XYZine: Books to Help You Bind Your Own...

I love making zines. Sure: getting words down on paper is cool, but rolling up my sleeves and making decisions about paper, format, and structure? These are the parts of zine making that I love. Wandering the aisles of an art supply store lulls me into a trance, as I spend time planning “the next big project”.

Don’t fool yourself: the structure of your zine is as important as the thoughts and emotions that you pour into the content. Some of my long-time favorites (All This is Mine, Cursive is not Cryptic, Arte Postale) incorporate amazing writing and clever book structures. Take the time to consider how you want your zine to appear to the average reader; decisions such as paper choice and size should be considered before embarking on any new zine project.

In previous posts, Liz Mayorga and I discussed the ins-and-outs of basic zine making, so there’s no need to go over that again. But where do you start if you need some fresh new bookbinding tips? You’re in luck! I’m going to share some of my “can’t live without ‘em” reference books about making books and zines. These are the volumes I’m constantly riffling through for visual inspiration or figuring out a new technique; the well-thumbed pages are a testament to their usefulness in my studio. Each one is an invaluable resource.

Print Workshop: Hand-Printing Techniques and Truly Original Projects -- This book inspires from the very first page to the final resource guide. Written by Christine Schmidt (of Yellow Owl Workshop), this well written, easy-to-understand book showcases a variety of basic printmaking methods. Kitchen table techniques such as relief printing and image transfers are covered, as well as specialized skills like cyanotype printmaking. Inspired to try something new, I dug up a few things for relief printing…

How to Make Books: Fold, Cut, & Stitch Your Way to a One-Of-A-Kind Book by Esther K. Smith came to live on my bookshelf when it first hit the streets in 2007; the eye-catching cover won me over right away. Cool looking sample projects, jazzy typography, and a general love for bookbinding are standout characteristics of this popular volume. As an introductory “book about making books”, this is a good place to start, although at times the instructions are vague. On the flip side, the sample books shown throughout have a way of encouraging you to take the leap and experiment with your own ideas, which can lead to some happy accidents (see below).

Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures, and Forms: One of the most exciting things about both zines and artists books is the fact that they are uniquely personal in look and design; no two are ever alike. Book artist (and bay area local) Alisa Golden has been creating artists’ books for over twenty five years; Making Handmade Books is a collection of four of her previously published books relating to paper techniques and bookmaking. Equal parts inspiration (lots of great photos!) and demos (want to learn more about map folds?), there are plenty of ideas that can be applied to zines and small book projects. Starting simple with basic folded books, Alisa takes readers through the different styles of bookbinding and paper engineering, ending with boxmaking.

Indie Publishing: How to Design and Publish Your Own Book: whether you’ve just wrapped up your very first twenty four hour zine project or you’re an old hand at making zines, Indie Publishing is a handy reference book to have around. In addition to chapters about zines/handmade books, different aspects and considerations of independent publishing are discussed. Ever wondered how offset printing happens? Perhaps you need a fast answer to the question “How do I even start my new zine project?” (easy to follow flowchart on page 116!). Maybe you’d like a reminder about page layout or terminology – this is the book you’re looking for! If you make zines which utilize both new school technology (Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign) with old school technology (cut/copy/paste) this book will be a great resource guide.

Limiting myself to these four books was a hard task; while there are plenty of books about zines and zinemaking (What’cha Mean, What’s A Zine, Stolen Sharpie Revolution, Zine Scene: the DIY Guide to Making Zines) and bookbinding (Cover to Cover, Bookbinding: A Step by Step Guide, Creating Artists’ Books) I feel that each of the books I’ve mentioned above are solidly consistent; I find myself referring back to them again and again. These are books that I often loan out and never see again – a true testimonial to their usefulness.

Bonus: these four books (and other books about making books) can be checked out at your local public library; see what they have and reserve your copies at