We love zines!
The smell and feel of them fresh off the press, the aura around their staples pages, the cult following inspired by a determination to continually reinvent themselves and spring up in an age where print is supposedly…dead. All of this really, really excites us.
Increasingly we are seeing zines being used as self-promo portfolios, as lookbooks for clothing labels or for packing full of photos from your recent round the world trip. Ultimately there are very few rules for zines - you choose the layout and we’ll print it!
If the only sizes your printer has heard of are A4 or A5 and the only paper they print on is gloss or even glossier then welcome to Ex Why Zed!
We have compiled a feature-length, definitive video to methodically guide you through the entire process. This super informative video highlights how zines have proved the perfect solution for artists, small presses and independent publishers to promote their creative work. We detail the options available for size, paper and binding. We showcase illustrated, photography, poetry, skate and music zines and dissect the winning combinations.
• Think of your creative idea - this is the fun bit!
• Prepare your original artwork
• Use Indesign or a DTP program to format it
• Export as a printable PDF
• Send it to over and we'll work our magic
Ultimately printing isn’t a daunting experience. You’ve done the hard work and come up with a creative idea for your zine. Getting it into print is the easy part.
Use our hour long video guide for inspiration, our file set-up guides to prepare the artwork then send it all over to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll give it a thorough check through before going to print.
Is printing and binding your zine at Ex Why Zed easier than it is on the college photocopier? Absolutely, but you knew that already right!
Sizing a zine/styling a zine
An insightful look into zine pricing, printing and making your project viable
Expert advice for printing a wire stitched (stapled) zine or booklet
Printing a zine FAQs
Choose 90-170gsm for inside pages.
As a guide: 90gsm is super thin like newsprint. 115 and 130gsm are what we print 99% of our zines onto. This is thick enough that images dont show through too much and feels quality. 170gsm is a bulky premium paper that will feel glorious when your reader is flicking through.
You can have the cover and inside pages onto the same weight, this is called a 'self-cover' zine.
However, for a thicker card cover choose 170-350gsm. 170gsm is like a thick paper. 200 to 250gsm are lightweight cards which are flexibly and will open easily for the reader. 300gsm is the standard card choice for zine covers. Pick 350gsm if you are after a super bulky feel. 350gsm is best saved for zines larger than A5 or it can be too rigid to open.
If you choose 170gsm or more for the cover then ALWAYS laminate to prevent cracking. This is especially crucial if the cover is on uncoated. Without lamination your zines will look tatty when they arrive.
Grab yourself one of our free printed sample packs to help you decide because we realise that choosing paper over the internet is like reading braille with gloves on. Fill in the form on our sample pack page or just ping us an email with your address.
When choosing a format, we can print any size up to A3 portrait or A4 landscape. A4, A5, 210x210mm and A6 are most economic but we can print most bespoke sizes too. There is a pricing cut off at A4 so for zines larger than A4 and upto A3 they have to be printed onto our B2 press which has higher set up costs. So if you're on a budget choose A4 or under. For something eye-catching and impressive do choose A3 though 🙂
There are generally two ways to bind your zine: wire stitching (two staples on the spine) and perfect binding (a square spine with glued inside pages). The rule of thumb is wire stitching works for upto 40 pages and for 40 pages or more perfect binding will produce a more polished looking Zine.
For more info on our paper choices, sizes and binding check out our resource section.
Get inspired with our showcase of recent zine projects.
(These are real life case studies, not made up images of what a zine might look like)
"Ex Why Zed have been printing So Young since the very first issue and are key in the development of the magazine and how it looks. We were fairly clueless when it came to getting the work ready for print when we first started four years ago but the team at Ex Why Zed patiently walked us through the process and more or less gave us a free Indesign tutorial along the way. By issue three we were getting it right first time which they appreciated as their hard work with us had paid off. The print process now consists of a few emails back and forth and before we know it the boxes are on our doorstep ready for launch day. We caught up with the team about their ethos and the future of independent publishing."
Josh and Sam, Editors of So Young.
We have done our best to give you a huge wealth of information on this page and in our guides but if here are some frequently asked questions to help you get your work into print.
If you haven't already seen it, do also watch our feature length Definitive Zine Printing Guide
A zine (pronounced “zeen”) is a self-published, small circulation, non-commercial booklet or magazine. Zines can include comics, personal essays, political views, fiction, DIY tips, articles about music or movies, poetry, reviews – anything under the sun!
If you are not familiar with the concept of zines, they are DIY self-published booklets with their own underground subculture devoted to making, selling (though usually not for much), and trading them. Many different sectors embrace Zines are a way of gaining exposure, prominence and for swapping ideas within niches. Zines culture has traditionally been a space where people from marginalized identities and subcultures can get their voice out there without being censored. Zine culture has punks, gamers, queer people, anarchists, people of color, working class folks, feminists, teen girls, neurodivergent people, lowbrow artists, poets and more. Zines are weird, wild, wonderful, and can contain just about anything that can be made out of paper, ink, and staples. And the best part is, whether your zine is mundane, niche, strange, or incomprehensible, there’s an audience for it in the zine community.
We have three basic choices for paper type:
We print the majority of our Zines’ inside pages onto either 120gsm uncoated or 130gsm silk. This is thick enough that images dont show through too much and feels quality.
If you’d like a thicker cover then go for a 300gsm stock.
Still not sure? Grab yourself one of our free printed sample packs to help you decide because we realise that choosing paper over the internet is like reading braille with gloves on. Just ping us an email with your address and we’ll know where to send it to.
A4, A5, 210x210mm and A6 are most economic but you can push the boundaries and choose any bespoke size too! Maybe 254x203mm (or 10x8) will work best for your photography? We can print up to A3 portrait (an imposing 420mm high x 297mm wide) and A4 landscape (210mm high x 297mm wide).
Wire stitching is a little bit of print jargon for ‘stapling’. To confuse things even more it can also be known as 'saddle stitching'. Let’s stick with stapling though if that’s easier 🙂
If you have an A5 zine then we print it onto A4 sheets, fold them in and put two staples along the left-hand edge to bind the sheets together.
The perfect bound method of binding will give your publication a square spine and professional looking finish.
For further advice follow our perfect binding set up guides.
Lamination is a thin film that we apply over the top of your printed cover to give it more longevity and to prevent scuffing and ink cracking. It only adds around £4 to the total cost but really helps your zines arrive looking in pristine condition.
Choose from matt, gloss or soft-touch.
Matt Lamination works best with silk and uncoated covers. This is a our recommended go-to lamination choice. However, we would suggest using gloss lamination if you are aiming for a super shiny, high impact cover. Soft-touch has a velvet, illustrious feel but does attract finger marks REALLY quickly so best not eat your lunch before reading! In recent tests a soft-touch laminated zine ended up looking like we'd eaten a bacom sandwich off it within minutes - stick to matt or gloss instead.
ALWAYS LAMINATE THE COVER IF IT IS 170gsm OR MORE (especially on uncoated). The short answer: when paper is printed, the ink sits on the surface. When it is then folded to make your cover the ink can crack. While you should never judge a book by it’s cover, this cracking will look unprofessional. Lamination is a thin layer of protection which prevents the ink cracking. Win win. It comes in matt, gloss, soft-touch or anti-scuff. Our advice would be to stick to matt or gloss, the other two are awful 🙂
Our process is quick and efficient. We aim to deliver all digitally printed zines up to 500 copies within 4/5 working days. If you are going for a longer print run then we will litho print it to bring your cost per zine right down. Best to allow 7/8 working days. Bespoke additions like fold out pages, premium papers and finishes will cinrease the timeline further.
Three of our favourite wire stitched zine specs:
A5 Portrait Booklets
4pp Cover onto 170gsm Uncoated
24pp Text onto 100gsm Uncoated
Full colour print throughout
Trimmed, collated and wire stitched
Makes for a great compact zine. Small enough to read on the tube. Uncoated pages are crisp and robust.
A5 Portrait Books
4pp Cover onto 30gsm Uncoated
Matt Lamination to outer
56pp Text onto 115gsm Uncoated
Full colour print throughout
Trimmed, collated and perfect bound
For a more substantial, book-like zine to showcase more of your work.
Try these print specs out:
4pp Cover onto 300sgm Uncoated
Matt Lamination to outer
92pp Text onto 115gsm Uncoated
Full colour print throughout
Trimmed, collated and perfect bound
or for a smoother, slightly shinier option...
4pp Cover onto 300gsm Silk
Matt Lamination to outer.
72pp Text onto 130gsm Silk.
Four colour print throughout.
Trimmed, collated and perfect bound.
The rule of thumb is wire stitching for upto 40 pages and for 40 pages or more perfect binding will produce a more polished looking Zine. We CAN staple up to 72 pages but do expect it to bounce a little and not sit flat once the cover is opened. This gives it a charm though and aesthetically resembles an old-school zine that might have been photocopied and put together by hand.
Yes, ‘text’ pages is our common term for the inside pages of your publication. They can be filled with illustrations, photography, full colour artwork…or just text if it’s a poetry book.
For the purposes of our quoting, we call a page one side of content. So, a sheet of paper has two pages - a front and a back. If you ask for a quote for 40 inside pages, that will be 40 pages of content, 40 pages in your artwork file / pdf and in the book 20 leaves printed on both sides.
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Yes! There are a whole host of brilliant sites out there dedicated to Zines and self-published books. Here are a few to whet the appetite:
Yes you can print a flat colour for the cover. There aren’t really that many paper mills who supply colour paper which we can print on and the ones that do, you know who you are, are really expensive and not great for an indie press. So, we recommend printing a flat colour as a background to act as a base behind grout artwork and achieve the same visual appearance. Works better on uncoated, there’s something not quite right about a flat colour on silk, it has a slight sheen which we find untroubling. The Matt finish and slight grain of uncoated lends itself better to overall background colours. Here is a video guide with some great tips showing how to print coloured covers for cheap: https://youtu.be/CX-lO0b78jw
We don't advertise oir prices online because we prefer to open up a conversation with you and find out a little bit about the project. Your artwork is unique and bespoke, so in turn, we will provide you a unique and bespoke print quote for your job. I am sure you will take no fun in looking at a boring spreadsheet with rows of bemusing numbers so we don't put you though that.
Next you’ll need to set up the artwork for print. Dont be put off using Adobe InDesign – it’s easy! (ish). Have a read through our uber-helpful step by step file set up pages. The guides really do make the process much easier and will answer 99% of the questions you may have.
Indesign have a one week frial trial but you could also try Affinity Publisher or Scribus (we haven't used either so cannot vouch for them but icnreasingly our customers are stsartign to send artwork generated using these two programs).
Ultimately you’ll need to send us a hi res PDF with crop marks and 3mm bleed.
If you have any questions then please do drop us an email or call and we’ll be happy to talk you through it.
thought. chicken. egg. doodles. scribbles. drawings.
coffee .jackd. inspiration. art. mac. scan. illustrator.
photoshop. indesign. artwork. inkjet. proof. recline.
ponder. tweak. ponder. tweak. save .export. contact. discuss. quote. send. inbox. save. open. awe. smile. laugh. pagination. check. preflight. check. paper. ink. plates. print. bind. magazine.