A Guide to Photo Paper Sizes
Have you ever looked at an old family photo and squinted to see the details on the faded photo? Chances are, you thought, ‘Why did they make the prints so small?’ Most of the older photos were printed on small paper, sometimes as small as passport sized. No wonder they are blurry and low quality.
With so many photo paper sizes, you can print your pictures to look their best, as long as you choose the perfect dimension.
Regardless of the photo paper finish, the size of a print matters most when it comes to displaying images. That’s why this article will discuss the different paper sizes and provide guidance on when to use them for the best print results. Plus, we’ve included a handy size guide for future reference.
Standard Photo Paper Sizes
The printing industry offers all paper sizes to fulfill the customer’s needs. Whether you need to print photos for a family photo album, or you want to make posters with your best landscapes, there is a perfect paper size out there.
In the photofinishing industry, the goal is to print in a size that mirrors the aspect ratio of a digital camera viewfinder. The best size for that is the 4×6” print. When printed on this paper size, digital images maintain their aspect ratio. Therefore, photos look clearer and there is no pixelation.
Most Common Sizes
As a reference, the two most common paper sizes are the 4×6” (10 x 15 cm) and the 5×7” (13 x 18 cm). If you want to picture the size in your head, think of it this way: these are the sizes of the photos that fit into standard-sized photo albums. The 13×18 cm is a standard photographic size print size and known internationally.
The great thing about standard photo sizes is that they’re easy and convenient to print at home with an inkjet or laser printer. The paper is cheap, and it’s the best option for bulk printing.
Next, there are the sizes that work best for desk and wall frames. The size of these is either the A4 or A5 paper. They are bigger than the photo album prints but still small enough to print with a regular laser or inkjet printers. For reference, the dimensions of A4 are 8.3×11.7” (210 x 297 mm). The A5 has a size of 5.8×8.3” (148 x 210 mm).
If you want to add picture frames around the home, this is a perfect size to consider. The photo is large enough to clearly visible but small enough not to distract from your home décor.
Additional Photo Paper Sizes
Then there are the larger prints called A3 or larger. These require a special printer that is capable of printing large sheets of paper. The size of the A3 is 11.7×16.5” (297 x 420 mm). Such large paper is used to print big images, calendars, posters, and images for display.
For panoramic photos, popular sizes include the 6×12” (152 x 305 mm) and the much larger 24×48” (610 x 1220 mm). Panoramic sized photo paper is the best choice if you want to print your landscapes and travel photos. Usually, the photos are printed in landscape orientation, but artists also like to use portrait orientation for unique prints.
Photographers also like to make canvas sized prints of their best work. Check out this example:
Some photographers still use square photos and those come in sizes between 8” and 24” (203 x 203 and 610 x 610 mm). As of recently, the square photo is making a comeback thanks to Instagram. People love to print their favorite photos, so the square paper is having a revival. Printing on square paper is an easy way to make your prints look like polaroids.
The most popular square photo papers are:
How is paper size calculated?
In North America, paper size is usually written in the following format: nR. The ‘n’ refers to the length of the paper’s short edge, which is calculated in inches.
In all standard series papers, the long edge is measured by the short edge’s length plus an add on of an additional 2 inches for smaller sizes 10 inches or less. For larger sheets 11 inches and above, 3 inches are added to the short edge.
It’s important to note that there are two different ways to calculate print sizes. The inkjet print sizes are measures in A0 to A8 format. AO is the largest, with a size of 841 × 1189 mm. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the A8 is the smallest size and measures 52×74 mm.
Most photo lab print sizes are like the ones we listed in the table above. They are calculated in inches, cm, and mm. Therefore, it’s important to distinguish the paper sizes when you print at home instead of printing in a photo lab. The sizes are not always calculated in the same way, so it’s helpful to memorize the most popular sizes in both inches and A format.
Here is a reference chart of the most common photo print sizes in North America displayed in inches and millimeters:
Below is the Standard International Paper Size Chart displayed in inches and millimeters.
A4 is the size of printing sheets you commonly use to print documents with classic printers. But be aware that A4 in Canada and the US is different than A4 in other countries, so always check the measurements. Here is a reference chart:
There are, of course, many more paper sizes, but when it comes to photo prints, the ones we listed are the most common. Every photo lab has a printing size guide you can consult.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to photo paper sizes, the best option is to choose one of the most popular sizes because these are affordable and accessible. It’s most likely that your photos maintain a good aspect ratio, and they will look much better. When they are enlarged, photos may look pixelated and lose sharpness.
But the good news is that there are so many photo paper sizes available, you can pick and choose to find one that suits your needs.