I have a question regarding the aspect ratio of my pages. I wonder if the given aspect ratio in my example is a good choice or if I should change any values to achieve a better print space. Experts, what do you think? :)

\usepackage[a4paper,margin=2cm]{geometry}  \usepackage{setspace}
\usepackage[T1]{fontenc}   \usepackage{mathptmx}  
\usepackage[scaled=.90]{helvet}   \usepackage{courier} 
\onehalfspacing \lipsum

\begin{document} \setlength{\headheight}{15pt}
\setlength{\topmargin}{5pt} \setlength{\headsep}{15pt} \textheight =
635pt \setlength{\skip\footins}{10mm} 


  • 1
    You should stick to using geometry to set your page layout and avoid manual setting via \setlength.
    – Werner
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 20:52
  • 2
    Yes, and add them as a collective \geometry{paper=a4paper, margin=2cm, top=5pt, headsep=15pt, ...}. Note that some of these might be contradicting, as knowing paper (and therefore paperwidth) and margin, you should be able to derive textwidth and therefore do not need to specify it explicitly.
    – Werner
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 20:57
  • 3
    probably not immediately relevant, but if you want a view on traditional page layouts, there's an article in tugboat by hermann zapf, My collaboration with Don Knuth and my font design work, that touches on this. (there are other articles that deal with this topic as well, but that's the one i remember most readily.) Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 20:59
  • 1
    Margins of 2cm on a page of size A4 makes for a rather wide text block. Can you make the margins a bit wider (and thus the text block a bit less wide), or can you go with a two-column layout?
    – Mico
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 21:02
  • 1
    @Mico, my settings were wrong. If I change to [!htbp], everything works fine.
    – Jens
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 7:04

1 Answer 1


The traditional French canon des ateliers would give these values for geometry on a4 paper (not taking into account marginpars, headers nor footers):

"ordinary" printing:

\geometry{textwidth=15.75cm, textheight=23.4cm, marginratio={4:6,5:7}}

"neat" printing:

 \geometry{textwidth=14cm, textheight=21.3cm, marginratio={4:6,5:7}}

"luxury" printing:

\geometry{textwidth=13.1cm, textheight=20.75cm, marginratio={4:6,5:7}}

You can see some explanations and details in my answer to this question.

  • @Bernhard: Thanks a lot for your response, very helpful. 1) I wonder what defines "luxury" printing as luxus? The higher amount of pages being printed? 2) If I want to take headers and footers into account, does it affect the given settings?
    – Jens
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 7:03
  • 1
    @Jens: 1) No necessarily. I think that, rather, it refers to very small printing runs — typically less than 1000, for which the amount of sheets of paper per book is unimportant, as you can have with poetry books, with engravings, unusual format, a beautiful vellum paper and the like. 2) I would say no, but large headers like fancyheaders' defaults should be avoided.
    – Bernard
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 8:20
  • In your answer to this question, you say the printing fraction of paper width reserved for the printing zone is most of the time 3/4 for ordinary printing. And indeed, in your code above 15.75cm/21cm=0.75 but 23.4cm/29.7cm=0.788. Is there a reason for this? Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 7:49
  • 1
    @Denis Bitouzé: I've just discovered your comment-question (well, maybe I had seen it before, but didn't have time to answer at the moment, then forgot…). The only reason is that everything is calculated w.r.t. thewidth of the paper sheet: its height is not taken into account.
    – Bernard
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 11:04

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