What is a Zine?

Wondering what a zine is? Confused about the difference between zines and magazines? Want to make and print your own zines?

We will relay all the information you need to know in this article. So just take a few minutes out of your precious time to learn all you need to know!

What Is A Zine?

A zine is a self-published magazine that is only printed out in a small number of copies. Similar to how novels have fan fiction, magazines have fanzines. Over the years, though, this name was shortened to zines.

Zines display a person’s ability and interest while also being a fun read for the intended audience. They can be traced back to as far as the 1930s – a period during which they were popular amongst science fiction enthusiasts. Nowadays, they are loved amongst several other communities. People’s artworks, photographs, literature skills, political interests, comic strips, and activism are brought to light. Many will also include articles on travel destinations, social life, health tips, food habits, recipes, and music interests. 

Zines are usually made by copying several artworks and statements onto one page. However, you can also write and draw in details and then have the work copied using a photocopier. Nowadays, you can also have your zines designed electronically using suitable editing software. Several copies of this can then be printed out in one go.

What Is The Purpose Of A Zine?

Unlike magazines, zines are not built with the intention to make a profit. Instead, they are simply published with the hope of increasing the popularity of certain topics.

As the maker is the sole owner of a zine, people are free to publish about topics that inspire or speak to them. Hence, you can say that a zine’s purpose is to increase and showcase artistic freedom. By doing this, many zines have managed to get attention and even turned into regular publication sites successfully.

Artists can use zines to make their artworks, songs, styles, etc., gain traction. It is a form of self-expression that helps people put their passions on the line.  They can be distributed amongst students in a school and workplaces. Meanwhile, social and political activists will publish such works to call out wrongdoings and shine a light upon issues. Global warming, feminism, equality, etc., are commonly discussed topics.

Commonly, around 1000 to 5000 copies of zines are published in one go. However, depending on your audience and place of distribution, this number can largely vary. As mentioned before, you can simply use a photocopier or printer to accomplish the publishing task. A combination of a multi-purpose home printer and the right set of pages can effortlessly get the job done at home.

Zines vs. Magazines: What’s the Difference?

Although zines and magazines have very similar names, they have some stark differences. Let us show you some ways in which they vary!


For magazines, the publication process is somewhat stressful. Professional journalists are hired to write on several topics, and a group of editors goes through each article before printing. Such processes might also include interviewing a celebrity or expert.

Chief editors or other higher authorities are in charge of what is kept and what is edited out. Photographers are also involved who will make clicks that can be used in the article. Some are also hired to do photoshoots with the interviewed persons. Any issues regarding copyrights are removed and make the readers appreciate the company for producing original content.

The publishing process includes only one person designing them when it comes to zines. They either paste on pictures and writings or electronically design a paper if an ezine needs to be made. Zine makers are free to unleash their imagination and creativity throughout this process. They do not need to worry about it getting cut out as they control. Lastly, the editing may include quickly going over your work to ensure that everything flawlessly adds up.


Magazines are usually printed on a large scale by companies or organizations. For example, commonly published magazines like The New Yorker, Closer, Us Weekly, Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazar, etc., sell around a hundred thousand copies in a month. Hence, printing presses with fast printers are required to get the job done. 

On the other hand, a zine is independently printed on a shorter scale. Typically, only a hundred or so copies are sold out, but for some rare cases, the number may hike up to 5000. They are, thus, mostly printed at home or in internet cafés.

Distribution Strategy

Magazines are distributed like newspapers. They will be sold out by people on the streets, or if you are subscribed to a monthly plan, they will be mailed to your address.

Distribution processes vary from company to company, and many see this as an opportunity for branding and advertising. For example, The New Yorker has a monthly subscription plan through which its content is mailed to its audience in tote bags. As these bags have the brand name displayed on them, anyone carrying it will end up displaying the brand to others.

Distribution includes handing them out for zines like you usually do with pamphlets. However, if you have connections with a library or store, you can simply ask them to hand it out to customers.


A magazine may be sold out in several countries through several outlets. As interviews and photoshoots are conducted with celebrities, many people look forward to getting their hands on certain copies. This allows magazines to have a huge pool of audience that will brag about getting certain copies on social media.

Zines, on the other hand, will at most gain popularity locally. This is because the distribution channel is rather small. Besides that, as they are based on one topic, the group of audience is also minimized. For example, a music zine will only be brought by those interested in that particular genre of music.

How to Make a Zine

Things You Will Need:

  • A suitable type of paper (more on that later!)
  • A pair of scissors
  • Designing items like pens, markers, washi tape, stickers, colored pencils, etc.
  • Glue stick or any other type of adhesive
  • Pictures


Step 1

Firstly, grab a piece of paper and fold it in half, breadthwise. Once this is done, fold the already overlapped piece of paper in half once again so that when opened, you can see four folds on it. Then, for one last time, fold the paper in the middle. The paper should have formed eight equal sections when the folds were opened.

Step 2

In this step, you need to fold your paper in half – breadth wise – once again. Using your pair of scissors, cut halfway through the fold. You should notice a cut through the middle that disconnects the four center rectangles when the page is opened.

Step 3

Hold the paper to stand in a portrait manner and then fold through the middle. Now, join the rectangular shapes to make your pieces of paper seem like a little booklet.

Step 4

Using your stickers and other decorating tools, start adorning the blank pages of your zine. Draw pictures, add writings, paste on newspaper cuttings, and use stamps. Get as creative as possible!

Step 5

If you wish to keep your zine as a memoir rather than distributing it, then congrats! You have successfully completed your task!

If you wish to print out several copies of it, then here is what you can do:

Spread out the entire page in the way it was before. Some of your work will be on the back of the page, while others will be on the front.

Scan in the front and back of your page using a scanner to make a soft copy. After saving the file in either PDF or JPEG format, you can print out as many copies as you want. Print on both sides of each paper and then fold them to form a booklet.

If you have a copier, place the paper within it and have both sides copied to other pages. Then, similar to the other method, you can fold the pieces of paper to form your zines.

What Paper Should I Print My Zine On?

While selecting a paper for zine printing, you need to look into various paper sizes, thicknesses, and finishes.

For weight, usually, 90 to 100 gsm papers are used. However, if you are looking for a more durable material, then you can look into papers with weights ranging from 120 to 250 gsm. Remember that thicker quality papers will give you superior quality output.

Paper sizes depend on the type of zine you are making. Choosing a letter, A3, A4, A5, or A6-sized paper is best for loose printing sheets. These can be folded and cut to make zines that look stunning.

For booklet zines that are saddle stitched, A5, A4, letter, half letter, 148 mm square, DL, half letter, etc., are used. These can be folded into halves and used to make zines pages that are stitched or stapled together later on.

While choosing finishes, there are four options to pick from – matte, silk, and gloss. When you require a matt finish, users can use premium matte photo paper if they want high-quality prints. This is important when pictures and artworks are present on your zine. Remember that black and white pictures are suitable for matte finishes. If your zine includes writings mainly, you can use regular printing paper, cardstock, or recycled paper.

When your zine consists of bright photos and includes lots of colors, papers with glossy finish should be used. Therefore, glossy photo paper is the commonly chosen option.

Lastly, a silk finish is a middle ground between matte and glossy. It is the perfect option to choose from when printing both colors and black and white. Text and images look equally appealing on such paper, so if your zine has a combination of both, you know what to look for!