As it is relatively easy to setup an arbitrary aspect ratio for my Beamer presentation, I am wondering what would be the best aspect ratio for my presentation slides?

I think the 4:3 aspect ratio would be suitable for lecture notes as it leaves no blank margins when I print out 4 on 1 handouts. But for screening purpose, would it be necessary to go for 16:9? As suggested by this online article, in most cases 16:9 is more suitable, however in the end it is a matter of preference.

Any suggestions besides that?

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    Why not contact the organising committee/chair? and just ask what the projector is? Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 13:59
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    @Oxinabox I did ask and the answer is 16:10...my question is mainly to ask for some general suggestion. My problem arises since I use heavily customized vector art background. Dont want to screw up the aspect ratio.
    – Troy Woo
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 14:53
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    @TroyWoo - well, perhaps there is the problem. Why do you feel you need to use a heavily customized background? Does it help convey the point of your talk, or do you think it looks cool? If the latter, consider that it might just be distracting to many members of your audience.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 15:31
  • A 16x9 aspect ration will fit into a 16x10 projection...
    – Raydot
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 18:13
  • @JonCuster Thanks for your concern but perhaps you jumped to your conclusion. Heavily customized does not necessarily mean heavily colored or decorated, or cool. The reason that I choose to customize my Beamer background is for aesthetic reason. Of course I would bear in mind that it must remain within the boundary of not distracting or offending any of my audience. For your concern, I do believe that no matter what I did with my presentation, I may always end up distracting someone unintentionally, just like my post.
    – Troy Woo
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


In the following, when talking about displaying a presentation with a certain aspect ratio on a projector with a certain aspect ratio, I always assume that the presentation’s aspect ratio is preserved and black bars are added at the appropriate sides. Never have the projector digitally warp your presentation: It destroys hinting¹ and may make fine lines invisible.

The best aspect ratio is the one of the very projector you are presenting on, as you can make best use of the space. In particular with projectors, you do not want any content to be unnecessarily downscaled as their resolution is very low to begin with and the projection area may be rather small (and thus difficult to see for the audience). An okay 16:9 presentation may be rendered unreadably small, if displayed on a 4:3 projector.

Now, depending on your presentation and how dynamical you program it, adapting to a different solution may be a rather simple thing with Beamer (apparently in contrast to Powerpoint, going by the article you linked). I once changed a presentation of mine from 4:3 to 16:9 in about half an hour, and this included recompiling complex animations and a lot of perfectionism – a “normal” presentation could be adapted much faster.

If you do not want to adapt, the choice essentially depends on the average age and purpose of projectors in your conference venues (I would guess that newer projectors or projectors mainly used for movies are rather 16:9). Thus it depends on your field and probably also your continent. Anyway, most projectors I have encountered so far had a 4:3 resolution and most of those who hadn’t had a resolution very close to it. I’ve only encountered a single 16:9 projector. I thus use 4:3 as the default.

¹ To give you an idea, the following shows this sentence as natively rendered by my computer (with hinting) and the same text digitally stretched or squeezed:

enter image description here

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    If a 4:3 gets stretched horizontally, it won't lose legibility, though it may look lousy. Going the other way, text may suffer and graphics may lose fine detail altogether ... or, worse, lose some vertical lines.
    – keshlam
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 9:34
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    @keshlam: Actually, if you (digitally) stretch a fully rendered presentation, you destroy hinting, which may severely impede legibility – see the edit to my answer.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 10:39
  • Well said. Thanks. In fact, my only concern is that I used a customized background, and might need to adjust the aspect ratio in some 3rd party software. So for one presentation, I have to prepare two suites of backgrounds.
    – Troy Woo
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 11:04
  • Hinting: Hmmm...
    – keshlam
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 11:59
  • @keshlam I dont know man...I guess it is a valid point. I never heard of hinting before...now I learned something new. Can't complain XD.
    – Troy Woo
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 14:49

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