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As a design agency with a strong print production capability we often find ourselves discussing document sizing with clients, primarily to determine the finished size of a printed product. This is often one of the first specifications in a client brief or is often left to us to determine during the design process.
Whilst most clients will understand some of the more common UK paper sizes such as A3, A4, A5 and DL, it is rarely understood what impact those choices can have in shaping some design decisions and ultimately the impact on production choices and cost.
CHOOSING YOUR FINISHED PROJECT SIZE
We find that the majority of clients will default to ‘standard’ paper sizes when discussing a job that will ultimately end up on a digital, litho or large format printing press. Whilst that decision is often made for practical reasons, we will often discuss the merits of breaking the mould to produce something in a bespoke size. This often helps convey the message in a more creative way.
For those marketeers looking to understand some standard paper and envelope sizing we have compiled some details to help you understand how those technical sizes work and how they may be best utilised throughout your marketing.
STANDARD PAPER SIZES
Let’s start with the most globally recognised paper size convention, ‘A’.
The ‘A’ paper size system is recognised across the world. Aside from the USA and Canada, nearly every country uses this system now and it’s the standard used in most English-speaking countries.
Most readers will recognise the descriptive ‘A4’. It’s the paper size most commonly known and used for everyday printing. But there are many more options available for print within the ‘A’ paper series, which ranges from A0 through to A10. For the purposes of this blog we will work down to A8 as anything smaller than that will tend to revert to bespoke sizes.
‘A’ SIZED PAPER RANGE
The ‘A’ Paper sizes are the ISO standard. The standard ‘A’ sizes are predominantly what you will find around most offices, covering marketing collateral, stationery, mailers, brochures, business correspondence and posters.
The clever part of the ‘A’ size range is that all the paper sizes have the same proportions; with the longest side being half the length of the shortest side on the next size of paper down. This has 2 main benefits (apart from being easy to remember); the first is that if you fold or cut a sheet of A3 in half you will get a finished size of A4, and the same in sizes thereafter.
The second property is that the paper sizes have the same aspect ratio which is particularly useful when increasing or reducing artwork. When Surefoot produce artwork for a flyer or poster that may be required in A5 & A4 sizes we may consider (resolution dependent) using the same file and scaling up directly from one size to another. This will also be impacted by the scale of the messaging, but the practicalities remain the same.
The ‘A’ series of papers will also allow you to maximise your print budget as it allows us to use the paper as economically as possible. Print items that fall between standard sizes will generally create more wastage and although all of our paper wastage is sent for recycling it will impact the initial paper costs, which can often be a large part of the production budget.
Dispensers and display frames for leaflets, brochures and posters also use these standard sizes. Very often, when producing printed display posters, boards and backdrops for retail we are producing items as singles or in very short runs. Size is less important here and is only really determined by the client requirement rather than production or material specifications.
Finally, envelopes use a measuring system that dovetails with these paper sizes so it is sensible to ensure that once printed it can be sent in the post easily and economically. At Surefoot we can guide clients in that decision-making process, helping to keep budgets in check and removing potential production issues before they arise.
As an initial guide, please see below a size guide for the ‘A’ Paper sizes. We have then listed some common uses for each of those sizes.
‘A’ SIZED PAPER RANGE DETAILS
A0 1189 x 841mm (46.75 x 33.12 inches).
The largest standardised paper size in the A range, A0 comes in at over 1 metre in height. That’s the equivalent of 16 A4 sheets of paper. This is generally used in large format printing and not traditional sheet fed litho print. This size is typically used for large signs or posters.
A1 841 x 594mm (33.1 x 23.4 inches)
Like A0, A1 is a larger sheet size and is generally used for longer run litho print to ‘plan up’ smaller sized jobs by having multiples on a sheet. This reduces run lengths and therefore cost. A1 is typically used for signs, posters and window displays in large format or sheet planning on litho.
A2: 594mm high x 420mm wide (23.4 x 16.5 inches).
A2 is a very popular paper size for planning A4 or A3 litho or digital print jobs. It can also be used for posters or folded mailers to add additional impact. A2 will often be seen in smaller retail outlet displays or as larger charts.
A3: 420mm high x 297mm wide (16.5 x 11.7 inches).
A3 is most often used to produce A4 finished brochures as a folded sheet. A3 is also generally the largest sheet size available in office or desktop printers. A3 tends to be used for presentations, charts, posters and plans.
A4: 297mm high x 210mm wide (11.7 inches x 8.3 inches).
The most popular paper sizes when it comes to creating a brochure is A4. A4 is the most used paper size in the world and a format and size that consumers are familiar with. A4 is commonly used for everyday printing and tends to be used to print business stationery letterheads, sales collateral and brochures.
A5: 210mm high x 148mm wide (8.3 inches x 5.8 inches)
A5 is the second most popular when it comes to print production sizes. An A5 brochure is A4 pages folded in half and is a much more compact brochure. A5 has many uses. This size is a popular choice for diaries & planners, books, invitations, flyers and booklets.
A6: 148mm high x 105mm wide (5.8 inches x 4.1 inches)
A6 is a popular size for handout leaflets, postcards and invites. The messaging on this size would tend to be short and snappy with a clear call to action. It is also often utilised for smaller instruction booklets where the requirement is for the information to be distributed within product packaging. A6 paper is typically used for postcards, flyers, leaflets and handouts at shows.
DL: 99mm high x 210mm wide (3.9 x 8.3 inches)
A popular size for leaflets is 1/3 A4 or DL as it is more commonly known. DL stands for dimension lengthwise and three DL’s make up an A4 page. DL size is extremely popular for creating compliment slips and menus and is the perfect size for inserting into DL envelopes. This makes DL brochures a popular size for direct mail.
210mm x 210mm: (8.3 x 8.3 inches)
A popular brochure size that we have produced many times in the past is 210mm x 210mm. This square approach allows for the same width as A4 paper, so it doesn’t get lost in filing folders or brochures but adds a new element to the presentation of the information.
PAPER SIZES USED IN THE PRINTING INDUSTRY
The SRA Series
The SRA Series is the ISO paper size standard that is used by printers to produce the finished A Series of paper sizes.
SRA0 – 900 x 1280 mm
SRA1 – 640 x 900 mm
SRA2 – 450 x 640 mm
SRA3 – 320 x 450 mm
SRA4 – 225 x 320 mm
If you need a finished job of A3, we would use a sheet size of SRA3 or alternatively an SRA2 sheet, out of which we would get two A3’s. This process of imposition saves plate-making, time and associated charges on the press, keeping your costs down
This slightly larger ‘SR’ paper size allows room for any bleed on the job as well as colour bars that help ensure that the finished printed sheets have the correct colour mix. It is very unlikely that you will need to know these paper sizes unless you are involved on the printing side of the industry.
Printers Pages and Leaves
To avoid confusion, printers refer to pages (sides) and leaves (sheets) of paper. Generally, for print purposes we refer to documents as the number of printed pages (pp) and whether the document is to be printed single or double side.
A page is one side of a leaf, or a single side of paper, a 20 page document printed single sided will be 20 leaves of paper and the same document printed double sided will be 10 leaves.As another example a simple four-printed page A5 document will consist of one leaf (sheet) of A4 printed onto both sides and folded in half to create four A5 pages.
The Imperial System
There are, however, some industries and market sectors that still use the old Imperial system for paper sizes. These sizes are measured in inches and have their own unique names. The most recognisable is the Letter size (8 1/2 x 11″) which is used in North America as their standard size comparable to our A4.
Be aware that this is the default on nearly all document producing software such as Microsoft Word. Unless changed in the ‘Page’ settings, using this size to produce your documents will result in a wider shorter image area. We often receive ‘letter’ sized files from clients to be printed as an accompanying letter with a campaign. These require reformatting to print as A4 and will likely lose any pre-set formatting, so it is best to check this before sending anything to your design agency or printer.
Executive 7¼ x 10½
Quarto 8 x 10
Letter 8½ x 11
Legal 8½ x 14
Ledger (Tabloid) 11 x 17
Foolscap 13½ x 17
Foolscap, oblong double 13½ x 34
Pinched Post 14½ x 18½
Envelopes are a key part to consider in a lot of design and print production projects. The delivery mechanism of a customer mailing would be one of the initial considerations when planning a job for a design agency like Surefoot.
There are plenty of envelope sizes to consider and your choice will impact production and packing costs as well as inevitable mailing costs. Standard sizes you may have come across are C4, C5, C6, and DL. Most envelopes are generally made in sizes to fit the size of the paper they enclose, and these sizes are often built around the ‘A’ sizes of paper, i.e. A4, A5, A6 etc. Some envelopes fit the paper sizes perfectly, while other envelope sizes require paper to be folded once and sometimes twice to fit.
Pocket & Wallet Envelopes
The recognised standard for specifying which side of the envelope has the flap is that the second dimension denotes the opening side and flap length e.g.
DL Wallet is 110 x 220mm – flap on the 220mm edge.
DL Pocket is 220 x 110mm – flap on 110mm edge.
The majority of envelopes will be available in various paper weight from 80gsm (standard correspondence) to 100gsm (a more standard mailing weight) or a heavier weight of 120gsm for a more premium feel. Most standard envelopes are also available in heavier weights and board materials for special mailings. At Surefoot we often use board or bubble mailing envelopes to add another level of security and safety or for added impact upon receipt.
Most standard envelope weights are also available to be printed, either digitally or litho depending on run lengths. Contact us at Surefoot for more information on printing options for your mailings.
Envelope Sizing Details
C3 324 x 450mm
A standard C3 envelope can enclose a piece of unfolded A3 paper perfectly. The measurements for the C3 envelope are 324mm in height, and 450mm in width. Making this ideal if you have A3 pieces of paper that you don’t want to fold. The Gusset option gives you much greater breathing room within the envelope allowing you to send products or large portfolios.
C4 229 x 324mm
A standard C4 envelope can enclose a piece of unfolded A4 paper perfectly. The measurements for the C4 envelope are 229mm in height, and 324mm in width. Making this ideal if you have A4 pieces of paper that you don’t want to fold. The Gusset option gives you much greater breathing room within the envelope allowing you to send products or large portfolios.
C5 162 x 229mm
This is by far the most common envelope size for promotional mailings. A standard C5 can be used to enclose one or more folded in half pieces of A4 paper, or and unfolded piece of A5 paper. The main predominant advantageous of a C5 envelope, is that the envelope is small enough to qualify for Royal Mail’s lowest price band.
In order to qualify the thickness of the envelope and the contents within the envelope must be 5mm or less, the weight of the package must not exceed 100 grams.
The Gusset option gives you much greater breathing room within the envelope allowing you to send products or large portfolios, however these will not qualify for royal mails lowest price point.
C6 114 x 162mm
These smaller envelopes are often used to send smaller items such as camera and phone memory cards or USB sticks. They are also very popular greeting card or invite card holders. The standard C6 envelope has a measurement of 114 x 162mm. It can fit a folded in half A5 piece of paper, or an A4 piece of paper that has been folded in quarters.
DL 110 x 220mm
You’ll probably receive DL-sized envelopes in the post all the time. They’re used for official correspondence through the mail. A4 Pages are folded into thirds into DL envelopes and are suitable for one to three-page letters. The measurements for a standard DL are 110mm in height, and 220mm in width.
For any further information or advice on using different paper sizes for your design or print projects just call us on 01628 604324 or contact us via our web form.