We prep print design files a lot. And we get this question a lot. “What size X, Y, Z should I get?” Then we start comparing household objects to what a 4×6 postcard looks like versus a 5×7… over the phone. It’s not ideal. Digital images for size comparison don’t ever showcase size appropriately, but one thing we DO know, is most everyone knows what a Standard sheet of printer paper looks like!
We can talk for a while about the Golden Ratio, how North America really break the rules of ISO, and how it works with printing and design processes. However, we figured this simplified list for those using online print shops, printing at home, framing, and simply not wanting to do math, would help a ton of folks.
US Standard Paper Sizes
Printing isn’t something people usually think about. Which means it’s not common knowledge that standard sizes actually come out a lot cheaper than custom sizes. Especially if you’re planning on framing something in the future. Even though that odd shaped business card or die cut postcard would look SUPER cool, most printers have presets for standards and going out of the norm sometimes adds an extra cost. As well as paper sizes often have their own names or reference numbers. And of course, North American printers work a little differently from other countries.
If you’re planning on using an online print shop, a local printer, printing at home, or framing designs, here are some guides to help you decide on paper sizes.
In this list, we’re focusing on 3 main categories.
- F – Easily Framable – based on standard frame sizes at Michaels Arts & Crafts
- L – Large Format – based on in person print shops, and likely to cost more since they are in the next size bracket
- H – Easy & Low Waste for At Home Printing – based on standard home printers
General Printing Sizes
These are the sizes that most people use. These are also the US standard paper sizes that most people will recognize by just saying their names.
*note about ordering – When reading dimensions, width is always used first. This is how you will know a vertical vs horizontal print. Example: 8.5″ width x 11″ height is a vertical print.
- Letter Sheet – 8.5″ x 11″ – H, F
- Legal Sheet – 8.5″ x 14″ – H
- Framing Equivalent – 8″ x 10″ – H, F
- Tabloid Sheet – 11″ x 17″ – F
- US standard – 3.5″ x 2″
- Folded Business Cards – 3.5″ x 4″ (when open)
Postcard Printing Sizes
The US Postal Service has standard maximums and minimums if you’re planning on mailing a postcard with a stamp. Which are: Max 6″ x 4.25″ & Min 5″ x 3.5″.
The 2 most popular postcard sizes are:
- 4″ x 6″ – F – This size is used as the go-to since it hits all 3: mailing, photo proportions, & standard printing.
- 5″ x 7″ – F – While this one is not within the size restrictions of stamp mailing, it can be mailed for a little extra cost, it’s also considered a photo & framing standard. Great for hand outs, too!
Poster Paper Sizes
US standard poster papers have their own rules and sizing that are considered standard and most online printers adhere to the following breakdowns.
*note – some printers have a big price jump after 13″ x 19″ (Super B / B+ Size) since it’s then considered ‘large format’.
- 8.5″ x 11″ – Letter size – H, F
- 11″ x 14″ – F
- 11″ x 17″ – Tabloid size – F – we use this most for posters.
- 13″ x 19″ – B+ / Super B size – F, L
- 16″ x 20″ – F, L
- 18″ x 24″ – F, L
- 24″ x 36″ – F, L
Yard Sign Printing Sizes
Coroplast (corrugated plastic) or metal yard signs are great for cheap outdoor promotion. They’re also super handy for event signage, long term posters, and anything that needs to withstand time. Depending on the thickness, you can frame some of these standard sizes pretty easily.
- 24″ x 9″ – L
- 18″ x 12″ – F
- 24″ x 18″ – F, L
- 36″ x 24″ – F, L
At Home Printing Paper Sizes
For US standard paper sizes, most at home printers (unless wide format) go up to 8.5” wide, and length can be adjusted for letter or legal. Wide format printers typically start at 13″ x 19″.
- Flyers – 8.5″ x 11″ – Letter
- Booklets (half sheet of paper) – 5.5″ x 8.5″ (after fold)
- Mini Flyers – 1/4 Letter – 4.25″ x 5.5″ each panel (4 total)
- 1/3 Letter – Brochure – – 3.7″ x 3.7″ x 3.63″ x 8.5″
- Horizontal bifold – Brochure – 5.5″ x 8.5″ (same as booklet)
- Vertical bifold – Brochure – 4.25″ x 11″
The reason we include framing in here is because often times posters and postcards are framed as a mementos after the fact. If you’re creating art for function and promotion, you likely won’t need to worry about framing. However, for posters and souvenir style postcards the framable sizes are good to keep in mind!
We even put together some graphics for easy referencing for you:
- All paper sizes in relation to each other (on a Letter size for easy printing!) – Download it here.
- Document of all paper sizes mentioned here, to scale – Download it here.
For the real nerds who want a history on why paper sizes are the way they are and the difference between the A, B, & C series, Wikipedia is a good place to start 🙂