Mockup image above by contributor AlexandrBognat
If you’ve ever wanted to create your own magazine design, a mini “zine” is a great alternative. Perfect for sharing a collection of photos, illustrations, or short stories, zines are trending, cheap to print, and can look amazing too.
In this quick and simple tutorial, we’ll look at how you can put together a basic zine template in Adobe InDesign. Although the design is tailored as a photography zine, you could easily adapt the images and page layouts to your own content.
Suitable for beginners to InDesign, we’ll learn how to set up the template with the correct print specifications, create layers and masters, add color swatches, and map out the layout of the cover and inside pages.
What You’ll Need to Create Your Zine
As well as access to Adobe InDesign, you’ll need to either source your own images or download them from a stock library. The images below are the ones used in the design pictured.
You’ll also need a stylish font to use in your zine. Here I’ve used Fira Code.
1. How to Set Up Your Zine Template in InDesign
Open InDesign and go to File > New > Document.
From the Print options, choose A5 (148 mm by 210 mm). Set the number of pages to 10 (you can always add or delete pages later), and make sure Facing Pages is checked.
For the Margins, set the Top and Outside to 19 mm, Inside to slightly more, at 21 mm, and the Bottom to 25 mm.
Add a Bleed of 5 mm to all edges except the Inside edge, which you should keep to 0 mm.
Then click Create.
Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click on Layer 1. Rename this as Color and click OK.
Create two new layers above this, first Photos and then Type at the top of the sequence.
Then lock the bottom Color and Photos layers, leaving Type unlocked and active.
Expand the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and choose New Color Swatch from the panel’s main menu.
With the Color Mode set to CMYK, set the levels below to C=0 M=49 Y=14 K=0. Click Add and Done.
Create a second new swatch, C=60 M=0 Y=49 K=0, then click Add and Done.
In the Pages panel (Window > Pages), click on the A-Master icon at the top of the panel to bring up the master on your screen.
Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create a tall, narrow rectangle over the right-hand edge of the spread, just allowing a couple of millimeters to be visible on the page, and extending the rest of the shape across the width of the bleed.
Set the Fill Color of the shape to your green pastel swatch, C=0 M=49 Y=14 K=0.
Select the shape and Edit > Copy, and Edit > Paste it, moving it over to the left side of the spread, into a mirrored position.
This will leave a very slight touch of color across the far edges of the pages in your zine.
In the Pages panel, select the A-Master page icons at the top, and choose Duplicate Master Spread from the panel’s main menu.
Click on the new B-Master to bring it up on screen. Adjust the Fill Color of the two shapes on this master to your pink swatch, C=60 M=0 Y=49 K=0.
Click on the [None] page icon at the top of the Pages panel, and Right-Click > Apply Master to Pages.
Type in “1, 10” to apply the [None] master to the front and back cover pages of your zine, and click OK.
2. How to Create a Cover for Your Zine
Click on Page 1 in the Pages panel to bring it up on screen. This will be the front cover of your zine.
Lock the Type layer and unlock the bottom Color layer.
Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create a shape across the whole page, extending it up to the bleed on the top, bottom and right edges, and to the trim (page) edge on the left (inside) edge.
Set the Fill to pink.
Now working on the Photos layer, use the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) to create an image frame on the page.
Go to File > Place, choose a photo to feature on your front cover, and Open.
Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create a shape over the top, setting the Fill to [Paper] .
Right-Click > Arrange > Send to Back, to send it behind the image frame.
Working on the top Type layer, add text to the cover using the Type Tool (T).
Set the Font to Fira Code.
Vary the text color between [Black] and [Paper] , to create contrast against the colored background.
Select and Copy the background shape on the Color layer, and the image frame and white shape sitting on the Photos layer, and Paste these onto the final page of your document, in this case Page 10.
This will be the back cover of the zine. So you can tweak the layout, and File > Place a new image into the image frame.
Set any captions beneath images in Fira Code Regular.
3. How to Populate Your Zine with Content
You can fill the inside pages of your zine with anything you like, be it photos, illustrations, diagrams or text. Here, I’ll show you how I created the inside layouts for this photography zine, which you can either adapt to your own images, or use as a source of inspiration.
Working on the first full spread of your zine, create an image frame using the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) on the left-hand page. File > Place an image into the frame.
Copy and Paste the text caption from the back cover onto this page, editing the Font Color if you need to.
Copy both the image and caption, and Paste these onto the facing page, editing the content.
Mixing up the layout arrangements of the pages of your zine can really make the design feel more interesting and dynamic.
On the next spread down, I’ve placed an image across the whole page. Because we’re working on the Photos layer, the colored shapes on the Type layer above will still be visible.
Return to the Pages panel and select the B-Master page icons. Then Right-Click > Apply Master to Pages.
Type in 6-9, and click OK.
Returning to the inside pages, on Page 6 I place an image across the whole page, and a smaller image with captions on the right-hand page.
On the final full spread I place a large image across both pages, with a caption set in a [Paper] Font Color in the corner for contrast.
4. How to Export Your Zine for Printing
When you’ve finished working on your zine, go to File > Export.
Choose Adobe PDF (Print) from the Format menu at the bottom of the Save As window, and give the file a name, like “Zine for print.” Click Save.
In the Export window that opens choose Press Quality from the Adobe PDF Preset menu at the top. Make sure under Pages that All is checked (unless you want to export your cover pages and inside pages separately), and that Pages, not Spreads, is selected.
Click on Marks and Bleeds in the window’s left-hand menu, and check both All Printer’s Marks and Use Document Bleed Settings.
Then go ahead and click Export.
You can send the resulting PDF straight off to the printers. Great job!
Your Finished Zine
In this tutorial you’ve picked up some awesome new skills for creating zines in Adobe InDesign. Many of these skills, such as working with masters and creating layouts, are easily transferrable to other print design projects, so why not develop your skillset further and have a go at creating other items?
This tutorial shows you how you can create a professional-standard magazine cover in Adobe InDesign.