You may not think too much about paper size if all you ever use are readily-available packs of standard computer and copier paper. Paper is available from manufacturers in a variety of sizes. Understanding the differences can save you time and money if you do a significant amount of printing and copying for your business, or if you share documents internationally.

Paper Size A5

U.S. A5 size paper measures 5.83 inches wide by 8.27 inches tall. The metric measurements are 148 millimeters (mm) by 210 mm. Notepads and planners often come in the A5 size, as the dimensions make them easy to carry in a handbag or briefcase.

A5 is part of a range of paper sizes called the ISO A or ISO 216 standard. Sizes range from A0 (equivalent to one square meter) to A10 (1 inch by 1.5 inches, or 26mm x 37 mm). In the A0 to A10 range of papers, the height/width ratio remains constant. It's 1 to 1.41, or the square root of 2. But you don't need a calculator. Put papers next to each other or fold in half to see their relative sizes.

For example, if you place two A5 sheets next to each other, long edges together, you create an A4 size spread. Fold an A5 sheet in half by bringing the two shorter sides together and you have the equivalent of an A6 sheet.

What's the Big Deal About Paper Size?

There are both North American (ANSI) and international standards (ISO) for paper sizes, so you need to understand the differences if you do business outside the United States, Canada and Mexico. The ratios between height and width are different for ANSI and ISO standards, which means that enlarging and reducing between the sizes can change the margins.

Suppose, for example, a European business partner sends a document in A4 format that you need to print. When you print it out, you'll find that parts of the page are cut off at the top and bottom. To print on letter-sized paper (standard 8.5 x 11 copier/computer paper), set the magnification factor to 94%, since Letter format is 6% shorter than A4. If printing a Letter document on A4 paper, set the magnification to 97%, since A4 is 3% narrower.

A5 Size in Pixels

When you're including a picture in your document, you need to be sure to have the correct resolution, measured in pixels. For any size of picture, a minimum number of pixels is required depending on the level of clarity and detail you need. A digital camera with a resolution of 4 megapixels or more can be used to create images suitable for printing A5 size.

Three hundred pixels per inch (ppi) are required for quality offset printing that will be viewed from a short distance, such as in brochures, calendars, magazines and books. An image needs to be 1748 by 2480 pixels for an A5 picture.

Resolution does not need to be as fine for photos in newspapers or on posters, which will be viewed from a slightly greater distance. For an A5 picture, use 150 ppi, or 874 by 1240 pixels.

Other Names for Paper Sizes

In the U.S., Canada and parts of Mexico, paper sizes are referred to by name rather than number. Sizes are labeled as follows:

  • Half letter: 5.5 inches wide by 8.5 inches in height (140 x 216 mm). Closest to A5.

  • Letter: 8.5 inches wide by 11 inches in height (216 x 279 mm). Closest to A4.

  • Legal: 8.5 inches wide by 14 inches in height (216 by 356 mm)

  • Junior legal: 5 inches wide by 8 inches in height (127 x 203 mm)

  • Ledger/tabloid: 11 inches wide by 17 inches in height (279 x 432 mm). Closest to A3.

The Right Paper for Your Business

If all of your business is conducted domestically, paper size is probably not going to be an issue. For many small businesses, letter paper can be purchased at an office supply or big box store by the single ream (500 sheets) or in bulk (10 reams to a case). Specialty papers such as card stock may have fewer sheets in a ream.

Companies that routinely conduct business internationally or frequently send mail overseas will want to stock papers that meet both North American and international standards. Your local office supply store may carry additional sizes in stock. If not, the store can probably order paper for you. There are also a number of companies that make it possible for you to order any sizes you need online.

Selecting Paper for Commercial Printing

If you want to use print materials for advertising and product information, it pays to use the services of a commercial printer rather than trying to create professional-looking brochures, product sheets, menus, mailers and the like in-house. Commercial printers can accommodate a wide range of paper sizes, colors and special effects that will make your literature stand out.

There are four standard brochure sizes in the U.S.: 8.5 x 11 (letter size), 8.5 x 14 (legal size), 11 x 17 (ledger/tabloid size) and 11 x 25.5. Letter and legal size brochures are typically folded in thirds, called a tri-fold. Either size can be cut in thirds for creating a simplified advertising or product description card, suitable for mailing or distributing at a trade show.

Ledger/tabloid size can be folded in half to create the equivalent of four pages. There's room for a great deal of information, yet the brochure can still fit in a presentation folder. The largest size paper (11 x 25.5) can be used for tri-folds or multiple folds, a good choice for brochures that are meant to last, such as menus and detailed product information sheets.

Select the right size paper after designing a brochure that contains an eye-pleasing balance of photos, text and white space. Don't try to crowd too much information in a small space. You won't attract the attention of customers with information overload, especially if the text is small and hard to read. By the same token, don't spend money on paper that is too large for your needs.

Consider Mailing Costs

A standard letter-sized document can be folded in thirds to fit in a No. 10 business envelope. If your mailing consists of just one or two sheets, you can also include a brochure or insert. It costs 55 cents for a First-Class letter weighing up to one ounce. Each additional ounce is 15 cents, up to 3.5 ounces. Mailings that are heavier or with larger dimensions can be sent by Priority Flat Rate ($7.75) or Priority Flat Rate Express ($26.35).

Sending a mail piece without an envelope may qualify as a postcard, but dimensions are important. To qualify for the postcard rate of 35 cents, your mailing must be rectangular and be between 3.5 and 4.25 inches in height and between 5 and 6 inches in length. Thickness must be between 0.007 inches and 0.016 inches. Stickers, magnets or other items may not be attached. Mail pieces that do not meet these guidelines will be priced at First Class or Priority rates.

Check with your local post office for the costs of international and bulk mailings. Both are dependent upon weight, dimensions, destination and, in the case of bulk mailings, the number of mail pieces.