What are wide for­mat doc­u­ment sizes?

tech-gaWide for­mat doc­u­ment sizes split into two gen­er­al cat­e­gories. There are sizes for:

  • tech­ni­cal doc­u­ments, and
  • graph­ics com­mu­ni­ca­tions (posters, signs, pho­tos, etc).

Each cat­e­go­ry has its own set of “stan­dards”. Some stan­dards have writ­ten spec­i­fi­ca­tions; oth­ers are stan­dards by “tra­di­tion”. Some are inter­na­tion­al; some only apply in spe­cif­ic regions of the world. Let’s take a look at each cat­e­go­ry.

Tech­ni­cal Doc­u­ment sizes

For tech­ni­cal doc­u­ments, three size stan­dards cov­er the world:

  • ISO – used through­out the world, but rarely used in North Amer­i­ca.
  • ANSI – used by most man­u­fac­tur­ers and gov­ern­ment agen­cies in North Amer­i­ca.
  • ARCH – used by the archi­tec­ture and con­struc­tion indus­try in North Amer­i­ca.

ISO

You’ve no doubt heard of “ISO” — the Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for Stan­dard­iza­tion. They cre­ate stan­dards for all kinds of things, includ­ing stan­dards for paper sizes.

ISO Stan­dard 216 defines the sizes for wide for­mat doc­u­ments. These are the wide for­mat sizes you’ll find in most of the world out­side North Amer­i­ca. They are avail­able in North Amer­i­ca, but they’re rarely used there. They’re based on the A0 size — which is 841 mm high x 1189 mm wide and has an area of one square meter. Each small­er size has an area one half of the pre­ced­ing size, so an A1 sheet has half the area of an A0 sheet, and so on.

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ISO sizes

  • A4 — 210 x 297 mm (8.3 x 11.7″)
  • A3 — 297 x 420 mm (11.7 x 16.5″)
  • A2 — 420 x 594 mm (16.5 x 23.3″)
  • A1 — 594 x 841 mm (23.3 x 33.1″)
  • A0 — 841 x 1189 mm (33.1 x 46.8″)

ISO 216 Stan­dard spec­i­fies more sizes than those shown above, such as the B and C series. But the ones shown here are com­mon for wide for­mat print­ers.

ANSI

This stan­dard comes from the Amer­i­can Nation­al Stan­dards Insti­tute. ANSI devel­ops stan­dards for prod­ucts, process­es, and sys­tems in the US. It also coor­di­nates its stan­dards with those from ISO.

ANSI stan­dard Y14.1 defines sizes for tech­ni­cal doc­u­ments. Sizes are based on the dimen­sions of the com­mon 8.5″ x 11″ sheet. They are the most used sizes for tech­ni­cal and man­u­fac­tur­ing firms in the US, Cana­da, and Mex­i­co.

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ANSI sizes

  • A — 8.5 x 11″ (216 x 279 mm)
  • B — 11 x 17″ (279 x 432 mm)
  • C — 17 x 22″ (432 x 559 mm)
  • D — 22 x 34″ (559 x 864 mm)
  • E — 34 x 44″ (864 x 1118 mm)

There are oth­er sizes beyond E size: such as F, G, and H sizes, but they’re rarely used any­more. Back in the days of man­u­al draft­ing they pro­duced full-scale lay­outs of large assem­blies. CAD and com­put­er-aid­ed-man­u­fac­tur­ing equip­ment has helped phase them out. But, you just might find them in the archives, so be aware of them.

ARCH

You’ll find the ARCH series in the architecture/engineering/construction (AEC) indus­try in the US. No writ­ten “stan­dards” cov­er these sizes. They’re stan­dard in the sense that they’re used through­out the indus­try and have been for a long time.

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ARCH sizes

  • A — 9 x 12″ (229 x 305 mm)
  • B — 12 x 18″ (306 x 457 mm)
  • C — 18 x 24″ (457 x 610 mm)
  • D — 24 x 36″ (610 x 914 mm)
  • E1 — 30 x 42″ (762 x 1067 mm)
  • E — 36 x 48″ (914 x 1219 mm)

The A through E sizes are twice the area of the pre­ced­ing size. An E size has an area of 12 square feet, a D size has an area of 6 square feet, and so on. The excep­tion here is the E1 size — which is also the most pop­u­lar size in this series.

Graph­ic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Doc­u­ment sizes

Doc­u­ments like posters and signs get print­ed in a vari­ety of sizes. There is no “stan­dard” gov­ern­ing these sizes like there is for tech­ni­cal doc­u­ments. But the fol­low­ing sizes are com­mon through­out the indus­try.

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∗ Pho­to cred­it:  102.2 Cap­i­tal FM — Advert in Bus Stop by Elliot Brown, on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

  • Small — 11 x 17″
  • Medi­um — 18 x 24″
  • Large — 24 x 36″
  • Movie Posters — 27 x 40″
  • Sta­tions (bus stops, train sta­tions, etc.) — 40 x 60″
  • Inter­na­tion­al — A1 Poster: 24 x 36″, same as US ARCH size, NOT the same as the ISO A1 size!

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