Some printable paper rulers

Here are some rulers you can print out.
Disposable paper rulers! :)

Disable any "shrink to fit" option when printing.
There is a note below about accuracy.

One foot ruler
1 ft long, 3 cm wide. One per page.
(centimeters and inches)
For US letter-size paper.

PS source

One foot ruler (for A4 paper)
1 ft long, 3 cm wide. One per page.
(centimeters and inches)
For A4 size paper.

PS source

Metric rulers
25 cm long, 3 cm wide. 6 per page.
(centimeters and millimeters)

PS source

Centimeter/Inch rulers
25 cm long, 3 cm wide. 6 per page.

PS source

Simpler Centimeter/Inch rulers
25 cm long, 3 cm wide. 6 per page.
Fewer ticks, bigger font.

PS source

Decimal-Inch/Centimeter rulers
25 cm long, 3 cm wide. 6 per page.
Ten ticks per inch.

PS source

Metric rulers (narrow)
25 cm long, 2 cm wide. 9 per page.

PS source

Centimeter/Inch rulers (narrow, parallel)
25 cm long, 2 cm wide. 9 per page.
Both units go in the same direction.

PS source

Yardsticks / Meter-sticks
Meterstick (cm and mm)
100 cm long, 2 cm wide. 2 per page.
Pieces (4) can be taped or glued together.

PDF (221 KB)
PS source (14 KB)

Meterstick (cm and inches)
A meter is a bit longer than a yard (39+ in).

PDF (194 KB)
PS source (14 KB)

Two-meter-stick (cm and inches)
200 cm long, 2.4 cm wide. One per page.

PDF (531 KB)
PS source (14 KB)

Large-print meterstick
100 cm long, ~5 cm wide. One per page.
There are big numbers every 10 cm.

PDF (118 KB)
PS source (14 KB)

Large-print meterstick (with 1/4 meter labels)
100 cm long, ~5 cm wide. One per page.
Says "0", "1/4", "1/2", "3/4", and "1".
But the 10 cm numbers are smaller.

PDF (120 KB)
PS source (14 KB)

Single-unit rules
Stack of centimeter rules
25 cm long, 2 cm wide. 10 per page.

PS source

Stack of millimeter rules

PS source

Stack of centimeter rules
(more per page, but shorter)
20 cm long, 2 cm wide. 13 per page.

PS source

Single-unit rules (narrower)
Dense stack of centimeter rules
(lots more per page , but shorter and narrower)
20 cm long, 1.2 cm wide. 21 per page.

PS source

Dense stack of centimeter rules
(more, but narrower)
25 cm long, 1.2 cm wide. 16 per page.

PS source

Color-square rules
Alternating red and white squares
Cm squares - 25 cm long, 1 cm wide. 6 per page.
Inch squares - 9 in long, 1 in wide. 3 per page.

PS source

"I discovered that many of my students do not really understand linear measurement. I found this out when I gave them rulers without numbers. Some of them were completely at sea. Previously they just read the numbers off the ruler with no concept that they are measuring a given distance. It turned out that few of the students (top academic classes) [could] do the measurements, they didn't know where to start, they didn't know that the ruler was metric, they didn't know that each centimeter had 10 divisions!!! Give them a broken ruler (one without a zero): boy! does that ever demonstrate weaknesses in understanding. This year I am going to START with the numberless rulers." [a reader]
Stack of number-free metric rules
25 cm long, 2 cm wide. 10 per page.

PS source

Here are more "odd" (difficult to use) rulers for education


Don't "shrink to fit"!

You should disable any options like "shrink oversize pages to paper size" or "scale to fit paper" on your print menu.

My plan was to make all the ruler pages small enough that no browser was tempted to shrink them while printing. But a reader reports Acrobat 5 still defaults to shrinking the "combo" ruler (by 10%), unless this option is disabled. I'd like to hear if anyone else has this problem, and with what software and page. Thanks.


Accuracy can be outstanding, but will depend on your printing setup. My cheap inkjet printer has an unmeasurable error vertically, but is too big by 0.2% horizontally (that is still less than half a millimeter over 200 millimeters). So I get great vertical rules. But my horizontal rules, while better than, say, a random cheap plastic ruler, are not as good as a quality ruler. And if one's printer had worse problems, like a slipping paper feed, one might see larger errors. Note that card stock may feed differently than paper. Laser printing has fewer such issues. For a quick plausibility check, you can see if your vertical and horizontal rules match up. But if you really care about accuracy, you should of course validate the printout against a high-quality ruler.

I've not heard of anyone having problems. Please let me know if you do.

A quick and rough test is to measure an object of known size.
Such as paper -- US 8.5 x 11.0 in, 216 x 279.4 mm; A4 210 x 297 mm.
Or currency -- US dollar 2.61 x 6.14 in, so 66.3 x 156.0 mm; 5 EUR Grey 120 x 62 mm; 10 EUR Red 127 x 67 mm; Can notes 152.4 x 69.85 mm; Aus $5 130 x 65 mm, Aus $10 137 x 65 mm; India 100 Rupees 157 x 73 mm; Japan 1/2/5/10,000 yen 76 mm x 150/154/156/160 mm; China 5-yuan 135 x 63 mm, 20-yuan brown 145 x 70 mm; etc, etc.

A teacher writes: "I decided the small errors caused by printing or xeroxing wasn't important as long as ALL the rulers were xeroxed at the same time and so should be nearly identical. As long as we don't try to compare results with outside sources, the students will learn just as well.".

Other notes

Please let me know if you find these rulers of use,
so I'll know whether it's worth doing further work on them.

Card stock can be used instead of paper (it's stronger).

Overhead transparencies can also be used. Especially with a sharp paper cutter.

"Print them on overhead transparencies and cut them with a paper cutter and you have a bunch of rulers the students can't write on!! Plus, I prefer to measure with a transparent ruler." [a reader]
"I did use the un-numbered rulers this week, and really like them. I copied them onto overhead transparency film, then cut them. They're a lot more durable than paper, and very flexible, Best of all, they're see-through, which is really helpful when kids are measuring "odd" things they need to see. The only warning; you must have a VERY sharp paper-cutter, or you'll end up with pretty rough edges. You can easily hand-cut them, to use for general measuring, just not as a straight-edge line tool. Anyway, they sure work great in my science lab," [a reader]
"I am a science lab teacher and needed an inexpensive way for students to measure tadpoles while still in the containers. I ran your centimeter rulers off on trasparency paper in the copier, cut apart, and viola!!!! The students love them. They say they are crisper and clearer than the see through plastic rulers that you can buy!" [a reader]
A teacher reports that copier-only transparencies are tough to write on, but multipurpose ones are easier, so you can influence whether kids can write on them, or not.


"I was working on growth charts for my children. I used a 4' long board (approx. 6" wide) and used stencils and stamps to personalize them. I saw one in a craft store which is where I got the idea. However they used a tailors tape measure to mark the growth portion but they only go up to 60" and I hope my kids will grow taller than 5'! [...] I could not find a suitable tape measure anywhere and I didn't want to make it myself as I thought that I would look very amateurish. [...] I will now use some special glue that I have heard of called..."mish mosh" or something like that, to attach my printout to the charts." [a reader].
(I hear some inkjet inks and cheap toners allegedly fade and flake over the years, so one might consider using a good photocopy on acid-free paper. Perhaps. - mcharity)

The PostScript (PS) source was hand written. Feel free to modify it.
The PDF versions were derived from PostScript using ps2ps and ps2pdf.
The pages should work with both US Letter and A4 sheets (except where noted).

You might also be interested in A printable decimeter (10 cm) box and graphpaper.pdf.
And perhaps even A How Big Are Things? Cube.

Comments encouraged - Mitchell Charity <>
    The large-print metersticks are now about 4.8 cm wide,
  rather than 5 cm - please let me know if you care.

  business card ruler
  cut alignment marks
  code needs cleanup pass
  variants with alignment marks but no gap, for bulk cutting.
  smaller or lighter numbers
  tweak inter-ruler gap size
  allow customization.  eg, person's name.  image.
  menu based custom rulers.
  a 30 cm long cm/mm singleton
  check 3-hole punches.
  check photocopying
  is an edge box good for anything?
  add a bottom-edge light gray "optional cut line" to the cm,mm stacks??
  do we believe pbs's glue paper ruler to cardboard is plausible?
  Say yardstick, yardsticks, yard-stick, meterstick, metrestick, yard measure.
      inch, inches, centimeter, centimeters, millimeter, millimeters,
      centimetre, centimetres, millimetre, millimetres, meter, metre.
      "cut out", "print", "printable", "sheet", "page".
      ruler, rulers, measure, measures, rule, rules, stick, sticks.

 2004-Feb-11  Added yen and yuan bills.
 2004-Feb-10  Added notes on "growth chart" crafts, and writing on transparencies.
              Thanks to readers.
              Added paper and currency dimensions for easier rough accuracy checks.
 2003-Dec-06  Added feedback quote re using transparencies.  Thanks to a reader.
              Added links to graphpaper.pdf and HowBigAreThingsCube.
 2003-Dec-05  Added webpage of "odd" rulers for teaching.
 2003-Nov-03  Added "disable any shrink to fit" note.  Thanks to two readers.
 2003-Aug-20  Added a simpler cm/in rule for teaching.  Thanks to a reader.
 2003-Aug-05  Added a paper size warning to the foot ruler pages.
 2003-Jul-30  Added a decimal-inch rule.  Thanks to a reader.
 2003-Jan-21  Added accuracy link to top, as top and bottom are getting distant.
              Tweaked accuracy note.  Noted that A4 should be working.
 2003-Jan-20  Added color-square rules.  Thanks to a reader for the suggestion.
 2002-Oct-25  Tweaked pages to work with A4 paper.  Added A4 1ft ruler.
              Thanks to a reader for the bug report.
 2002-Oct-06  Added large-print and 2 m metersticks.  Thanks for the suggestion.
              Added file size notes for large pdf files.
 2002-Sep-12  Added number-free rules.  Thanks to a reader.
 2002-Sep-07  Online.