DIY Design: get into zine culture with this in-depth guide

Andrew Rae printed his Back To Earth zine on a laser printer, before carefully folding and stapling each one. “I could get this done elsewhere but I prefer doing it myself,” he says

Nicolas Burrows of collective Nous Vous ( says: “We are artists as well as commercial designers, so we always want to be making things. Releasing limited edition items such as zines and small publications, prints and so on is an outlet for our creative energy.”

He continues: “Making something to sell also hopefully earns a small amount of extra income – but it’s more about a desire to exhibit and show our work to people.”

Making zines and comics presents interesting creative and practical challenges. While many zines are simply collections of recent work, others work almost as mini comics. For illustrators who are more used to producing single pieces, developing a narrative or a storyline can be a headache.

Sam Arthur, co-founder of indie art publisher Nobrow, says it’s vital: “The illustrators we work with are all natural storytellers, and that’s why we work with them. I think that as an illustrator you will have problems finding work if you don’t have a narrative sensibility. After all, it’s all about the communication of ideas through images – and in doing this, one is essentially creating narratives.”

Sarah King recommends experimenting with media – she creates her artworks in gocco, screen printing and digital printing. “Different media forces you to work in slightly different ways, and allows opportunities for happy accidents,” she says

But storytelling doesn’t necessarily mean the “a beginning, a middle and an end” structure you might remember from school English lessons, as Sam stresses: “It’s important to mention that not all stories need to take a formal [or] traditional approach – we are just as interested in the more abstract or experimental narrative.”

A good example of this is Ben Newman’s recent zine Ouroboros, published by Nobrow. Named after the mythical beast in the shape of a serpent that eats its own tail, the comic follows a determined character as he battles his way through a confusing array of enemies. Like the mythical beast, the end of the story meets the beginning in a baffling yet satisfying manner.

Mark Long (, a member of the collective ThemLot, created Who Ate All The Pies, a 36-page zine illustrating football chants in a bold, hand-painted style. While there is no storyline in the strict sense, the book does tell a story: that of the wit, creativity and rudeness of the English football terrace.

Mark says: “Even though it was a series of different illustrations, I tried to give it that ‘page turning’ quality by breaking up some of the songs, and attempted to change the pace that you look through it.”

Size was another restraint: “Financially it had to be kept to A5 – not just for printing costs, but also for posting to potential clients.”

The project neatly illustrates another key challenge of making zines: working in a limited palette. In order to get the project litho printed affordably – which Mark says he loves as it makes the images look “crisp and striking” – he had to limit the colour palette to just two colours. “This was a restraint that I enjoyed though, as I enjoy two colours,” he says.

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