Zine Layout

By Judith Proctor

Even with the availability of modern DTP packages, it's amazing how many zines do not do a good job of layout. Small changes in the way a zine is produced can often have a major impact on the way a zine looks and how readable it is. Is it really asking too much for page numbers to be in a corner so that they can be easily read when looking for a certain page? Why can't story titles be used as page headers, preferably in the top right hand corner for similar ease of finding things?

The positioning of the art in one recent zine almost had me tearing out my hair in frustration. The illustrations for my story had been inserted almost at random and gave away major elements of the story in advance. (I won't name the zine - I complained to the editor and I'm hoping she'll fix it for the next print run) I wasn't the only victim either. Virtually every story in the zine had misplaced art. It was particularly obvious as the artist who'd done the work was one who illustrated specific scenes rather than doing generic portraits.

Speaking as an editor, I know what problems positioning artwork can present, and I also know how most of them can be avoided.

Pictures need to go opposite relevent text and this poses problems when the relevent text fall on a right hand page. (If the text is LH, then the text goes easily on the facing page.) Think about it. The picture does not want to go on the following page as it would not be visible at the same time as the text. If you put the picture on the facing L page, then the text from that page is displaced to the R page and the page that accompanies your picture is displaced to be over the page and separated from the picture. Sod's Law.

The simplest solution is to relocate the story within the zine so that it now starts on a different facing page. This flips L and R pages throughout the story and solves the problem immediately. If you can't do that, then playing with the font size is another option. If you increase or decrease the font size by half a point, this will often move the relevent text to a different page without the change in font size being immediately obvious to the reader.

It also helps if you ask the artist not to illustrate scenes that are very close together in the story. The closer the pictures are, the harder it will be to use font changes to reposition text without being forced to use very large or very small font sizes.

Another option is to have the pictures on single sided pages which allows you to position them wherever you want without major difficulties. There's also the possibility of changing the size of the picture. Photo-reduction will do this, though I prefer to use a scanner as having the art as a computer file gives me more flexibility.

Last, but not least, if at all possible have all portraits in profile facing towards the spine of the zine. They look better that way as they seem to be looking towards the reader.


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Last changed on 02nd of June 1998