zines originated in the science fiction fandoms of the 1930s, taking their name from fanzine, which is short for “fan magazine.” The first of its kind was called The Comet, an alternative publication by the Science Correspondence Club in Chicago which catapulted a trend of science fiction zines created by fans.

Since then, zines have become an enormous part of underground, non-commercial publications, usually focused on areas of activism or niche interests. They were a common format used to promote punk music in the 1970s, when the genre received very little interest from more prominent music publications.

Notable historical examples of zines include:

  • Sniffin’ Glue: A vessel for UK’s punk scene in the 1970s, Sniffin’ Glue was a zine inspired by the Ramones song “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.” It was roughly written and organized but struck a chord, going from a mere 50 copies sold to upwards of 15,000.
  • Bikini Kill: An influential zine to the early 1990s riot grrrl movement, Bikini Kill was a collaborative feminist zine featuring poems, articles, and interviews. It was created by members of the band, also named Bikini Kill, and focused on feminism, punk rock, and activism.
  • J.D.s: A widely acknowledged zine that launched the queercore movement, J.D.s was an early example of LGBTQ+ activism that provided vital communication between members of the subculture. Hundreds of zines followed suit, allowing queercore culture to spread to smaller communities lacking a queer scene.

Why create a zine?

So, what’s a zine good for compared to other books and print publications? For one, zines offer a free creative expression for your ideas, particularly those considered alternative or unconventional and not likely to be picked up by traditional publishers. 

Creating a zine allows you to express your true self, connect with others, and share your work without breaking the bank. Let’s look at a few more reasons you might create a zine.

  • Showcase your unique perspective. You get to be the critique! Share your thoughts on art, politics, or personal experiences.
  • Cover niche interests. Fill the gap in mainstream media and provide content for others who share your passion.
  • Foster community. Collaborate and make friends within the creative community.
  • Promote your work. Use zines as an accessible platform to showcase your photography, art, or writing. Some creatives use zines as business cards, leave-behinds, or portfolios to land gigs.

Creating a zine also offers opportunities to learn new skills, like writing, editing, layout design, and self-publishing a book for distribution. If you’re a young creative seeking a channel to broadcast your ideas or get experience, zines can make a powerful statement while bringing like-minded people together. 

Ball of grey yarn and a zine about knitting open on a bed.

Choosing a topic for your zine

Now, let’s get into the actual creation of your zine, starting with topic selection. Choosing a topic for your zine is crucial, as it sets the tone and direction of your publication. While you probably have a rough idea of what you envision for your zine, it’s important to pin down just how niche and specific or broad and encompassing you want to get with your zine’s content.

Here are some tips on how to choose a topic for your zine.

  • Pick subjects and topics you’re passionate about, whether sharing marginalized voices and non-mainstream political positions or exploring specific topics related to music, food, health, tech, science, and more.
  • Consider choosing a topic that resonates with both you and your friends or colleagues. Zines are often about community and shared passions. This can encourage more people to want to get involved—whether joining you in the next publication or simply picking up a copy and cheering you on.
  • Think about the topics you could talk about for hours on end. Let your imagination fly and explore the exciting, novel, or curious ideas you come up with. We’ve seen zines on pets, street photography, and even objects that make funny faces. Whatever you can talk about can be made into a zine.
  • Begin by listing general subjects you’re interested in or passionate about—like food, pinball machines, or backpacking. Then, underneath each one, create a list of content ideas you could include in your zine.
  • Seek inspiration (and differentiation) from other zines and publications within similar genres, and consider incorporating subtopics that complement the main focus.

Remember, there’s no barrier to entry when it comes to making a zine, so you can really do whatever you want. You can keep it as professional or as playful as you like. But by pinning down your topic, you can ensure consistency and keep your audience wanting more. That’s especially important if you’re planning a zine series!

Magazine being flipped through by a creator of zines.

Planning your zine

One of the most critical aspects of your zine is its design. This can take many different shapes, all impacting content delivery and presentation. Before you dive right into creating, there are some significant components to be mindful of when designing your zine.


Designing a zine for the web can be vastly different than creating a zine for print. So you should plan your zine specifically for the channel you’ll use to share it. 

For instance, if you’re using Instagram to share your digital zine post by post, start with vertical image dimensions sized at 1080 by 1350 pixels with a 4:5 aspect ratio or square posts at 1080 by 1080 pixels at a 1:1 aspect ratio.

As for printed zines, there are far fewer dimension limitations. If you’re going the DIY route, design your zine around the paper size you’ll use. If you’re printing with an online service to create a higher quality finished product or more copies than you’d like to assemble by hand, check the print company’s specifications before you begin. When we create zines, we use dimensions like the small square (7 by 7 inches), standard portrait (8 by 10 inches), or large square (12 by 12 inches).


Similar to the medium, your zine’s format involves the actual makeup of how it’s constructed. This is particularly important for physical, printed zines. Here are some common formats.

  • Stitch-bound zines: Common for DIYers, you sew this format together with thread.
  • Perfect-bound zines: To craft these professional-feeling zines, you must glue them together at the spine. Better yet, use a print-on-demand company to print your zine as a traditional book.
  • Accordion zines: You’ll fold this classic zine format like an accordion, with each panel containing a different part of the zine.
  • Tiny zines: These micro-zines come in the size of matchboxes or other small containers.
  • Large poster-sized zines: Often used for music or art, you can create a folded zine that opens up like a poster.
  • Digital, online-only zines: Make digital zines for global, online distribution. Choose from common formats like blogs, social media accounts, and webcomic sites. 

Ultimately, your chosen format will depend on your preferences and your zine’s content.


Do you plan to print your zine in full color or black and white? Color can impact your zine’s style, tone, and printing cost. Sticking with black and white can usually make printing your zine more affordable, but this decision should align with the mood you’re trying to convey.

Keep in mind that if you plan to print in black and white, you can still choose to use color when creating your zine. Consider making a limited-edition or web-only color version and a black-and-white version to distribute more widely. All-in-all, select colors, patterns, images, and shapes that work together to create a cohesive design.

Visual elements

Do you want lots of photos and images, or is taking a minimalist approach with tons of whitespace more your thing? Will you use handwritten text, like the old analog-style zines, cut and paste typed words, or use software to place your type on each page perfectly? 

Your choices of different visual elements can shape your message and inform the content’s layout and order. Don’t overthink this step. And if you’re feeling stuck, take out some of your favorite zines and think about the visuals you like most. Are there any style choices you’d like to include in your zine?

Layout and order 

In the art of zine-making, no real rules tell you how to do things. But having some degree of structure is extremely helpful in maintaining an organized flow of content in your zine.

While this may vary from edition to edition, consider dividing your zine’s core layouts into sections. You might have certain styles or templates for your zine’s main themes or chapters, followed by standard page layouts for presenting ideas. Keep the arrangement and order of these pages intuitive and easy to follow.

At this stage, a loose outline is a great place to start. You don’t need to create each page or each element on each page. Just having an idea of where you’re going is enough.

Leverage design tools

Many tools are available to help you design your zine—and many templates help if you don’t consider yourself a designer. Take advantage of using digital design software to make your zine if handmade art isn’t your forte.

Design software like Adobe InDesign or Blurb Bookwright can be beneficial in putting together your zine’s design layout, complete with page numbers, print-friendly color, and a stylish design. These tools make the transition from design to printing seamless, allowing you to easily self-publish your zine with a print-on-demand company.

Pick the tools you’ll use before you start creating. Are you going old school with a pen, scissors, and copy machine—or will you use your iPad or computer?

Photographer taping up photographs for their photography zine on the wall.

Producing and assembling your zine’s content

While planning is integral to zine-making, producing your zine’s actual substance is where things get fun. Let’s zero in on writing, arranging, and assembling your content. Here we’ll break down the process step by step.

Plan your content

You already have your medium, format, visual style, loose outline, and design tool picked. Now you’ll need to consider the different types of content you want to include in your zine. 

Narrow down your content. Are you including articles, poems, stories, artwork, photography, collages, or interviews? Brainstorm ideas aligned with your topic and add them to your rough outline.

Getting a sense of the content type and a more detailed narrative flow can help you in the writing process. After all, there isn’t much scarier than a blank piece of paper! Knowing the chapters of your work and some bullet points on what you’ll add to each will help go from the big picture to the nitty gritty.

Write or collect your content

Begin composing the written pieces for your zine or collaborating with others involved in the project. Now is the time to research and write if you’re including articles, poetry, or how-to guides. Conduct interviews or collect stories if you’re sharing the voices of others. If your zine is visually driven, you can simply think about your title, dedication, or about page and skip to the next step.

When you’re co-creating with your community, now is your chance to review or revise others’ work for clarity and coherence. Pay attention to grammar, spelling, and readability—or don’t. You’re the editor-in-chief of your zine, and you make the rules. Your zine can be as polished or grunge as you choose. 

Compile artwork and visuals

Gather or create artwork, illustrations, or photographs that align with your zine’s theme and individual pieces. Ensure that the visual elements complement and enhance the written content, if you have any. Once you have everything compiled, narrow down your visuals to only your strongest. Culling your work is a critical part of the process.

Pay special attention to your cover art since it’s the first thing a reader will see. You might even ask a community member to illustrate or paint something special for your cover—or pull your most iconic visual from inside your zine.

Lastly, we know you will, but always ask permission and credit the artists appropriately if you’re using someone else’s work.

Arrange and sequence

Consider the flow of your zine. Decide on the order in which you want to present the content. Think about how the pieces will transition from one to another and create a cohesive experience. Experiment with different arrangements and combinations until you find the best sequence. 

You’ll also want to add any navigation elements, like a table of contents or headings. This will make your zine easier to digest.

And don’t be afraid to cull more content in this process—whether that’s your copy or your imagery. Zines are usually short and to the point; this is your time to ensure yours is as sharp as possible.

Finishing touches

Contemplate adding any additional elements to enhance your zine. This could include a glossary, an introduction, or even personal handwritten notes and doodles. Mentioning who’s behind the zine, what the mission is, or setting the intention of your zine can help reinforce “why” people might gravitate to your work.

Adding a summary or blurb to your back cover is a great idea, especially if you’re planning on selling your zine at bookstores. Whatever you can do to entice readers to open your zine will be well worth your effort. 

Print and assemble

After finalizing the design and contents of your zine, it’s time to print it. Depending on your resources and preferences, you can print it at home, use a local print shop, or utilize online printing services. 

No matter how you print and assemble your zine, you’ll want to choose a paper and finish type that best suits your zine. We highly recommend printing and assembling a single proof copy before creating more. It’s essential to edit your work—and even get a mentor or friend’s feedback. Doing this step will ensure you don’t have any unwanted typos, margin errors, or color issues.

Zine-spiration: examples of Blurb-made zines

The Blurb community has created a wide range of zines over the years—using tools from Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and In-Design to Blurb Bookwright. These zine ideas come to life via professional-quality booklets and magazine-like publications. Here are a handful of our favorites.

Humans After All – Zine #2

Fred Ranger's zine, Humans After All, showing photos of people hanging out in the street doing normal things like talking and smoking

Created by Canadian visual storyteller Fred Ranger, Humans After All is a zine series that zooms in on the human experience by sharing immersive photography that captures human life’s complexity, vulnerability, and beauty. A hybrid between a photo book and a magazine, this second edition of Humans After All is a testament to turning one’s photography passion into a reflective page-turning experience that we can all relate to.

The LA Dream: Art Block Zine; Vol. 7, Issue 2

The LA Dream: Art Block Zine; Vol. 7, Issue 2 opened up to show two pages, one with text and the other with a comic art

The Art Block Zine is a biannual zine created by the DSTL Arts program, a nonprofit arts mentorship organization based in Los Angeles, California. The LA Dream is the name of this issue’s theme, and it encapsulates stories, visual art, and poetry to express the various dreams of those who live and work in LA. A true community-driven zine, all proceeds support DSTL Arts and the free programs it offers to emerging artists from underserved LA-based communities.

working the park, no 2

working the park zine open to a black and white photograph of a skater doing a kick flip

Created by New York City street photographer Regi Metcalf, working the park, no 2 is a black and white zine that captures people’s raw nature and vibrancy and diverse forms. In this second edition of the zine series, Regi compiles 44 pages of his photography, primarily set in Washington Square Park in New York City.

Hype Zine Volume 4

Hype Zine opened up, showing two pages, one with text on one side and the other with photos of friends

Drawing on the inspiration for the early, collage-based zines, Hype Zine Volume 4 is a collection of interviews and artist showcases densely packed into a 116-page zine. Originally published on the Hype Zine website, this publication is an excellent example of a multi-format zine that has a handmade collage aesthetic presented in a digitally-forward way.

Easy Does It: Volume One

Easy Does It: Volume One size opened up to show two pages, one with a palm tree on one side and the other side showing text

Introspectively poetic, Dani Kreeft’s seasonal print zine, Easy Does It, is a quarterly publication of reflective journal entries combined with nostalgic film photos. In this first volume of Easy Does It, Dani marries conversational words with winter travel photos of California and Arizona. It’s a minimalist zine with lots of white space. But it doesn’t compromise on inspiration, giving readers clues on how to reshape their perspectives on the world around them.

Sharing your zine

In the same way that making your zine offers limitless creativity, sharing your zine with your audience is a marketing art in its own right. That’s to say, there are many ways to share, distribute, and promote your zine. Here are a few thought starters to help you get the ball rolling.

Establish an online presence

Whether your zine is digital or print, harness the power of the internet to share and promote your zine. Create a digital presence for your zine through a website, blog, or social media platforms. Share previews, excerpts, or behind-the-scenes content to generate interest. 

Devise a distribution strategy

Decide on the distribution channels for your zine. You can start by distributing it locally through independent bookstores, art galleries, zine fairs, or community events. Or, explore opportunities to collaborate with like-minded individuals or organizations that align with your zine’s theme. Consider leaving copies where your target audience is likely to find them, such as coffee shops, libraries, or related events.

Join zine communities

Engage with zine communities and networks both online and offline. Participate in zine fairs, festivals, or workshops to connect with other creators and potential readers. Join online forums or social media groups dedicated to zine-making or related topics. Sharing your experiences, collaborating, and exchanging zines with other creators can help expand your reach and visibility.

Collaborate and cross-promote

Collaborate with other artists, writers, creatives, and zine-makers to promote your zine. Cross-promotion helps expand your audience by tapping into your collaborators’ existing networks and communities. You can even explore creating collaborative zines, featuring each other’s work, or organizing collective zine projects. 

Hold a launch party

Launch parties are a good idea if you’re trying to make your zine a well-known entity in your community. Depending on your topic and target audience, you can incorporate live music, guest speakers, brand collaborations, and other creative partnerships to make a lasting impression with your event. 

Keep in mind that promoting and sharing your zine is an ongoing process. As long as you want to continue growing your audiences, make an effort to continuously seek opportunities, adapt your strategies, and explore new avenues to connect with readers who will appreciate and support your work.

Start assembling your zine with Blurb

Whether you’re looking to create a grungy zine of digital collage work or an elevated zine with sharp edges and inspiring content, the creative possibilities are endless. Blurb can help you bring your zine to life with intuitive bookmaking design tools, self-publishing print capabilities, and built-in distribution channels to broadcast your work. Upload PDFs of work you already have or start building with Blurb’s design tool integrations. Or, if you’re stuck on how to get started, begin by exploring these zine ideas and topics to spark your creativity.

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