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All (well, mostly) About Paper

"A Series" paper sizes

A Series paper sizes have been around since 19th century Europe and are defined by the ISO 216 international paper size standard. They’re currently used across the globe, except in the USA and Canada. A4 (210x297mmm) is the most commonly used size in English speaking countries while the largest is A0 (841x1189mm) and the smallest is A13 (a minute 9x13mm). In the US and Canada, letter (215.9×279.4mm) is the most common. When you specify the trim area of a project (final paper size) in mmm or inches (especially if you’re dealing with a printer or design studio), width is always mentioned before height.
A0841 × 1189 mm33.1 × 46.8 in
A1594 × 841 mm23.4 × 33.1 in
A2420 × 594 mm16.5 × 23.4 in
A3297 × 420 mm11.7 × 16.5 in
A4210 × 297 mm 8.3 × 11.7 in
A5 148 × 210 mm5.8 × 8.3 in
A6105 × 148 mm 4.1 × 5.8 in
A774 × 105 mm 2.9 × 4.1 in

"B Series" paper sizes

Not as common as the A Series in everyday office usage, the B Series is often used for envelopes, posters, books and passports.
B3353 × 500 mm13.9 × 19.7 in
B4250 × 353 mm9.8 × 13.9 in
B5176 × 250 mm6.9 × 9.8 in
B6125 × 176 mm

"C Series" paper sizes

C Series is mostly used for envelopes, with the numeric values of the size name corresponding to the size of the paper that will fit inside it. eg. an A4 sheet of paper will fit into a C4 envelope etc.
C3324 × 458 mm12.8 × 18 in
C4229 × 324 mm9 × 12.8 in
C5162 × 229 mm6.4 × 9 in
C6114 × 162 mm4.5 × 6.4 in
Paper sizes

Q&A

Rather oddly, business card sizes vary greatly, depending on where you are geographically. Whereas, traditionally, business cards have been rectangular in shape (as per the standard sizes below), they’ve become more creative in recent times – square, die cut or rounded corners and printed on a variety of substrates.
Standard Sizes:
  • In South Africa and a host of other countries across the globe* business cards are usually trimmed to 90x50mm.
  • The standard business card size in the UK and Western Europe is 85mmx 55mm and, in the US, 89x51mm (3.5×2″).
  • Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Taiwan, Sweden, Vietnam, India and Colombia standardise on 90x55mm.
  • Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Malaysia: 90x54mm
*Sri Lanka, Argentina, India, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovakia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Latvia, Mexico, South Korea

If you buy a pack of A4 copy paper for eg, it’s trimmed to 210x297mm (the trim or cut area). So the trim area is effectively the size of the final product.

Bleed is a small area (usually 3mm for small to medium sized printed goods and at least 5mm for large format) surrounding the trim area and is essential when your images and graphics and backgrounds are touching the very edge of the page.

Slug is the area outside the bleed, where you’ll see crop/trim marks, bleed marks, colour bars and registration marks.

Portrait refers to when the width of an image or printed item is less than its height, so its orientation is vertical.

Landscape refers to when the width of an image or printed item is greater than its height, so its orientation is horizontal.

Coated paper is smooth to the touch and offers increased durability and decreased ink absorbency – meaning colours are deeper and more vibrant and ink is prevented from bleeding.

It’s also more resistant to dirt, moisture and wear through handling, so it lasts longer that uncoated paper.

On the downside, it’s not so easy to write on coated paper as pen ink can’t penetrate the coating.

Uncoated paper is more suitable for items you need to write on – business cards, notebooks, forms, envelopes, invitations and books. 

As it’s more porous, it can even make your project look more prestigious, refined, soft, warm and tactile.

Paper weight is measured in grams per square metre (gsm). It’s usually determined by its thickness but other factors also come into play, such as high wood fibre content, pulp additives and method or type of processing.

75gsm: Mainly used for architectural drawings and CAD plans.

80 and 90gsm: Widely used as office paper. Uncoated, so not subjected to chemical treatments and ideal for books, general documents and letterheads.

105/110/115gsm: Ideal for letterheads, compliment slips and similar.

120/130gsm: Mostly used for posters, magazines, brochures, catalogues and flyers, a matte or gloss wash, laminate or coating prolongs its shelf life.

150/170/200gsm: Available in recycled, coated, matte or gloss finishes and even satin. Mostly used for catalogues, presentations, certificates and posters.

200/230/250gsm: Ideal for document covers, greetings cards, invitations and booklet/brochure covers.

300/350gsm: Perfect for business cards, covers and invitations as semi-rigid.

380gsm: The optimal choice for packaging, folders, book covers and retail tags.

Several other paper weights are available and can be used in place of the above-mentioned, most closely-related weights.

All (well, mostly) About Photos

Photo sizes

You’ve heard the adage “size matters”. Well, this is even more evident when it comes to photos.

Using the correct photo size and aspect ratio (and colour space – we’ll get to that later) can make all the difference to your project. A bit of forward planning is necessary, whether your project is for print or web, to help avoid headaches later.

Standard image sizes
Size (inches)Size (mm)Aspect Ratio
4 x 6 in841 × 1189 mm2:3
5 x 7 in594 × 841 mm5:7
8 x 10 in420 × 594 mm4:5
8.5 x 11 in297 × 420 mm4:3
12 x 18 in210 × 297 mm3:2
18 x 24 in148 × 210 mm3:4
24 x 36 in105 × 148 mm3:2
Other aspect ratios:

1:1 is square; often used for social media profile pics.

16:9 is mostly found on computer monitors, wide-screen TVs and in Powerpoint or Keynote presentations.

Aspect ratios

Tips

When scaling an image up or down, maintain the aspect ratio (proportions) by holding the shift key and then dragging the corners.

You’ve probably seen tons of instances where pics have been stretched horizontally or vertically without keeping the proportions intact. The distortion is always noticeable.

The same is true when it comes to text. NEVER stretch it, no matter how tempted you are. Rather play around with font size, kerning (letter spacing) and leading (space between lines of type/line height) till you achieve the desired result.