Finding The Right Desk Depth For Your Monitor Size

Desks come in all shapes and sizes. Most people think about where a desk will fit, and what size they want/need, but few actually think about how your desk depth affects your monitor viewing experience. 

It might be as simple as: small monitors need to be closer to you and larger monitors further away. Though that’s generally true, there is a bit more nuance to it. 

Today we’re going to talk about common monitor sizes, their viewing distance, and how all this should affect your desk depth. 

Considerations For Desk Depth & Monitor Size

Before we touch on exactly how much desk depth you need from your specific monitor, let’s first touch on a few considerations that could influence this viewing distance. 

Eye Strain

Eye strain is a big one. This is the primary reason you don’t want to be super close to your monitor. A shallow desk depth could force this depending on your monitor.

Our eyes get pretty stressed when looking at monitors all day long. 

There was a study on call center workers who used computers, and 68 percent of them complained of eye strain, and the severity was correlated with how long they were using the computer. 

If you’re using a monitor in your day job, when you come home, etc., then you have probably felt this as well. Being closer to a backlight light panel, like a monitor, is going to give you some of that strain. 

Viewing Area

As you get closer and closer to a monitor, more and more of the monitor becomes hard to view. This is because straight ahead of us we have a smaller happy area that is easy to focus on. 

Bring your monitor too close, and the edges start migrating away from a comfortable viewing area. When your monitor is too far, it doesn’t fill up your viewing area well enough. 

Keeping this balance in mind with desk depth is also important. 

This consideration gets a little weird with ultrawide monitors, or multi-monitor setups. Those are made for you to be looking left/right. This topic mainly applies to the monitor you are focusing on. 

Image Quality

You probably hear the acronyms PPI and DPI being thrown around a lot when it comes to monitors and televisions. PPI stands for Pixels Per Inch and is used pretty interchangeably with DPI, which stands for “Dots” Per Inch. These terms define your pixel density. 

A high pixel density means you have a high PPI/DPI. This means the pixels are all closer together. 

When you have a shallow desk depth, your monitor will be closer to you and it will be easier to see individual pixels. This becomes a pretty bad viewing experience. 

Monitor Size And Desk Depth (1)

Ideally, your desk depth and thus your monitor distance should be far enough away so you are not able to see individual pixels. 

1440p and 4K screens can be placed closer without exposing individual pixels. 

Desk Depth Constraints

When it comes to choosing a desk of the correct depth, having too deep of a desk is not as restricting as having too shallow of a desk. 

If your desk is too deep, you can simply place your monitor a bit closer. You can even use desk clamp monitor mounts that can be pulled toward you very easily during the workday. When you’re done you just push the monitor towards the back of the desk again. 

With shallow-depth desks, on the other hand, you don’t really have a choice. Your monitor can only go so far back if your desk is up against a wall. 

Desk Depth For Certain Monitor Sizes

The rule of thumb for monitor placement at your desk is typically an arm’s length away. That means when you are seated at your desk and you point your arms straight forward, your monitor should be right at your fingertips. 

Desk Depth Measurements (1)

The other rule of thumb we already touched on. You should be far enough from your screen that you can’t make out any individual pixels. 

Apart from these rules of thumb here are some other ways to dial in your viewing distance, courtesy of Linus at Techquickie. 

In this video, Linus mentions the following

Your screen size for a 1080p monitor should be your viewing distance divided by 1.6. The 1.6 number comes from a standard by SMPTE, but this ratio can range anywhere from 1.2 – 2.5. 

For a 4K monitor, the screen size can be about equal (1:1) to your viewing distance due to the much higher pixel density. 

Keep in mind, these ratios won’t apply as well to ultrawide monitors. They will be more applicable to typical screens with aspect ratios of 16:10 or 16:9. 

So let’s put these numbers into practice! Here we will calculate the viewing distance of different monitor sizes and correlate it to a minimum desk depth. 

We will talk about minimums because as we mentioned, it is better to have a desk too deep than too shallow. As we get to larger displays, these equations don’t scale well, so we use a smaller ratio of 1.2. 

Viewing Distance - monitor size - desk depth

The ratio of 1.6 is more applicable to televisions, and we won’t find desks as deep as that ratio requires. If you want to see a cool calculator for viewing distance and television screen size, check out this sweet calculator on

We also have a dedicated article on measuring your desk if you need help. Desk depth and viewing distance are directly related.

Desk Depth for 20″ Monitors

When using a 20 inch 1080p monitor, your viewing distance & desk depth should be less than 24 inches. 

When using a 20 inch 4K monitor, your viewing distance & desk depth can be less than 20 inches. 

Desk Depth for 24″ Monitors

When using a 24 inch 1080p monitor, your viewing distance & desk depth should be less than 23 inches. 

When using a 24 inch 4K monitor, your viewing distance & desk depth can be less than 24 inches. 

Desk Depth for 27″ Monitors

When using a 27 inch 1080p monitor, your viewing distance & desk depth should be less than 32 inches. 

When using a 27 inch 4K monitor, your viewing distance & desk depth can be less than 27 inches. 

Desk Depth for 32″ Monitors

When using a 32 inch 1080p monitor, your viewing distance & desk depth should be less than 38 inches.

When using a 32 inch 4K monitor, your viewing distance & desk depth can be less than 32 inches. 

Keep in mind that these are approximates. Use these approximates along with the rules of thumb we talked about, and you will get a great balanced viewing setup. 

Making Any Desk & Monitor Setup Comfortable

Before you go, here are more things you can do if you are limited in desk depth and you are worried about viewing comfort. 

Bias lighting

Eye strain is a result of staring at a smaller source of light. If there is even lighting all around your environment, you are less likely to experience this eye strain. When you’re walking around in a well-lit room or outside, you don’t feel much eye strain. 

You notice much more eye strain looking at a bright monitor in a dark room though. 

This is why I use three lights when I’m at my desk – to make my entire viewing area more evenly bright. 

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I have my monitor light bar that is illuminating my entire desk. I have my LED strip behind my desk which illuminates the area under my monitor. And lastly, I have my Govee Light Bars behind my monitor that light up the entire wall behind my desk.

Govee Light Bar Placement

These three lights illuminate the entire area around my monitor, so it’s not like I’m looking at a point source of light. It’s easier to look at for long periods of time because everything is evenly lit with my monitor. 

Highly consider bias lighting to combat that eye strain. 

Adjust Monitor Brightness

If your monitor is too bright, bias lighting won’t be able to do enough to reduce the strain on your eye. Make sure your monitor is no brighter than it needs to be. 

What I like to do is adjust my monitor brightness in the middle of a sunny day.

I increase the brightness until I’m at a minimum acceptable brightness level when the sun is out. That way I don’t have an unnecessarily blinding monitor brightness after the sun goes down. 

Scale Up Or Down

If your desk depth and viewing distance is too shallow or too deep, you can scale the way your computer displays on your monitor. 

Basically, you make the text and such on your monitor larger, so they are easier to see from a distance. This is a good solution if you always find yourself squinting to see what’s on your computer screen. 

Here is how to scale your screen on Windows. And here is how you scale your screen on a Mac

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I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!