The divisible-by-four principle …and other mind-blowing information

This field secret will: guide you through the construction process of a zine with a minimum of distress.

This only applies to: zines that, stripped of their glamour, are mere booklets. And for zinemakers who are bad at maths and/or spatial thinking.

Who knew that: the pages you lovingly crafted in sequential order need to now become incomprehensively separated and radically rearranged for printing purposes. Individual pages need to take on double sided identities, interconnected to other pages.

Sadly, the trauma of trying to make sense navigating this construction process can be great and exact an emotional toll others cannot appreciate. It can break many potential zinemakers. Don’t become a statistic. There’s a way to doing it systematically. Get the knowledge.

Everything Counts.
All your pages count. For production purposes? The cover is page one. Page one does not start once you open the zine like some kind of regular fool layperson reader. Page one is Of The Zine. It’s the front cover.

It is a fundamental guiding philosophy. Don’t trick yourself with the consumer mindset. You are a maker now. The Cover is One. The inside cover is two. The next page is three. Three is not One. What becomes counter intuitive must become intuitive if you are to receive the wisdom. Odd numbers will always fall on the right hand of each spread. Even numbers fall on the left. Diagrams and charts will depend on it.

The ‘Divisible by Four’ Rule.
Your zine pages need to be divisible by four. It’s the physics behind all basic booklets. Know this: your zine is flirting with mathematical danger if it finishes on whatever organic page feels natural and then you go to try and put it together.

The total page count *has* to be divisible by four. Otherwise you’ll end up with additional blank pages (or not enough). It’s not some amazing coincidence that zines finish on the inside back cover. It’s through artificial ingenuity. It’s a (very real) form of technological determinism that will test your artistic expression. Yes. You’re already artistically compromised.

Control your Masters.
So far you have the original single pages, and now you need to know how to arrange the pages so they’ll copy in the right order. You’ll be doing the rearranging of pages on to sheets of paper – your masters.

Some people call their sheets of paper ready to copy from as ‘masters’, others call them ‘flats’. (Freaks). It’s good to keep your masters as single sided. If you make a mistake with a pasted down original page, you can pull the master apart and not damage anything original on the alternate side.

The other advantage is you can also jot arrows and numbers on the blank backs if you need the extra cues for reference once you’re standing there at the copier freaking out. The longer your zine, the more amount of sheets of paper you’ll need to photocopy double sided, the more complicated the arrangement (technical term, imposition) gets:

The Method Behind The Madness: 
You have the pages correctly numbered and adding to a total count divisible by four.
You understand you need to rearrange them onto masters.
Now you need to figure out  that rearrangement for all the maths to come together.
This is how it works out visually for an eight page zine.
(Click on the image, you can enlarge it. )


If your page is the size of a folded sheet of paper and it’s an 8 page zine like above, a page assembly chart would be 8-1, [2-7], 6-3, [4-5].

If your zine is 16 pages a page assembly chart would be 16-1, [15-2] and so on.

If your 8 page zine is *half* the size of a folded sheet of paper, the alignment changes again, to take account that you can now print double the amount of zines on the same sheets of paper. More maths. (Click on the image, you can enlarge it. )


The Final Challenge: The photocopier is your friend.
The photocopier you’re utilising will have its own myriad of potential orientations to select when you go to do copies, including portrait and landscape modes but also various potential double sided combinations.

This is where you need to sweat the final spatial thinking out, poured over the photocopier. By yourself. For some this can involve numerous dud copies and heartache. But you’ll get it right and when you do, you shall be champion of the world.