A tool for creating visually pleasing print borders using the golden ratio. For any picture or paper size you can calculate and preview the result.

Why did I start thinking about using the golden ratio for print borders? Actually, I was about to print one of my pictures. Looking at the screen preview of the print, I was trying to figure out visually pleasing borders.

Yes, I understand that this is a very subjective matter. But my goal was to create a repeatable approach for different picture and paper sizes.

In the past, I had used Martin Bailey’s print border calculations. He uses 10% of the shorter side of the paper as border size, but I find this too technical.

Golden ratio print borders

Then I remembered having read about the golden ratio (represented by the Greek letter phi: φ, or 1 : 1.6180339887…) and how its proportions are considered aesthetically pleasing. So I checked if someone has already tried this out. The only related post I was able to find was about how to optimize the picture-to-border ratio. The post explains how to calculate a border size for a given image size, using the golden ratio. What I wanted was the exact opposite – to calculate the borders for a given paper size.

In the end, I developed my own formula to calculate the border size for any given paper size. I decided to make it available online so others can try and use it as well. The header image at the top of this post is an example of how the result looks like on ISO sized paper.

The original version of the calculator could only calculate the picture size for a given paper size. With the latest update, you can also calculate the paper size for a given picture size. A preview will give you an idea of how the result looks like. Additionally, you can choose to increase the lower border height for a more dynamic off-center look or to leave some space for text.

The golden ratio calculator, version 2

This is how the calculator works:

  1. Enter width and height – this can be any dimension: pixel, millimeter, inches, whatever you prefer. The results use the same dimension.
  2. Choose if width and height refer to picture size or paper size
  3. Select if you would like to place the picture off-center
  4. Click Calculate
  5. You will see a proportional visual representation of the resulting layout. Further below is a table with the complete dimensions.
Width:
Height:
Width and height above refer to:
Increase lower border:
 

Layout preview

Here is what an example picture would look like:

Result table (rounded to 2 decimals)

Resulting dimensions
Paper width: 
Paper height: 
Picture width: 
Picture height: 
Top, left and right border size: 
Bottom border size: 
Resulting areas
Paper area: 
Picture area: 
Border area: 

The real beauty of the golden ratio approach reveals itself if you look at the resulting ratios. The ratio of the paper area to the picture area is φ, as expected. But additionally, the ratio of the picture area to the border area is φ. And if you have chosen to increase the lower border, the ratio of the lower border to the other borders is also φ. Math can sometimes be stunning… go and verify it if you don’t believe it!

I realize that the result might not work for everyone or every picture. Just consider golden ratio print borders an additional option in your printing portfolio. And I would be more than happy to use your feedback to further improve this calculator. Every constructive idea is welcome.