Legal Size Paper Dimensions: A Comprehensive Guide

Legal paper size

Ever been in a situation where you thought you had the perfect document, only to find out it didn’t fit on your standard paper sizes? That’s where legal size paper comes in. While most of us are familiar with the traditional sizes of letter-sized and legal size paper, the aspect ratio offers a notable contrast. At 8.5 x 14 inches, the paper format provides that extra length for contracts, agreements, and other legal documents.

Understanding the dimensions and formats of legal size paper is crucial for anyone working with official paperwork or considering alternative options beyond the standard letter-size format. In this post, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about legal size paper dimensions – including its uses, formats, and how it compares to other common paper sizes.

When shopping for reams of paper, it’s important that you choose the correct paper size and formats. While the common legal-size paper isn’t what most people would use to print school reports and make paper airplanes, square formats and series are also not commonly used. So, what are the dimensions of legal paper?

Legal paper measures 8.5 inches (216 millimeters) wide and 14 inches (356 millimeters) long. Its closest ISO 216 series counterpart is A4 paper, which measures 216 millimeters (8.5 inches) wide and 297 millimeters (11.7 inches) long.

So, what exactly is a legal paper format used for, and how does it differ from letter-size paper? I’ll answer these questions and more in the following sections.

What Is Legal Paper Used for?

What is Letter Paper Used For

As its name suggests, legal paper is used mainly for legal documents. That means business agreements and other official documentation will usually be printed on 8.5 × 14-inch sheets of paper.

But is this always the case? Absolutely not.

In spite of its name, there are no laws in place that dictate whether official documentation, whether it’s for tax purposes or otherwise, should be printed on legal paper. In fact, the more common paper size, which is letter paper, can and is most often used for anything from making paper airplanes to printing contractual agreements.

Size Difference Between Legal and Letter Paper

The size difference between legal and letter paper is minute. They both measure 8.5 inches (216 millimeters) wide, but where they differ in their respective lengths. Legal paper is a full 3 inches longer than letter paper (11 inches or 279 millimeters).

Something you’ll notice when trying to print a word document file is that most printers are set to print on letter-size sheets of paper by default. Again, this is because the letter-size paper is more commonly used than legal paper, though you can easily switch between the sizes and use them interchangeably.

Size Difference Between Legal and A4 Paper

Size Difference Between Legal and A4 Paper

First and foremost, the A4 paper is measured using the ISO 216 standard. The A-series of paper sizes is taken by dividing A0 (841 × 1,189-millimeter or 33.1 × 46.8 inches) paper into half sections, which are halved again and again until you get the A8 (52 × 75 millimeters or 2.1 × 2.9 inches). A single sheet of A0 paper is large enough to produce 16 sheets of A4 (216 × 297 millimeters or 8.5 × 11.7 inches) paper.

As you can see from the dimensions above, legal paper is about the same width as A4 paper, but it is slightly less than 3 inches longer. A4 and letter paper have more in common than A4 and legal paper, though all three sheets can, for the most part, be used interchangeably. The sheet one size larger than A4 in the A-series is A3, which is 420 × 594 millimeters (23.4 × 33.1 inches).

How Thick Is a Sheet of Legal Paper?

Looking at one of the top-selling reams of legal paper by Hammermill, a ream of legal paper measures 14 inches long, 8.5 inches wide, and 2 inches thick. A ream of paper consists of 500 sheets.

Using simple math, we can determine how thick each sheet of paper is.

  • Thickness (Legal Paper) = Thickness (Ream) ÷ 500 Sheets

  • Thickness (Legal Paper) = 2 inches ÷ 500 Sheets = 0.004 inches (0.1 millimeters)

As you can see from my guide on standard printing paper thickness, legal paper is similar to letter-size printing paper in terms of thickness. However, like any type of paper, the thickness of a single sheet of legal paper will depend on its GSM or bond rating.

How Much Does a Sheet of Legal Paper Weigh?

Again, using Hammermill legal paper as a reference, its sheets of paper are taken from 75-GSM or 20-pound-pound sheet stocks. Sheet stocks are the sheets of paper that are cut down to size.

Legal paper is taken from 17 × 22-inch stock sheets. A single stock sheet is large enough to produce 2 sheets of legal-size paper, with 136 cubic inches (17 × 8 inches) or about 37% being shredded and reused in the paper-making process.

GSM, or grams per square meter, is easier to use as a reference for measuring the weight of a sheet of paper. So, Hammermill’s legal paper, when aligned in a perfect 1-square-meter figure, will weigh precisely 75 grams.

Or, to make matters even easier on us, we can take the weight of the ream of paper and divide it by 500. Since Hammermill legal paper weighs 6.36 pounds per ream, that means a single sheet from a 500-sheet ream is 0.012 pounds or 5.443 grams.

Legal size paper dimensions refer to a specific paper size used in the United States and other countries. This type of paper measures 8.5 inches by 14 inches, making it longer than the standard letter-size paper.

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In legal settings, legal size paper is commonly used for documents such as contracts, certificates, wills, and agreements that require more space than what a standard letter-size page can provide.

The unique dimensions of legal size papers make them suitable for presenting lengthy texts or multiple columns without compromising readability. For instance, when drafting legal contracts with numerous clauses or terms, using legal size papers allows lawyers to create comprehensive documents that are easy to read and review.

The standard dimensions of a legal size paper are precisely 8.5 inches by 14 inches (216 mm × 356 mm). This larger format provides extra space compared to the typical letter-size sheet (8.5 x 11 inches) commonly used for various printing needs.

When stacked together with other types of papers like letter or tabloid sizes, the difference in length becomes apparent. The elongated shape makes it ideal for creating reports with additional content while still maintaining a professional appearance.

The use of legal size papers holds significant importance in documentation due to its ability to accommodate more information without sacrificing legibility. In scenarios where detailed records need preservation or extensive data must be presented comprehensively, this larger format proves invaluable.

U.S. Specifications

In the United States, legal size paper dimensions are standardized at 8.5 inches by 14 inches. This is slightly longer than the more commonly used letter-size paper, which measures 8.5 inches by 11 inches.

Legal size paper is often preferred for documents that require more space, such as contracts, agreements, and official forms. The additional length provides room for lengthy content without having to fold or cut the paper.

One of the advantages of legal size paper is its ability to accommodate more text and information without compromising readability. For example, legal documents with multiple clauses or terms can be presented in a clear and organized manner on this larger format.

Another benefit of using legal size paper is its suitability for double-sided printing while maintaining ample space for binding or hole-punching. This makes it convenient for creating booklets or reports that need to be printed on both sides.

International Variations

While the standard legal size in the U.S. is widely recognized, there are variations in other countries around the world.

For instance, in Canada and Mexico, although they share a border with the United States and have close ties regarding trade and business practices, they use different standards for their legal-sized papers – measuring them at 8.5 inches by 13 inches instead of 14. Additionally,

  • In some European countries like Germany and Norway

  • In Asian countries such as Japan the dimensions may vary from those used within North America due to differences in historical conventions or international standards adopted by these regions.

Dimensional Contrast

Legal size paper dimensions differ from those of A4 paper. While A4 measures 210 x 297 millimeters or 8.27 x 11.69 inches, legal size paper dimensions are slightly larger at 216 x 356 millimeters or 8.5 x 14 inches. This means that legal paper is longer than A4.

A key distinction in the legal size paper dimensions is their aspect ratio. The aspect ratio for legal-size paper is approximately 1:1.65, whereas the aspect ratio for A4 is about 1:√2 (or ~1:1.41). This difference in proportions affects how these papers fit into various binders, folders, and document organizers.

The legal size paper dimensions are commonly used in countries like the United States and Canada for contracts, agreements, and official documents such as deeds and certificates where there’s a need for more space compared to standard letter-sized documents (8.5 x 11 inches). On the other hand, A4 papers are widely used internationally for printing letters, forms, reports due to its standardization by ISO (International Organization for Standardization).

It’s crucial to understand the standard measurements. Legal paper is commonly used in the United States and other countries, measuring 8.5 inches by 14 inches. This larger size makes legal paper ideal for documents that require more space than a typical letter-sized page.

The dimensions of legal paper are standardized, ensuring consistency across all printed materials. The length of 14 inches provides ample space for contracts, agreements, and other legal documents that often contain lengthy paragraphs or additional sections for signatures and endorsements.

In contrast to A4 paper, which is shorter and wider, the longer length of legal-size paper allows for a more comprehensive layout without sacrificing readability or aesthetics. When printing double-sided documents on legal-size sheets, there’s enough room to maintain a clear structure while accommodating extensive content.

Format Variability

Despite its standardized dimensions, legal size paper offers some variability in terms of formatting options. While the most common format is single-sided printing due to its use in legal documentation where each page must be distinct and easily readable on its own, double-sided printing can also be utilized when appropriate.

Moreover, businesses may choose to adjust their document layouts based on specific needs or preferences. For instance:

  • Some companies might opt for landscape orientation rather than portrait orientation when using legal-size pages.

  • Others may incorporate custom margins or headers/footers tailored to their branding guidelines or document requirements.

  • Individuals might utilize binding options such as stapling or three-hole punching depending on how they plan to organize or present their printed materials.

This flexibility enables users of legal size paper to tailor their documents according to various purposes while still adhering to the standard measurements established for this type of stationery.

When printing on legal size paper, it’s crucial to adjust the printer settings to ensure a seamless printing experience. Start by opening the document you want to print and then navigate to the “Print” dialog box. Here, select the appropriate paper size, which should be set as 8.5 x 14 inches for legal paper. Check that the orientation is set to “Landscape” for optimal results.

After setting the correct paper size and orientation, proceed to adjust other settings such as print quality and color options if necessary. For professional documents or important presentations, selecting high-quality print settings can enhance the overall appearance of your prints on legal size paper.

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It’s also essential to verify that your printer tray is stocked with legal size paper before initiating the printing process. This prevents potential errors or misprints due to mismatched paper sizes between your document settings and actual loaded paper.

Before sending your document for printing on legal size paper, take a moment to review its layout and formatting. Ensure that all content fits within the dimensions of legal-sized sheets (8.5 x 14 inches) without getting cut off during printing.

If you’re working with digital documents, consider adjusting margins and text alignment where necessary so that they are compatible with legal size formatting requirements. It’s advisable to use standard fonts and font sizes when creating content intended for legal-sized prints; this ensures readability while maintaining a professional appearance.

For physical documents like brochures or flyers designed for legal-size distribution, double-check their design elements’ placement within these specific dimensions using software tools such as Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Publisher.

To guarantee top-notch results when printing on legal-size papers, conduct a thorough quality assurance check before hitting “Print.” Proofread your document carefully one last time—ensuring there are no spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or formatting issues that may compromise its professionalism.

Moreover, previewing how your document will appear on legal-size pages can help identify any potential layout problems in advance—saving time and resources by avoiding reprints due to preventable errors.

Dimensional Differences

They differ from the standard letter size in both width and length. The legal paper measures 8.5 inches wide and 14 inches long, while the letter size is shorter at 8.5 inches by 11 inches.

The additional length of the legal paper provides more space for content, making it suitable for documents that require extensive writing or when a longer format is preferred. This extra length can be advantageous when drafting contracts, agreements, or reports that need to accommodate more text without compromising readability.

Legal-sized papers are commonly used in industries such as law, finance, and real estate where lengthy written content is prevalent. For instance, law firms often use legal-size papers for drafting legal briefs due to their capacity to hold comprehensive arguments and supporting case laws within a single page.

Practical Applications

In practical terms, legal size paper dimensions offer several advantages over letter size papers in certain situations. One of these benefits is evident when printing spreadsheets with numerous columns or rows as the extended length prevents data from being crammed onto multiple pages.

Moreover, architectural designs and engineering drawings frequently utilize legal-size papers because they demand larger surface area for detailed illustrations without reducing scale or clarity. Similarly, maps intended for navigation purposes benefit from this larger format as they can display broader geographical areas with better precision.

Another common application of legal-sized papers is seen in official documentation such as land deeds and property titles which necessitate ample space for recording complex information comprehensively.

Choosing the Right Paper Size for Printing

Project Requirements

When considering the legal size paper dimensions for your printing project, it’s crucial to understand the specific requirements of your task. If you’re working on legal documents such as contracts, agreements, or official forms, using 8.5 x 14 inches legal size paper is essential to ensure that all the content fits properly without any information getting cut off.

For reports and presentations requiring extensive content and data visualization, opting for legal size paper provides more space than standard letter-size paper. This allows for a better layout with larger tables, graphs, and images while maintaining readability. If your project involves creating booklets or brochures that require folding in half or thirds, legal size paper offers ample room for content arrangement.

Using legal size paper also makes sense when producing marketing materials like posters or flyers where a bigger canvas is needed to capture attention effectively. The increased surface area allows for more impactful designs and larger fonts that can be easily read from a distance.

Paper Attributes

Apart from understanding the project requirements when selecting legal size paper dimensions, it’s important to consider the attributes of this specific type of paper. Legal size sheets are slightly longer than standard letter-size sheets but share the same width at 8.5 inches.

The elongated shape of legal size papers lends itself well to documents that need to be organized vertically rather than horizontally. For instance, drafting architectural blueprints or timelines would benefit significantly from using this format due to its orientation providing more vertical space.

Another attribute worth noting is that many printers have dedicated trays specifically designed for handling legal-sized sheets efficiently. This ensures smooth printing without causing jams or misalignments during the process.

Moreover, given its compatibility with various printer models and types—inkjet printers, laser printers—legal-size papers offer versatility in terms of printing options regardless of whether color printing or black-and-white is required.

Printing on legal size paper is slightly different from printing on standard letter-size paper. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to help you print your legal documents accurately.

First, ensure that the document you want to print is formatted for legal size paper. You can do this by adjusting the page setup in your word processing software. Look for the “Page Layout” or “Print Setup” option and select “Legal (8.5 x 14 inches)” as the paper size.

Next, load the legal size paper into your printer’s paper tray. Make sure to adjust the guides so that they are snug against the edges of the paper, preventing any misfeeds or crooked printing.

After loading the paper, open the document you wish to print and navigate to the print menu. Select your printer and click on “Properties” or “Printer Preferences.”

Once all settings are configured correctly, hit “Print” and wait for your document to be printed on legal size paper.

Printing issues can be frustrating, but with a few troubleshooting tips, you can overcome common problems when printing legal documents.

If you experience frequent misfeeds or jams when using legal size paper, check if there are any obstructions in the printer’s feed path. Remove any stuck pieces of paper carefully before attempting to print again.

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Another common issue is skewed or crooked printing on legal pages. Ensure that you have loaded the paper properly into the tray with its guides adjusted correctly against the edges of the stack.

Occasionally, printers may struggle with recognizing non-standard sizes like legal-sized sheets. In such cases, update your printer driver software from the manufacturer’s website which often includes support for various types of media including legal-sized papers.

Understanding the conversion from metric measurements to imperial units is essential. In the United States and Canada, legal paper size is 8.5 inches by 14 inches, which is slightly longer than the standard letter size (8.5 by 11 inches).

Converting these measurements from metric units involves knowing that one inch equals 2.54 centimeters. Therefore, an 8.5-inch width becomes approximately 21.59 centimeters, while a length of 14 inches translates to roughly 35.56 centimeters.

In practical terms, this means that if you’re working with a document designed for legal-size paper in countries using metric measurements, you would need to adjust the layout and formatting to fit within the smaller dimensions of A4 paper (210 x 297 millimeters). This could involve resizing text boxes or adjusting margins so that no content gets cut off during printing.

Digital Format Adjustments

Understanding how legal size paper dimensions affect digital formats like PDFs and word processing documents can save time and frustration when handling electronic files meant for printing on legal-sized paper.

For instance, when creating a PDF intended for printing on legal-size paper, it’s crucial to set up the page size correctly within your software or converter tool before saving the file. Failing to do so may result in unexpected cropping or scaling issues during printing.

Similarly, when designing a document in word processing software such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs for eventual printing on legal-sized paper, adjusting the page setup settings ensures that your content fits perfectly without any parts being truncated.

Moreover, considering digital format adjustments also applies when receiving documents originally formatted for legal-size pages but needing them printed on standard letter-size sheets instead.

It’s essential to ensure that the content is formatted correctly. This includes adjusting margins, font sizes, and images to fit the dimensions of legal size paper.

One way to optimize the layout is by setting up the document in a landscape orientation rather than portrait. This allows for more horizontal space, which aligns better with the longer dimensions of legal size paper.

Another important aspect of layout optimization is ensuring that there are no elements near the edges that could get cut off during printing. It’s crucial to leave enough space around the borders to accommodate printer margins.

Consider reorganizing content such as tables or columns so they fit well within the wider dimensions of legal size paper without appearing cramped or disproportionate.

To summarize, layout optimization involves adjusting orientation, spacing, and content arrangement to make sure that all elements are well-distributed on legal size paper without compromising readability or aesthetics.

Efficient compression techniques play a vital role in preparing PDFs for printing on legal size paper. Compressing PDF files reduces their overall size while maintaining quality and readability.

One effective method is using software or online tools specifically designed for compressing PDFs. These tools can significantly reduce file sizes without sacrificing image clarity or text sharpness.

Another approach involves optimizing images within the PDF by reducing their resolution while retaining acceptable visual quality. By doing so, you can effectively decrease file sizes without compromising image integrity when printed on larger legal-size pages.

In addition to compression tools and image optimization, removing unnecessary elements like hidden layers and redundant data from PDF files contributes to efficient compression tailored for legal-size printing needs.

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology plays a critical role in making scanned documents suitable for legal-size printing by converting them into searchable and editable text formats within PDFs.

By utilizing OCR technology before formatting documents for print, scanned materials become more versatile and adaptable across various page sizes including legal format. This means that even if original scans were not intended for larger prints initially; they can be easily reformatted with proper OCR recognition capabilities embedded within them.


You’ve now got the lowdown on legal size paper dimensions, the differences between legal and letter sizes, and some nifty tips for printing legal documents. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll no longer be stumped. So, next time you’re prepping those legal documents, remember to consider the paper size and follow the printing tips to ensure everything looks slick and professional.

Now go ahead and put your newfound expertise to good use! Whether it’s for official documents or personal projects, you’re all set to handle legal size paper like a pro. Happy printing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Legal size paper measures 8.5 x 14 inches (216 x 356 mm). It’s commonly used for documents such as contracts, certificates, and forms that require more space than standard letter-size paper.

A4 paper is slightly narrower and taller than legal size paper, measuring 8.27 x 11.69 inches (210 x 297 mm). The difference in dimensions can affect printing and formatting when using one type of paper in place of the other.

Ensure your printer settings match the dimensions of the legal size paper to avoid cropping or scaling issues. Use high-quality PDFs designed for legal-sized documents to maintain clarity and precision during printing.

Opt for legal size when you need more space for content without overwhelming a page with text or graphics. Legal-size papers are ideal for drafting contracts, creating detailed diagrams, or presenting comprehensive reports.

To optimize PDFs for printing on legal-size sheets, adjust the document layout to fit within the specific dimensions while ensuring fonts and images remain clear when scaled down to fit onto a smaller sheet


Baron Cooke has been writing and editing for 7 years. He grew up with an aptitude for geometry, statistics, and dimensions. He has a BA in construction management and also has studied civil infrastructure, engineering, and measurements. He is the head writer of

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