Arts·How To

5 easy tips that'll make you want to print zines

Curious about the thriving DIY scene? Toronto artist Kendra Yee is your guide. All you need is pen, paper and an idea.

'There's no right way to make a zine,' says Toronto artist Kendra Yee — the hardest part is getting started

Kendra Yee started making zines in her early teens. Now, the Toronto artist leads DIY workshops on the topic. (Courtesy of Kendra Yee)

All you need is pen, paper and an idea. Zines are the ultimate in DIY printing, and that's why they're still thriving — something CBC Arts explored when we ran around Toronto's Canzine fair this winter, interviewing the makers inside.

As for how to actually make one, it's as easy as using a Xerox machine — though photocopying isn't necessarily required.

"There's no right way to make a zine," explains Kendra Yee, a Toronto artist who's been self-publishing since her early teens. Zines can be filled with drawings or essays or globs of glitter glue. They can be about anything, they can be printed on anything — and they can be as long, or as short, as your budget permits. "It allows for lots of experimentation," she says.

Yee, 21, is an OCAD illustration student and frequent contributor to Rookie magazine, and she's been selling her zines at events around Toronto (including that aforementioned Canzine event), the U.S. and Europe for the last couple years. More recently, she started teaching workshops on the topic for the AGO and Toronto Public Library — because in her experience, publishing zines is one of the most low-pressure ways to learn about art while meeting other creative people.


"Going to art institutions was always intimidating," Yee says. Visiting zine fairs, she says, was the opposite. "You have the opportunity to speak with the artist," she explains. "It's a lot more approachable, and normally zines are under $10 at most. It's really great for people to figure out how to get more involved in these larger [art] communities."

To get you started, here are five of her zine-making tips.

Stock up on (super basic) supplies

"You can use whatever materials you want," says Yee — craft glitter, pom-poms, string and beyond. (Her next zine, for example, will feature a ceramic cover.)

But the basic requirements are definitely basic. All that's really required is paper and pens — and maybe a stapler if you plan on doing some simple binding. Those are the tools Yee supplies in her workshops.


Get inspired

"I find people are often intimidated when they're starting out, myself included," says Yee. But zines don't bite. The worst that could happen is a paper cut, and to get her students comfortable with the form, she always brings a stack of different titles to her workshops. The basic wisdom is this: if you want to make zines, then you should read them, too. Seek out shops that sell zines, she suggests; The Beguiling and Art Metropole are Yee's favourite resources in Toronto. Better yet — and this is especially true if you don't live in a big city — seek out artists, too. "It's kind of funny. I discovered zine culture through the internet," says Yee, and you can do the same by just following your favourite artists online and ordering the zines they have for sale.

Choose a format

What size will your zine be? What kind of paper will you use? And how will you bind it all together? The options are infinite, but to get ideas, Yee recommends searching "book binding" and "zines" on Pinterest. "It's what I turn to," she says, and the site's stuffed with tutorials on how to make booklets. For first-timers, like her workshop students, she keeps it extra simple. Just take plain-old 8.5 x 11" photocopy paper and fold it, stapling it down the crease to bind the thing together. Your zine's content — words, pictures, you name it — can be drawn or pasted in by hand.

Pages from Spitters, a zine by Kendra Yee. (Courtesy of the artist)

So...what's your zine about?

Every zine is about something, but choosing that "something" can be the hardest part of the process.

Yee's zines, to give you an example, feature illustration and writing, and she thinks of them as being an extension of her sketchbook.What links them, she explains, is the fact they're all personal stories — ordinary events reinterpreted as fantasy. "Often they involve eclectic, speculative worlds," she explains. (She's working on a new, 50-page zine about a kid who makes friends with an angel, for instance.)

In her workshops, she gets students to jot down a list of possible ideas — but they can't waste much time brainstorming. They've got to try out those ideas, and try them out fast. (Workshops are often just an hour long, and students are encouraged to leave with a finished zine.)

From Pure Heat, a zine of "digital doodles and weird-o comics" by Kendra Yee. (Courtesy of the artist)

"People just go with it," she says. "Creating zines is one of those things where you'll write everything down and you'll see an overarching theme. [...] Sometimes you have to just let the content create itself."

If your ideas aren't working, or if you find yourself stuck at the brainstorming stage, Yee offers a Plan B: invite a friend over. "Zine-making is way more fun with other people," she says. "You're having conversations, and you'll see other people drawing. You won't be as intimidated when you see everybody producing a variety of content."

Get out there!

Not everyone loves talking about themselves, whether in person or on Snapchat, Instagram, etc. But a zine needs an audience, so some self-promotion is necessary if you want anyone to read your work. Yee recommends taking any opportunities available when it comes to getting your zine out there. Apply for a table at your local zine fair; talk about your zine on social media. If you're shy about it, remember why you wanted to make that zine in the first place — especially if your reasons had anything to do with getting more involved in the arts. "Self-promotion's great because it really does connect you to other people. Really, it's about establishing a community at the end of the day."

"As an artist, I always thrive from working with other people and talking about what other projects people are doing. It exposes you to other ways of creating and thinking."


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