Content for Your Journal Zine

March 7, 2011

The full post outlines the approach taken to create a Journal Zine for the swap and includes a call for an mail-in swap.

110221Snowpage2 Above: Page 2 of my journal zine Snow Piles. I looked outside into the yard after a snow storm and saw this scene. Micron pen on copier bond journal zine template.

For the MCBA Visual Journal Zine 2011 Swap we had some guidelines that governed content and structure.

All zines were to be made by folding a single sheet of 8.5 x 11 inch copy paper in half twice to create an 8-page zine. The spine was to be 5.5 inches, which went with the grain direction of most commercially available copier papers (perhaps all?). This uniform sizing, with no bulky inclusions, would allow the swapped zines to be gathered by each participate and then housed in a simple slipcase of their own making.

The zine was to be made up of journaling the author pulled from his or her regular journal and reduced and fit to the 4.25 inch wide x 5.5 inch tall page. Each participant had to take into account the copier or printer used for outputting the two-sided piece and leave appropriate space at the edges of the pages. (Obviously, if one had access to a larger printer/copier and wanted to use larger sheets of paper a layout could be devised that would allow for bleeds off the edges of the page, but this would also require more trimming. One goal of this project was to increase participation by minimizing production costs.)

With this approach the journal zine could be a collage creation from various journalings and sketches. It could also simply be a straight forward reduction of a journal page (as most of us work in journals with larger page sizes).

The alternate suggested way to create a journal zine was to create the zine on your master 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper and use your original art on that page as your master.

I elected to make my journal up in the second way, creating a template for my pages, with a box which would contain my sketch. I then drew directly on the template.

I could just have easily drawn on pieces of paper that were the appropriate size, scanned the artwork; imported the artwork into a page make up program's layout; printed the two-sided document that I would then fold and cut to make the zine.

My choice was made for me both by my desire to print my zine from the original pen and ink work and by a problem with my printer (one side was printed weirdly because it's at the end of it's toner cartridge). I actually had to print my zine templates individually using the part of the page that was printing correctly, and then paste them up on an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet.

This didn't bother me at all because I love going old school with paste ups. Unfortunately the downside of this approach to production is that your final alignment is only as good as the copier operator. I no longer have a copier on site (I really miss my oversized copier which sadly the repair man could no longer find parts for). I had to take my master sheets to a copier shop to be copied. They heeded my request to even out the margins on the sides by watching their placement of the master on the copier, but they didn't worry about top and bottom margins. The end result is that on some pages there is a jump in the placement of my page "boxes" (the area within which I drew) across the spread. Happily this also doesn't bother me, calling to mind the handmade nature of the thing—and besides, it wasn't worth driving back to the shop to explain to 20-somethings who've never pasted up something and didn't understand what I was trying to do, why placement was important. They want you to create it on the computer so they can press a button and have it come out (and that's fine too, but not what I wanted to do).

Let's say you don't want to take either of the above approaches when mining your journal for content for your journal zine. Another approach that would be fun is a collage—simply take an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet and collage elements from your journal over the entire surface, repeat for another sheet and copy them back to back creating a "collection" that is more abstract and which when folded and cut into pages would read even more abstract. (And this idea could be taken to other lengths of fiddling and puzzling to create journal zines that fold back into a whole, and so on.)

Whatever approach you take, the end result will be a journal of sorts—either an actual journal of events recorded only in the zine (as in the direct sketching method) or a compendium of journal entries that represent what interested you over the course of its creation—a peak into your main journal.

I worked on a theme for my journal zine—"Snow Piles." There were plenty to draw all around me, and I happened to pick the 10-day warming period when it wasn't awful to stand outside and sketch!

A travel journal could be made on templates and then produced when you returned home so that you could share your trip with friends and family.

I think you get the idea, there's a lot of stuff in your journal, and a lot of fun to be had getting it out.

Tip: Always be sure to include contact information printed somewhere in your zine so that people who see it can find you and ask for more zines, tell you what they liked about the zine, and so on. I think you should also include a copyright notice, but then I'm old school about that too.

I'm going to create a page that combines info on the journal zine posts I've been doing, with the instructions the Collective received on laying out their master sheet and making their journals. I hope that some of you will decide to make some journal zines of your own. (You will find these instructions on the Journal Zine Swap Page.)

How to Get a Copy of Snow Piles—A Journal Zine Swap with You
I have printed about 40 extra copies of my journal zine. I would love to trade with interested parties. If you would like to trade one of your journal zines for one of mine please do the following:

1. Create your own journal zine following the instructions the Collective used (so that it will be the same size, etc.) You will find these instructions on the Journal Zine Swap Page, listed in the page list in the left-hand column of this blog. The instructions are important not just for size and structure, but also method of production. The project was designed to be simple and low cost (the cost of 30 double sided 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of copier paper for the original group).

2. Send me an email at to tell me you have a zine (made to the Journal Swap Page's project specifications) to swap and to make sure that one of my zines is still available. 

3. When you get my email confirmation that one is available you can send me your zine at the address I provide. As soon as I receive your zine I'll pop the one I saved for you in the mail to your return address. (Please write legibily!!!)

Please do not write and ask if there are any Snow Piles left if you have not yet finished your zine.

Your intentions may be good about finishing a zine, but I don't want to have to turn down people who have a zine completed because I'm saving copies for someone who is thinking about making a zine. If you request a zine swap and I don't see your zine in two weeks, and someone else requests one, you'll be bumped from the list. I don't see any other simple way to organize this without frequent emails back and forth. I can't keep track of that.

I look forward to making a new collection of journal zines with your help.

And I would love to hear from you if you make a zine swap of your own!

  1. Reply

    Cool idea! I’ve been working on a journalling project concept for teens and to translate excerpts into tradeable zines is an awesome idea!

  2. Reply

    Lauren, It is a great thing to do with teens. It gets them exposed to making editions, to printing, to putting together a unified piece (either as narrative or a collection of some sort with a theme). I hope you give it a shot. Let me know how it works out for you!

  3. Reply

    Maggie, the zines for the exchange had to be in black and white. I didn’t get to post the instruction page yesterday as hoped, but will post it there in a short while so please go to the instruction page this evening and check it out, if you would like to exchange with me, OR if you are interested in how we set up our journal swap.

    • ambal
    • March 10, 2011

    Roz, This zine idea intrigues me for something else that I would like to do to document my visits to the local sites. You mentioned page maker program. Do you have a suggestion for one for someone interested in doing docs like your zine? (I.e., not a book or magazine article, etc.) On a related note, do you offer for sale a copy of the reference book you mentioned using for your ‘The Intentional Page’ class. I’m referring to the 7/24/2010 Upcoming Book Arts classes post. If so, that might be a good primer on page layout planning for me. Thank you, Ambal

  4. Reply

    Ambal, Making zines to document your visits to local sites is a great use zine making! One of our zine participants in this current exchange has created a travel journal (there may be others but I know at least one person did that). And travel, local or distant is always fun to share with folks.

    For page make up or page layout programs I can only offer advice on the two that I have used. QuarkXpress was my staple program for years. I used it for hours and hours each day. I loved it. Alas, the company dropped the ball and almost all my clients want me to work in Adobe InDesign now, and the few remaining don’t specify, which means that it’s switch over time, and I’m in the process of finalizing that switch. I cannot recommend QuarkXpress.

    So if you’re looking to get a program like this I would steer you towards InDesign because of the functionality and the way it connects so well with Adobe’s other programs, specifically Illustrator and Photoshop.

    I don’t know what you do as a profession. For many people this type of program might be overkill, unless you already do other graphics work. And InDesign does have a hefty price tag.

    You can find out about the Adobe products here

    Because I only learn the programs I need for my work I’m unaware of any programs which would be simpler and less expensive, yet still functional.

    You could do a google search for “Page Layout Software” for the specific platform you use (Mac or PC) or for “Page Design Software,” or something like that, and investigate what comes up.

    My class workbook for “The Intentional Page” is unfortunately not for sale separately. The first thing we do in class is take the loose, printed sheets and learn about printing imposition and collating, and then actually put together and bind our textbook. I don’t store extra loose sheets.

    I’m sure that there are current books on design that you can find through your library, however, that will provide you with a good introduction and exposure to the topic.

    I would recommend that you seek out books that talk about using a grid to design. And then also looking at books that discuss Notan, because those principles apply in design just as in images.

    Have fun making those zines! I look forward to hearing more about it.

    • ambal
    • March 12, 2011

    Roz, Thanks for the response. I work in computer programming on Unix and Teradata data warehouses, so I know very little about graphic design. Would like to learn without sinking too much money. Will do Google search. Am signed up and looking forward to your strathmore artist journal class. Any suggestion on notan book? Arthur Dow Notan book didn’t really speak to me but will look again if you think its the best. Thanks again, Ambal

  5. Reply

    Ambal, I’m sure there are several great ones. You can read about one in this post

  6. Reply

    I am interested in swapping with you, but I have a couple of questions. Is it acceptable to you if I copy pages of my regular journal that I’ve done in the past, or would you prefer that I do new pages just for the swap? And if it is acceptable to copy pages of my regular journal, may I scan them in color, since I can do that at home? I know for your MCBA swap, you did black and white copies to keep the cost down, but since I can do this at home with my scanner and I’m only doing one, cost isn’t so much of a factor.

    BTW – the email address you have listed above is in the wrong format – doesn’t have the @ symbol. Is your email address Thanks!

  7. Reply

    Cheryl, as I say in this post about the zine exchange for the Collective, and the same applies here, you can journal on the pages with new journaling material, or you can draw journal pages from your journal and fit them to the pages. The main thing is that it has to be on one 8.5 x 11 inch sheet and folded etc.

    As to not sticking to black and white, well the original project was for black and white so that’s what you’ll be getting from me, my black and white zine. If you want to participate with color on a single 8.5 x 11 inch sheet because it’s more convenient for you I’m not going to get finicky.

    Thanks for the heads up about the typo. I’ll go fix that!

    Please contact me at the email if you want to swap so I can put you in the right file.

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