So You Want to Make an ArtZine


When I came back from California I had a couple of weeks to get over my jetlag, work on a few deadlines, and order supplies and prep for a convention. I for some reason felt this was the perfect time to pick up another project.

I have always wanted to assemble a ‘sketchbook’ or compilation zine of my work, but never got around to doing it. Though recently a buddy of mine made one and I decided to give it a shot myself. I’ve since then had a few folks ask me how I assembled it. I used programs that probably made things more more complicated than it needed to be, but hey if you want to do this the hard way the Foolish Mortal’s got your back!


The most time consuming part of this project was going through the art files and figuring out what I want to use. I actually have more files stashed elsewhere but you get the idea of what I was wading through. To narrow stuff down I decided to make sure the pieces were not more than a few years old, and due to financial limits I decided to stick with pieces that would print well in black and white.  Or as close to black and white I could manage. I personally use A LOT of paper textures and middle tones so this made life difficult. Thankfully a lot of my digital sketches are done in Mischief which allows me to separate the drawing layers from the background. This made using all my digital stuff very easy to clean up and use.

left - the original digital sketch , right - sketch with the background removed and all the colors de-saturated.
left – the original digital sketch right – sketch with the background removed and all the colors de-saturated.

Once the art is selected and cleaned up, I get to start page layouts. My focus in college was graphic design so I know better, but I used Photoshop to lay out the pages. I should have probably used InDesign or something that’s actually designed to lay out books. But Photoshop and I go back a long way and InDesign is Satan.

This will be a lot easier and cleaner if you plan how many pages you want in advance. Book pages work in increments of four. Two pages per side of a sheet of paper. So keep that in mind when planning and laying out your pages.

I didn’t really plan too far ahead and planned 26 pages and have a blank page or two in the back of my book as a result. (I left it there in the end so I can draw request sketches in at conventions.)  Learn from my mistakes.

To figure out the page order for printing I created a little book out of scrap paper and numbered it. Then I took apart the dummy book to see what pages lined up on the same sheet.


Numbering to further illustrate the difference between printing and final layout.
Numbering to further illustrate the difference between printing and final layout.

Laying this out in Photoshop is pretty basic, just resize and layout. For simplicity the book is sized when folded and bound 5.5″ x 8.5″ and the Photoshop canvas was 11 x 8.5″ (horizontal letter size.) Since I was printing this my resolution on these files was 300 dpi.

I had no real idea what to do for the cover so I just sort of scribbled something until an idea came out. I literally started drawing a pile of stuff I like. So a toe-pincher coffin, book, skull, a toolbox/ treasure chest. Oh yea and umbrellas, cause I really like umbrellas. I was about to scrap this sketch when a friend suggested that I make the sky fall which I feel really tied the piece together. Blacks and gradients are added when I move the sketch from Mischief into Photoshop. The screen tone effects are added in the final to make sure that this all prints alright come the final copy.


With the cover illustration done and title (and font) decided upon the cover is assembled and ready for printing and binding with the rest of the book.

To ensure that the print shop could read these files with minimal issue I saved these files as PDF format, RBG color settings. At this stage name your pages numerically so they print in order. In my case the cover was printed on card stock  separately from the rest of the book so I named the files accordingly to lessen confusion.


Once you get to the print shop of your choice they should be able to read your files off of a cd, or jump drive. Explain to them you are making a book and that you want double sided printing. Don’t be shy, they do this sort of thing all the time.  If you like you can have them do all the finishing work, and print and fold and staple it for you. Though keep in mind these services usually cost extra.

I personally was keeping this as cheap as possible and have lots of practice at this sort of thing so I just had them run off the pages and borrowed their stapler. There’s no photo for this it was just a lot of folding, stapling and running out the door to get back on the road.


Hope this was helpful to anyone trying to assemble one of these or something similar. This was definitely a learning experience for me.

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