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A3, A4, A5, Paper Size

As you walk into a print shop, you leave your original forms of the documents, specify all the details of your order. Oh, before you forget! You would want to have your print job done on A4 sized paper. You slip out the term “A4” almost unthinkingly because A4 has already been part of your life. Your life revolves around A4, and perhaps, every bit of your world is made of A4.

The term “A4” has been instilled in most of us since forever. Whether you are a toddler or an 80-year-old, you may have a rough impression of the “A4” paper imprinted in your mind. As much as we all seem to know what an A4-sized paper is, do we know what it is? Let us revisit the origin of paper size standardization and dig into the meaning of “A” and “4”.

Standardisation of paper

The standardization of paper took place as early as the 18th century when German scientists Georg Christoph Lichtenberg and Johann Beckmann advocated basing paper sizes on a specific ratio. This suggestion has gradually evolved and has finally become one of the standards of the paper size of the world. German system had been recognized by a vast majority of countries. By the end of 1975, the system was officially registered as ISO 216. A4 size paper has also become the official format for the United Nation, as well as the standard letter format for more than 80 countries.

In Qatar, most of the print shops follow ISO216. Therefore, whenever you want to have your work printed on an A4 sized paper, it is easily understood, and no conversion table is needed.

As easy as A, B, C

Because of the ISO216, three series of paper sizes are being introduced. These include series A, the one that we hear of most commonly and series B. To define a set of envelopes which best compliments series A paper, ISO269 was introduced in the year 1985. A series C envelope was defined under ISO269.

On the count of 10

One of the commonalities found between the three series of paper is the digit 0 following its corresponding letter A/B/C, representing the biggest dimension amongst all the paper sizes within the series. All paper begins with the digit “0” – in the case of A0 paper, the size of which is 1 square meter. Despite the consideration of “10” being a large number by value, a piece of A0 paper is, on the contrary, ten times bigger than a piece of A10 paper. Indeed, the number following the alphabet of the series indicates the number of times that the original form is halved. Finding this too complicated? Have a look at the following chart:

So, whenever you are confused about the exact size of a piece of A3 paper, take out two pieces of A4 paper, put them next to each other, and you will get a perfect sheet of A3 paper.

Although most of the countries uphold ISO216, not all paper publications are following this standard. Some of the states have their extensions to suit their needs. That also explains how you may sometimes be receiving business cards that are slightly bigger than others.

The American Standard

Some of the countries in American continents including the United States, Canada, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica follow the ANSI (American National Standard Institute) standard. Instead of naming the paper sizes in a numeral manner, they are usually referred as “letter” (an almost equivalent to A4), “legal”, “Tabloid”, “Foolscap” and “ledger”. Next time, do not panic when you are told to hand over “a letter” – you are most probably asked to hand over a paper size that is similar to an A4 sized paper. Don’t stress yourself on writing that “letter”.

Japanese Extension

As early as the Meiji period, Japanese organizations, in both private and governmental sectors, had been involved in establishing standards for publication. The process has gradually evolved and is now recognized as the Japanese Industrial Standard. Within the paper category (JIS P 0138-61, where P stands for paper), a lot of resemblances can be found between ISO216. As per standard A, you may realize that it is identical to the size of the series A paper.

F4 or Foolscap?

Does F4 ring you a bell? Sounds familiar yet distant, right? Most of the people may confuse F4 with a paper size named “Foolscap folio”. Indeed, they are referred to as two different entities.

Before the adoption of A4 paper, Foolscap Folio had long been used in Europe and the British Commonwealth. The naming of “Foolscap” was originated from fools, a kind of entertainer in the 15th century in a household setting. One of the signatures of fools back in the time was the “cap” worn during their performance. Watermarks of fool’s cap were printed on paper of this very dimension. As a result, the term “foolscap” has been used ever since for paper of which the aspect is 200mm x 330mm.

My F4 is bigger than yours

In comparison, F4 sized paper shares the same height as Foolscap Folio (330mm, which may be the reason why they are often confused with each other). The only difference between the two types is the width – F4 paper shares the same width with A4 (210mm). F4 paper is, to date, prevalent in some of the Asian regions, including Indonesia, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. In fact, in Hong Kong, most of the primary and secondary school work for students is usually printed on F4 sized paper.

Good to know: F4 paper recognized in both Indonesia and the Philippines are slightly wider than F4 paper used in other countries – by 5mm!

PrintLē: where you get your size of choice

Whether you decide to go A4, B4, or F4, PrintLe is always there for you. With PrintLē, you are automatically connected to some of the best print shops in Doha, Qatar, while being offered some of the best quotes you may get. As much as you want to go small or large, printing in Doha has never been this easy.

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