More than likely, you probably don’t give a lot of thought to the paper sizes that your outstanding printer uses. In the United States, we tend to have a limited range of options for most personal and commercial needs. But it turns out that paper sizes can vary widely. And for people who travel abroad, you know that “standard paper size” can mean something different depending on the country where you’re based.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The two key paper size categories are North American and International Standard.
  • International Standard Paper features an aspect ratio that equals the square root of two.
  • Letter and A4 sizes are the most standard options for North American and International Standards respectively.

North American vs. International Standards

Just like with units of measurement, there’s not one uniform system used by the entire world. When it comes to paper though, it’s not the world against the U.S. but the world against Canada, the Philippines, and the U.S.

For the most part, the majority of the world relies on an international standard known as ISO 216 standard while the U.S., Canada, and the Philippines rely on the North American standard which is also known as the ANSI/ASME Y14.1.

Insider Tip

For the most part, the majority of the world relies on an international standard known as ISO 216 standard while the U.S., Canada, and the Philippines rely on the North American standard which is also known as the ANSI/ASME Y14.1.

North American Standard (ANSI/ASME Y14.1)

If you plan on printing in Canada or the U.S., you’ll usually be limited to two paper sizes. However, in total there are four core sizes: junior legal, letter, legal, and tabloid (ledger). Letter (8.5 x 11 inches) or legal (8.5 x 14 inches) are the most common options with letter tending to be the most frequently used type of paper.

ANSI/ASME Y14.1 vs. ISO 216

As compared to ISO 216, little is known about the origins of North American paper standards. And unlike international standards, adjusting the printing area to shift between the sizes can be trickier since there isn’t a standardized aspect ratio that’s maintained between the sizes.

International Standards (ISO 216)

For the rest of the world, there are more paper options although they’re still standardized and categorized by A, B, and C series with multiple subcategories for each series. The most important thing to remember is that ISO paper always features an aspect ratio that equals the square root of two. The biggest benefit of this is that it becomes easier to expand or reduce printable content to fit papers of any size. The most commonly used printers are either laser or inkjet, and there are a couple of differences between a toner and an ink cartridge.

Insider Tip

The most important thing to remember is that ISO paper always features an aspect ratio that equals the square root of two. The biggest benefit of this is that it becomes easier to expand or reduce printable content to fit papers of any size.

A Series Paper

Hands down, A series paper is a most frequently used option. And within this series, the most common choice you’ll find is A4 which measures 210 x 297 millimeters. However, the A series ranges from A0 to A10. The larger the number after a series number, the smaller the paper will be.

B Series Paper

B series papers are slightly larger than their A series counterparts. However, when compared to A series paper, the B series is staggered. This means that a B1 piece of paper is slightly larger than A0 but not as big as A1. However, the height-width ratio for B series paper still equals the square root of two.

C Series Paper

C series is usually reserved for envelopes and is designed to accommodate A series papers. Because of this, the C0 through C10 papers are designed to work with their corresponding A series counterpart (i.e. C4 fits an A4 piece of paper). And again, their height-width ratio still equals the square root of two. Although WEP, WPA, and WPA2 work differently, they are crucial encryption protocols when connecting your printer to a wireless network.

F.A.Q.

What size paper do most printers use?

This depends on your location. North American standards use the letter or 8.5 by 11-inch paper while international standards use A4 which is 297 by 210 millimeters.


What is 11 x 14 paper called?

11 by 14-inch paper isn’t a standard size for North American paper but would fall between legal (8.5 x 14 inches) and tabloid/ledger (11 x 17 inches).


Is A4 paper the same size as legal?

No, it’s not. While slightly longer and thinner, A4 (8.3 x 11.7 inches) is closer in size to letter paper (8.5 x 11 inches).



STAT: The most convenient and distinguishing characteristic of ISO paper is that each format has an aspect ratio equal to the square root of two (1:4142) which makes it simple to enlarge or reduce a document for printing on another ISO paper format. (source)

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