What would be the smallest font in Microsoft Word that when printed on an A4 size paper would still be readable?

By readable, I don't mean comfortably readable. All I need is for the printed text to be at least visible when I strain my eyes a little.

I am using Calibri as my font type. I have tried font size 6 before, and the text are still quite readable. Now, I want to try font size 5, but I am not sure how drastic would the change be.

Would font size 5 for Calibri in Microsoft Word still readable when printed out?

PS: I know I could do a test print on my own printer. Unfortunately, it blew up just a while ago and I have no convenient access to a printer at this point of time.

  • 5
    It depends on the quality of your printer, and the quality of your eyes. The big generic rule-of-thumb is that anything under 9pt likely won't be read by people (but that's a fuzzy rule as it also depends on the particular typeface). – DA01 Dec 3 '12 at 16:16
  • I am using Calibri as my typeface in Microsoft Word. I am using a normal inkjet to print on an A4 size paper. It's not for general reading, but mainly for my own reference. I could see the text with font size 6 with a bit of strain, but worried that font size 5 will be very different and way too small to be seen when I print it. – xenon Dec 3 '12 at 16:48
  • A very easy way to find out, since your are the reference here, is to print a text page with many different sizes (and perhaps fonts too). – KMSTR Dec 4 '12 at 8:09
  • 2
    This is an incredibly lazy question. You want us to tell you whether you will be able to read your own reference material printed on your particular printer of unknown model if you reduce it by 1 point, because that printer is offline right now?! – e100 Dec 11 '12 at 12:22

It depends on what DPI you use for the print. With a high resolution, ie. high DPI, you can print very small sizes.

Human eyes cannot read much details beyond 300 DPI so for readability there is little point of using higher DPIs than that. Higher resolutions above 300 DPI are typically used for technical reasons such to overcome ink-bleeding (or if I may, for marketing gimmick in consumer printers).

If you still want to print very small letters a very high resolution is needed. It won't be readable to most people, but it's possible to do.

Just for the sake of process:

1 point of a font is defined as 1/72 of an inch. If you want to print a font in 5 points that will obviosuly be 5/72 of an inch. So to not have those raster-points merge all together you will need a resolution twice that size as a minimum, meaning 144 DPI.

Will it be readable? In the real-world probably not, ref. ink-bleeding. So here you need to double the resolution again and you end up at ~300 DPI. If your font is more than basic simple sans-serif you will again run into problems with ink and rendition of the details of the font so again you need to double the DPI to about 600 DPI. You can see where this is going.

  • For photography, on most home printers, the 300dpi statement is true. But when it comes to text and offset printing, most people can easily tell 300 dpi from 600 or 1200 dpi. – DA01 Dec 3 '12 at 17:56
  • Certainly, I just try to illustrate the concept. If he has his own offset printer, no problem :) – user7179 Dec 3 '12 at 17:59
  • I think this answer would better if it were generalised to print method rather than specific DPI. – e100 Dec 11 '12 at 12:16

Going on the assumption that readability has been tossed in the can and we're focusing on "can I make that character out or not" ...

Caps are more open, "plug-resistant" glyphs. That is, a capital glyph is made up of larger shapes that can be reduced more dramatically. This can make for big savings in line height (thus, vertical space). I mention line height because the average character width goes up. At the same time, your minimum font size gets smaller too so you can make up some if not all of that difference.

Bottom line: In raw "can I make it out" terms, all-caps Calibri at 5pt will be fine. The caps will also allow you to go down to 6 or 7pt leading. No one but lawyers and bored elderly folks with magnifying glasses will ever read it, but the characters will technically render.



SIZE 6 (for LOWER case letters)

SIZE 5 (for UPPER case letters)

that's most likely what everyone's looking for...

  • Welcome to the site. In the future, check the question date first. I doubt @xenon is looking for anything now, since it's been a few years. – plainclothes May 1 '15 at 2:33

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