Guide to Common Paper Sizes

Posted by Inky Paw on

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.

Series A

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.

International Standard Paper A Series

Size Dimensions Common Usage
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:

Leuhtturm1917 Master Classic Notebook A4+Leuchtturm1917 Master Classic (A4+)

Clairefontaine Nina Notebook A4Clairefontaine Zoe Ruled Notebook (A4)

Mnemosyne N109 A4 Notebook

Mnemosyne N109 Notebook (A4)

Leuchtturm1917 Some Lines a Day A5 Journal

Leuchtturm1917 Some Lines a Day (A5)

Kokuyo Soft Ring Biz A5 Notebook

Kokuyo Soft Ring Biz Notebook (A5)

Leuchtturm1917 A6 Pocket Notebook

Leuchtturm1917 Pocket Notebook (A6)

Rhodia Glued-Spine Notebook A6

Rhodia Glued-Spine Notebook (A6)

Rhodia Mini Notebook A7

Rhodia Lined Minibook (~A7)

  

Series B

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.

International Standard Paper B Series

Size Dimensions Common Usage
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 B5 NotebookMnemosyne N104 Notebook (B5)

Leuchtturm1917 B5 Composition Notebook 

Leuchtturm1917 Composition Notebook (B5)

 Clairefontaine Zoe at Work Notebook

Clairefontaine Zoe at Work Notebook (A6-B6)

Kokuyo Idea Grid B6 Slim Notebook

Kokuyo Idea Grid Notebook (<B6)

 

Rhodia No 12 Notepad

Rhodia No. 12 Notepad (~B7) 

 

 

Series C

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?


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