Experiment: How To Make A Mini Zine On Your Mobile Device (Part 1 of 3)
As the founder of the POC (People of Color) Zine Project, I often think about ways to make zine-making and reading more accessible and interesting for young people who spend a lot of time on their phones. I’m not interested in forcing young people into creating materiality—if that is a natural outcome from experimenting with digital tools, great. Sometimes young people use their digital creations to inform the process of making printed materiality and vice versa. I support all modes of exploration that empower young people to be creators, which is why I became interested in finding out if it was possible to make a zine (for free) on your phone, and then share it that same day.
I often observe young people at events (concerts, conferences, parties, etc.) documenting their experience while they are experiencing it—they create photo collages for Instagram, rapidly publish multiple albums in succession to their Facebook page, tweet images, etc. This is now part of the natural rhythm for many people who use technology to share their experiences in real-time. However, often these images & related text live in different places on the web, and if you don’t follow that person on all their accounts, you won’t see everything they made during that event (in one place).
This made me think about the possibility of real-time (or as close to real-time) zine-making directly from your phone:
What if—while processing an idea or enjoying an event—you could fairly quickly & easily make a zine about what you were experiencing on your phone and then share it that same day?
This zine experiment was inspired by real-time news gathering practices and young people. It didn’t work out exactly as I had planned, but it was exciting to explore different possibilities. In part one of this series, I’ll share one of three methods I uncovered:
Here is the experimental perzine I made using my mobile device called “Cat Genie Vol. 2: Chola Fruitz”
Chola Fruitz is a dream-like reflection on group travel, subverting Chola identity tropes, Queer Chicana identity and the evolution of self. I made it in an hour while sitting on my couch, using images I edited within my phone and two mobile apps.
DISCLOSURE: I did make this experimental zine entirely on my phone. However, there wasn’t an easy (or free) way to then publish it from my phone in a format that is easy to read/flip through on the web or in someone’s mobile browser. So, in making this zine, it was actually a two-step process:
1) Creating the zine using mobile apps on my phone
2) Transferring files from within my phone to cloud storage (Dropbox), then downloading those files from my desktop computer to combine into a .pdf file (using PDF Combine), which I then uploaded to Issuu.com from my desktop computer.
Issuu does have a mobile app, but that app only allows you to read and download zines from your phone. Unfortunately you can’t upload any files from your phone to Issuu.com using the Issuu mobile app. As soon as Issuu makes this feature possible, it will make creating and publishing zines from your own phone much easier and faster.
I like using Issuu.com to host the digital versions of zines because of how easy it is to use, the functionality (you can flip through pages like a magazine) and sharing tools (it’s easy to embed zines on blogs, in newsletters, etc.). You can even opt in to allow people to download your zine and print it. So this experiment’s focus was “how do I quickly & creatively make a zine on my phone and then get it on Issuu.com?”
Here’s what you will need to try this experiment for yourself:
- A mobile device (I used a Samsung Galaxy Note II smartphone)
- Free Mobile Apps: FotoRus, Aviary, Dropbox (or Google Drive)
- PDF Combine for your desktop/laptop (free)
- Free desktop/laptop browser based platforms: Issuu, Dropbox (or Google Drive)
DISCLOSURE: Now that I’ve explored multiple options and workarounds, I will preface these instructions by saying that there is definitely more than one way to make a zine (for free) on your phone. I am showing you one method for doing this and then will show you two more options in parts 2 and 3 of this series. Enjoy!
ONE WAY TO QUICKLY MAKE AN EVENT-BASED ZINE AT THE EVENT—ON YOUR PHONE
It took me one hour to complete all steps, using images I already had on my phone
1. Take photos with your mobile device like you normally would at an event. Edit them with text or other modifications using the Aviary mobile app. I suggest this app because there are so many options for editing, adding text, etc. right within the app. If you need more manual editing controls, first edit in Pixlr Express mobile app and then import into Aviary. Save your edited images as new files (don’t replace the originals in case you need to make adjustments).
2. Open up FotoRus mobile app and pick the “InstaMag” option. From there, you can choose different panels to modify with your edited photos and add additional text if needed.
The “InstaMag” feature is basically a bunch of magazine page templates. Unfortunately you can only create files one at a time, rather than an entire publication at once. You will save each modified template as a new file. So, if you are making a zine that is 7 pages worth of your images, you will save 7 “InstaMag” files.
There are some annoying aspects to the “InstaMag” templates such limitations on modifying layouts and the “Instamag” logo that sometimes appears on the template. If you don’t like that, open up your completed “InstaMag” file in Aviary or another photo editing app and edit that logo out.
3. Export your completed/modified “InstaMag” files to your Dropbox account using the Dropbox app for mobile. You will need to have set up a Dropbox account in advance for this to work (it’s free).
4. From a laptop/desktop, login to your Dropbox account at dropbox.com and download your “InstaMag” files from wherever you saved them to your laptop/desktop. I suggest making a specific folder for this experiment so you can easily fine your files.
5. On your laptop/desktop, open up the PDF Combine application (you will need to have installed it). Drag your “InstaMag” files into PDF Combine and export it as one .pdf file. Make sure your pages are in order (you can sort as you like before exporting).
6. On your laptop/desktop, login to your Issuu.com account (set one up if you don’t have one, it’s free). Upload your PDF Combine export that contains all your “InstaMag” FotoRus files. If you want people to be able to print your zine, make sure you opt into the “download” option so others can download. Now, publish! The zine you made on your phone is now online!
7. Make it sticky: If you didn’t have time to add other images or text you want folks to see, you can annotate your published Issuu.com zine with links to any content you want (a public Facebook gallery, a hashtag search results page, etc.). See examples in my zine, shared above.
I do want to note that there are some definite cons to solely using your phone to make a zine. Here are some standout bummers:
1) If you don’t have a phone that supports multimedia content creation through apps (because of lack of memory, power or storage space), it is faster for you to just make a zine the traditional way with paper, written/printed text, magazine cutouts, a printer and copier, etc.
2) Right now there isn’t a streamlined and free way to both create AND publish an e-zine FROM your phone. If you know of a way, please tell me: firstname.lastname@example.org. So, my experience so far has been creating the zine on my phone and then publishing it from a desktop/laptop computer. If you don’t have immediate access to a desktop/laptop computer, you may not be able to publish your phone-created zine as quickly as you would have liked to.
3) The Lazy Artist Factor: Part of the fun and empowerment of making a zine by hand (and offline) is that you can explore your creativity and develop your design skills. Experimenting with layouts, collages and other techniques as part of a print zine workflow can be a really satisfying experience. You miss out on that experience by just using the provided templates in apps, to a significant degree. If everyone used the same zine-making templates, all zines would start to look the same, which would be a bummer.
So, I would never suggest that you ONLY make zines with your phone. There are definitely some artistic restrictions by sticking to that workflow. I see it being more beneficial to (while on the go) explore with zine concepts on your phone, flesh out a rough idea and get feedback, then get your hands dirty and make the zine with print/materiality, in the real world. <3
Many folks also take their IRL zine pages, scan then and then further modify them in applications like Photoshop or InDesign, print them out and then create their flats from that. I think that the combination of technology and old school zine-making practices is an exciting third space that will continue to inspire many.
I had a lot of fun exploring different ways for making a zine on your phone and then publishing it to the web the same day. I look forward to sharing additional options through this series.
ZINESTERS: What starts out as an idea you experiment with on your phone could ultimately end up a print zine. Yup, another benefit to making a zine on your phone is that the process itself can help you sort out factors you may still be considering for a print version of the zine; you can pretty much be anywhere and experimenting with how your zine will ultimately look, from your phone. You don’t even have to keep the zine you make on your phone—the process of just making it and sharing it with others from your phone for feedback on the text, imagery and layout can be really helpful (if that is something you are looking for).
JOURNALISTS: You might also find some value in making real-time event-based zines as part of your news gathering process. A blog post that would have held a few images or gallery could instead contain a mini-zine created on your phone, at the event. This zine, made up of 5-10 pages of images, text and video, would contain content that you had already gathered anyway for your own research, that you then shared through an interactive e-zine embedded in your recap post.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where I will give a few options for making text-heavy zines directly from your phone.