Printing Methods

Astra's Tower Hectograph

This is a page from the fanzine Astra's Tower, published by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which was copied using a hectograph.


This is a page from the fanzine Triton, published by R.H. Woodman that was copied using a mimeograph.

Hectographs use a very basic method of printing. A master image is created that will serve as the template from which other copies will be made. Using aniline dye, which comes in many forms, the desired image would be typed, written, or drawn onto a piece of paper, and then pressed onto a pan of gelatin. In order to transfer the dye to the gelatin, alcohol would be rubbed onto the paper to release the dyes. Subsequent pieces of fresh paper would be pressed onto, and then peeled off the gelatin, producing the copies.[1]

Mimeographs operate by first creating stencils of the texts and illustrations. Those stencils would then be placed onto the rolling, ink-filled drum of a mimeograph machine. A fresh piece of paper is then inserted, and as the drum rotates it forces ink through the stencils producing the copies.[2]

Spirit duplicators (also known as Ditto machines) use two sheets; where an image was created on the first, and the second had an ink-containing wax layer. The first sheet would be placed overtop the second, then as the image was typed, drawn, or written the pressure would transfer the colored wax from the second sheet onto the first. The first sheet would be attached to the drum of the machine to be the plate to print copies of the fanzine. This method became less popular as mimeograph machines dropped in price, making them more accessible.[3]

Offset printing (also referred to as offset lithography) is where your desired images are copied from a flat printing plate. The plate has sections with the image that attract ink and repel water, then the non-printing areas that attract water and repel ink. The image is transferred from the plate to an offset rubber blanket cylinder, which then copies the image onto fresh sheets of paper.[4]

Xerography prints fanzines using photocopiers. Since photocopiers cost into the thousands to purchase at the time, individuals depended on their employers and universities that owned them.[5] First, the document is placed in the machine and light shining on it reflects off a mirror through a lens and off a second mirror to form the image on the drum. Secondly, toner is sprayed accordingly to produce the image onto the drum. A fresh piece of paper, with a positive charge under it, passes the drum and attracts the negative particle of the toner. This is what transfers the image onto the piece of paper, which is then fused by heat.[6]

[1] “Hectograph.” Fanlore, Last modified November 21, 2015, Accessed June 4 2018.

[2] “Mimeograph.” Fanlore, Last modified July 22, 2015, Accessed 4 June 2018.

[3] “Spirit Duplication.” Fanlore, Last modified July 22, 2015, Accessed 4 June 2018.

[4] “Offset.” Fanlore, Last modified January 31, 2018, Accessed 4 June 2018.

[5] “Xerography.” Fanlore, Last modified April 3, 2015, Accessed 4 June 2018.

[6] Hosch, William L. “Xerography.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 13 March 2009, Accessed 4 June 2018.