I remember my first encounter with Letter size paper, and how puzzled I felt when it won't fit my A4 file folder properly. It was then that I realized there are commonly used paper sizes other than A4.
If you love writing and journaling, or if you travel a lot, you will soon find out commercial paper comes in all kinds of sizes. They range from the pocket size A7 paper in mini notebooks, to the more common and popular A5 bullet journals (or bujo as it's commonly called), to B5 composition books, and A4 or Letter size paper. Do these codes mean anything to you?
This guide is designed to help you choose the paper size that works best for your project. I am not going to dive into the technical details of all paper out there, instead I will cover the most commonly used sizes for notebooks and looseleaf.
Paper Sizing Systems
There are currently 2 most widely used paper sizing systems: International (ISO) and North American (ANSI).
North American ANSI Standard
Those of you in Canada and the US are likely to be familiar with the North American system. It is usually measured in inches rather than centimeters.
Letter: 8.5 in x 11 in (216 cm x 279 cm)
Letter size is the most commonly used paper in North America. It is the standard size for documents, office printing, school note paper, etc.
Legal: 8.5 in x 14 in (216 cm x 356 cm)
Legal size, as the name suggested, used to be the standard for all legal documents. Why? We are not entirely sure, but the widely accepted explanation is that the additional length allows long charts and tables to fit into the same page, and also makes lengthy legal contracts easier to follow.
European/International Standard (ISO 216)
For most other parts of the world, paper size is measured using the international standard (ISO 216). This standard divides paper sizes into 3 series: Series A, Series B and Series C. Unlike the North American standard, the ISO uses the metric system for dimension measurements.
The A series is the most common size for daily usage. The most popular size in Series A is the A4, which is widely used for office printing, binders, notebooks, publications, etc.
In Series A, the largest sheet is A0. Its dimensions are determined by solving the simultaneous equations:
- The area of A0 paper is 1 m².
- The aspect ratio of the dimension is 1 : 1.4142 (which is also square root 2)
Solving the equations will give us the measurement of 841 mm x 1189 mm, which is the size of A0 paper.
From there on, the dimensions for the subsequent sizes are very easy to work out. Each size down is half of the previous size, i.e. fold A0 in half and you get A1, fold A1 in half and you get A2, etc.
|A0||841 mm x 1189 mm||Large posters, signs|
|A1||594 mm x 841 mm||Posters, signs, window displays|
|A2||420 mm x 594 mm||Posters, window displays, art print|
|A3||297 mm x 420 mm||Posters, presentations, charts|
|A4||210 mm x 297 mm||Everyday printing, letters, office printing, notes|
|A5||148 mm x 210 mm||Planners, journals, flyers, booklets, sketchbook|
|A6||105 mm x 148 mm||Pocket notebooks, flyers, postcards, pamplets|
|A7||74 mm x 105 mm||Post-it notes, pocket notebooks|
|A8||52 mm x 74 mm||Business cards|
|A9||37 mm x 52 mm||Tickets, coupons|
|A10||26 mm x 37 mm||Stamps, coupons|
Here are some of the notebooks/paper in the A series:
|Leuchtturm1917 Master Classic (A4+)||
Clairefontaine Zoe Ruled Notebook (A4)
Kokuyo Soft Ring Biz Notebook (A5)
Rhodia Glued-Spine Notebook (A6)
The B series, compared to Series A, is not as commonly used. It is designed to cover the sizes not found in Series A.
Similar to Series A, the B series has an aspect ratio of 1 : 1.4142 (square root 2). The difference is that B0 starts with the short edge being 1 meter long (1000 mm x 1414 mm). From there on, each size down is half of the previous size, i.e. fold B0 in half and you get B1, fold B1 in half and you get B2, etc.
|B0||1000 mm x 1414 mm||Posters and large photos|
|B1||707 mm x 1000 mm||Posters and signs|
|B2||500 mm x 707 mm||Small posters|
|B3||353 mm x 500 mm||Small posters, paintings|
|B4||250 mm x 353 mm||Small posters, illustrations, sketchbook|
|B5||176 mm x 250 mm||Magazines, flyers, menus, composition books|
|B6||125 mm x 176 mm||Booklets, flyers, pocket notebooks|
|B7||88 mm x 125 mm||Pocket notebooks, menus, flyers|
|B8||62 mm x 88 mm||Business cards, flyers|
|B9||44 mm x 62 mm||Small flyers, labels|
|B10||31 mm x 44 mm||Small cards, coupons|
Here are some examples of B series notebook/paper:
|Mnemosyne N104 Notebook (B5)||
Clairefontaine Zoe at Work Notebook (A6-B6)
Kokuyo Idea Grid Notebook (<B6)
Rhodia No. 12 Notepad (~B7)
Series C is used in envelopes to accommodate Series A paper. I am not going to go in depth into this series, but the general idea is, the C size is slightly bigger than the A size, so they will fit A series paper nicely. The A and C series are paired up with matching numbers, i.e. C4 envelopes will work with A4 paper, C5 for A5, and so on.
Most of the notebooks and journals on the market are manufactured based on international standards. I hope this guide helps you choose the right paper size for your writing adventure!
What is your go-to paper size, and what do you use it for?