Sunday, June 15, 2014

DIY Step by Step Zine or Booklet Making

Over the last year and a half I have been messing around with book binding, though not to a level I would really like (I really want to get into serious binding, not just stapled saddle binding). Yesterday I got a hair up my ass, bored I guess. I had an idea to take some of my maps that I post on Patreon and turn it into a nice little PDF. Maybe I would give it to my backer to say thank you (they seem to like when I put them into PDFs), maybe I would put it on RPGNow....really I just did not know.

So I made the PDF. Then I saw how it could be a cool little badass book, much like the copies I made on Friday of Pits & Perils. I made it and then had a handful of people asking to see my process for making these.

So first lets look at how I create the PDF, after all, we need something to print. I use Google Documents (drive, or whatever they call it now) for almost all my daily word processing and this is no different. I also use Libre Office for those times when gDocs will not do. In this case I am aiming for an old school, homemade feel like a guy had made this in his garage, so it is fairly simple. With mainly text and some images, gDocs will work perfectly.

I wanted to add a little flourish to the booklet so I went trolling for some public domain woodcut artwork. I love the look of these but I wanted something with really clean lines so I dropped them into GIMP and Inkscape to clean them up and get them to just black and white. This will make them print much more clean and strong black color. I think the woodcuts also give it a more homemade feeling.

With the document done, I drop it into a PDF form. I use PDF because some times gDocs will look good on the screen but then print a little strange. This was especially true in the early days but it seems they have really worked on fixing this at Google and I rarely see much difference these days. I look things over on screen to save paper and ink. In cases such as this, where this is not just for in-house use, I will often print out a test run using 300dpi draft mode (to save ink!) to proof read and make sure everything is just right.

Once I am happy with the product, I grab my paper (I have a pretty wide selection, I really need to make or buy something to store and organize it better) and print out the pages. I have a really crappy Canon printer (no Linux drivers, those bastards at Canon hate Linux!) but I discovered really cheap ink I can get from China that works with it (about $10 for an entire color set) and it does scan well. It took me about three weeks to get it to work with Linux to print and scan correctly, I hated every minute but I learned a good deal about working with thanks I guess, Canon.

With everything printed out, it is time to head to the garage (yes, the actual garage)! First I will go over my tools. Most I purchased a while back when I made my Edge of Space books. First up is my PaperPro long reach stapler. I am not 100% happy with this but the stapler companies all got together and have some sort of drug cartel like monopoly on long arm staplers and jack the prices up, so I am stuck with this one for now. It works and has some sort of spring assisted action to make stapling less taxing. When I get old and can barely move, I will still be able to use this to staple, so I guess there is that. It has a guide, but it slides far to easy for my tastes, so I used a few rubber bands to hold it in place. If you look very close at the business end of the stapler, you will see a vertical red line I drew with a marker. This is the mark for where the staple actual lines up and is pushed out of the stapler. After a few misaligned staples, I went through and did this. It helps to make sure I line up perfectly with the fold of the booklet.

The Bone Folder. It sounds stupid but you MUST have one of these. Initially I refused to pay a couple of bucks for a simple piece of plastic, but boy was that stupid. I tried a few other things that appeared to be similar that I found around the house but there is some sort of voodoo magic used in the making of these things. Maybe they sacrifice puppies or something. These things are pure magic and worth every penny. If you do not have one of these, then you are doing it wrong.

Badass metal ruler. Need it for cutting and lining up. Don't play around with a plastic or wood ruler. Those are for amateurs. Get the real thing, you will not regret it.

I have a paper trimmer but it is a $10 one I bought at Hobby Lobby. I think it was built for some sort of pansy assed trimming of doilies or something. It works but is made of flimsy plastic and often I am frustrated with it. So I bought the FATMAX. This thing is awesome. Cuts paper like butter. That said, it makes no apologies and takes no prisoners. Practice with it a little before you stroll in and start cutting all willy-nilly. Trust me, you will destroy your hard work.

And finally, the piece de resistance in my collection, the corner rounder. I do not know how many times people have commented on my books and mentioned the freaking corners. These are not cheap, I think I got this for $10 after a 50% coupon at Hobby Lobby...and this is one of the cheaper ones. Good thing is that it has held up well and rarely clogs. It will eat through up to around 25 or so pages of paper without a care in the world. I love it and am glad that I spent the extra on this.

I buy all my stuff at Hobby Lobby or Walmart, nothing special, but those are the stores we have in town. If you shop at HL, get the smart phone app as it includes a 40% off any one item coupon every single day so you can make a few trips to the store to add to your collection over time and save a great deal. I also get all my Micron pens and paper I use for mapping there. I almost always use the coupon to save on the cost of these.

Ok, so on to the actual construction of the books.

First thing I start folding the paper. I always fold the different paper separately, especially the covers. Each type of paper is different and folding them separately seems to make the folder better. Of course, I use the magical bone folder  to get the perfect fold. Were these actually made of bone at one time? That would totally be badass!

When folding especially thick paper or a thick book I break up the pages into small batches. As many pieces of paper fold, they don't always line up correctly and you end up with terrible edges. Folding them in smaller groups makes the lines much better. Here you can see the three groups I used: the cover and two halves of the book. Gratuitous shot of the bone folder basking in its own awesomeness included at no extra charge.

Next, I throw the pages all together and make sure it looks good.

Then comes the stapling. I use the rubber-stopped guide to line up the red line (on the other side of the stapler) and the fold on the cover. This is not always perfect, rushing tends to make me screw up. For this reason I am thinking of getting one of these in the future, but damn they are crazy expensive.

Here you can see how the thickness of the paper messes around with your folding. Also, the paper I am using for the inside pages I can only get at 9"x12" so I had previously cut these to 8.5"x11" before I printed the pages. I guess my cut was a little off. Needless to say I hate when the interior pages overlap the cover, looks like dookey. So here is where my metal ruler and FaxMax come back. Line them up and in two swipes all the ugly is gone.

Here you can see the edges fixed, the remains are to the right of FatMax. Next step is the corner rounder, just two quick cuts and the corners are nice and pretty.

I used some off-white paper for the inside of the book. I wanted this to not only have a homemade feel but also an an appearance of age to it. Perhaps this is some old tome you found in your attic that great-grandpa used when he was a young, spry adventurer!

And here is the final product.

I took the book out to my deck for some natural light photos (the light I have in the garage has a strong yellow to it). The natural light shows you what it really looks like in person. The front cover.

Interior pages. And yes, I need to restain my deck, ugh, that job sucks.

In this photo you can see the slight difference in the paper

And that is all there is to it. In all I think I have spent somewhere around $60-$75 on the tools to make the books but I am glad I did because it enables me to make these little books whenever I want (and not wait for Lulu to print and ship something to me).

If you make a book using this guide, let me know, I would love to see what you come up with.

A suggestion was made to provide links to the tools I listed above, so here goes. Note, clicking these will take you to an Amazon affiliate page.