Capsule Size: The Definitive Guide

If you’re starting your capsule filling business, you need two things:

One, an efficient and high quality capsule filling machine.

And, two, the right capsule size &type.

The good news is:

Already, I have a complete guide on capsule filling machine.

Read it before you buy capsule filling machine.

And today, I want to guide you through choosing the right capsule sizes.

By the end of this guide, you should be ready to start your capsule filling business.

What is a Capsule?

A capsule is a tiny cylindrical easy to swallow packaging.

You can use it to package drugs, supplements or vitamins.

It is a perfect alternative to tablets.

Depending on what you’re processing, you can fill the following:

  • Powder
  • Pellet
  • Solvent, etc.

This will all depend on the type of capsule filling machine you’re using and its capability.

Softgel capsules

Softgel Capsules

Hard gelatin capsules

I know the two images may seem confusing – don’t worry, I will take you through the different types of capsules shortly.

But first, let’s talk about these two:

  i. Gelatin capsules

 ii. Vegetarian capsules

Which one should you go for?

Let’s find out:

Gelatin Capsules vs. Vegetarian Capsules

Gelatin capsules are made from gelatin.

Gelatin is a flavor-free organic food containing collagen.

You can extract it from some animal parts, especially the bones or skins.

Gelatin capsules

Gelatin capsules

Vegetarian capsules are made from plants and vegetative products.

Veg capsules are a better substitute for the gel capsules.

Veg capsules

Veg capsules

They satisfy the huge demand of customers who do not prefer animal products.

Now, which capsule should you go for?

Well, there are no definite advantages of one kind over the other.

It all comes to:

  • Different customer needs
  • Taste in terms of preference together
  • Religious inclination some customers prefer veg. capsules

Notably, veg capsules are slightly inexpensive since they are from plant products and are believed to be easily soluble.

Modern pharmaceutical industries prefer using capsules as compared to hard tablets due to the following reasons.

  • They are multi productive since they can hold a wide range of contents, such as powder, pellets, and fluids
  • Pocket-friendly in terms of encapsulation and production
  • Easy to pack and not bulky
  • Easy to fill

Having discussed that this article shall, therefore, assist you to understand the following:

  • The different types of capsules in pharmaceutical industries
  • Various types of capsule size
  • Capsule filing process.

And here we go:

What are the Types of Capsules Used in Pharmaceutical Industries?

Pharmaceutical industries, mainly use two types of capsules for technical purposes in the packaging process.

  • Hard Gel. and veg. capsules
  • Soft Gel. and veg. capsules

It is important to note that these types of capsules are made from an aqueous solution.

Apart from gelatin and plant products, the capsules may contain:

  • Coloring components
  • Lubricants,
  • Preservatives and other ingredients

§  Analysis of Hard Gelatin and Vegetarian Capsules

Commonly known as two-piece capsules since they are manufactured by double piece gel encapsulation.

They have shells that are especially dry and hard.

Analysis of hard capsules

Analysis of hard capsules

Their shells are usually made in two fitting cylindrical halves:

  • A bigger shell referred to as the cap that is used to seal and fit into the other small part
  • Smaller shell that is filled with the drug component either in pellet form, tablets or powder form.

They are again available in a wide range of sizes, hence provides you with a lot of options to pick and select a suitable one according to your needs.

The sizes are grouped into size 000, 00, 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4.

This encapsulation is most suitable for the powdered drugs or pellets.

However, it is only used if the drug will be highly soluble in the stomach and the body.

Usually, the capsules come as two closed entities before filling.

It is the capsule filling machine that separates the capsules.

§  Analysis of Soft Gelatin and Vegetarian Capsules

The manufacturing process of Softgel capsules produces a final product which is in one piece.

Soft gelatin capsules

Soft gelatin capsules

You will use these capsules when filling dissolved and miscible oil.

Essentially, they hold liquids or fluids.

Apart from that, they also exist in various shapes such as oval, spherical and oblong.

In soft gel encapsulation, the active ingredient is mixed appropriately with the correct proportion of the solvent in the capsule.

The capsules easily melt and dissolve once in the stomach to release the medicinal components.

Unlike the hard capsules, the soft capsules do not have a definite nor specific size.

The distinct advantages of soft gel capsules include:

  • Rapid effect – the drugs in the soft gels are highly absorbed from the mixture, thereby inducing a constant and a quicker effect in the body systems.
  • Effective admission for poorly soluble drugs
  • Highly recommended for potent drugs, especially in cases whereby the dosage is less than 100microgrammes.

Now, back to a fundamental question:

Which is the most suitable type of capsule?

This is a common question that many often ask.

Unfortunately, there is no definite answer to this question.

The best type of capsule would depend on the type of the capsule filling machine or equipment.

Also, the type of material you intend to encapsulate will determine the right capsule for you.

Now, let’s move a step further and explore capsule sizes.

Basic Facts about Different Capsule Sizes

So what are the different sizes of the capsules that are available for your pharmaceutical needs?

Well, just like the hard solid tablets, capsules exist in a different range of sizes.

Worry no more, the capsules exist in a variety of sizes to suit your needs.

Are you looking for size 000, size 0 or size 4?

I have compiled the following charts to enable you to understand and pick your preferred choice after analyzing the parameters used to classify the capsules.

These parameters include, but not limited to:

  i. Weight and volume.

 ii. Dimensions – overall closed length, cap length, body length.

iii. Weight capacity in relation to powder density.

§  Weight and volume

The weights of the empty capsules are given in milligrams (mg).

The volume of the empty capsule is the measure of its capacity and given in milliliters (ml).

It should be noted that vegetarian capsules are heavier compared to gelatin capsules.


Gel capsule

158 ± 10123 ± 799 ± 676 ± 561 ± 448 ± 338 ± 3

Veg capsule.

163±  10136 ± 7105 ± 679 ± 563 ±  450 ±  340 ± 3

§  Capsule Dimensions

The dimensions are classified into the closed length of the empty capsule.

This is the measure of the length of the completely filled capsule with the total contents.

The cap is one half of the capsule that is used to enclose the main body (other half) that is filled with the drug.

The body is the main hall of the capsule that is completely filled with the drug.

All the measurements are given in inches.

Closed(in)1.0240.9210.8500.7640.6930.6180.563+/- 0.012
Cap diameter(in)0.3910.3370.3010.2740.2520.2300.210
Body diameter(in)0.3760.3240.2890.2610.2410.2200.200


§  Weight by Powder Density

The powder density varies depending on the kinds of powders used.

Some are light, resulting in low density approximately 0.6g/ml.

While others have slightly higher densities of 0.8g/ml, 1.0g/ml, and 1.2g/ml as shown below.

@0.6 g/ml822570408288216162120
@0.8 g/ml1096760544384288216160
@1.0 g/ml1370950680480360270200
@1.2 g/ml16441140816576432324240


Here is even more information about capsule sizes:

Different capsule sizes

Different capsule sizes

Essential Guide to Capsule Filling Process

Let us now focus on the process of filling the capsules.

Wondering about the complete process of filling the capsules?

It is an easier process altogether and done by the capsule filling machines better known as capsule fillers.

These machines do the mechanical job of filling the powdered drugs together with the mixtures of other active ingredients.

These machines actually differ in their:

  • Working capabilities
  • Size
  • Output
  • Mode of operations.

However, they can all produce both the two-piece hard and one-piece soft gelatin capsules.

Categories of the Capsule Fillers in the Market?

  • Manually operated filler machines.
  • Semi-automatically operated filler machines.
  • Automatic filler machines.

All the three capsule filling machines have a similar and common working mechanism.

They can fill capsules of different sizes.

Therefore, it is advisable to confirm the sizes before you can commence the operation.

Common Operational Process of Capsule Filling Machines (for Hard Gelatin & Vegetarian Capsules)

These machines have got a relatively bigger segment of the drug powder storage that contains the active drug formulation.

Simple capsule filling process

Simple capsule filling process – Image source: Tankonyvtar

  • The powdered formulation is initially drawn from the storage hub.
  • The flip segment of the machines, then separates the capsules into two cylindrical halves that is the main body and the cylindrical cap.
  • The active ingredient is thereafter filled into one half of the capsule (body).
  • The other fitting half of the cylindrical part of the capsule is tightly pressed onto the loaded half.
  • Finally, the ready capsule is withdrawn from the machines and now ready for packaging and distribution.

Let’s now focus on the individual operations of each machine

a) Manually Operated Filler Machines

These machines have a range of 220-320 holes in their beds, depending on the kind of the machine.

It’s important to note that the more the number of holes the higher the capsule production.

Therefore, for large-scale production of capsules, you shall indeed require the kind with many holes to maximize the production in the shortest time possible.

One major advantage of these manual machines is that they are cost friendly and can be easily acquired in the local markets.

These machines include. Manual capsule fillers of 20 count (CN 20), 50 count (CN 50), 100 count (CN 100), 240 count (CN 240), 400 count (CN 400), count 800 (CN 800).

Each capsule filler consists of:

  • A pan having 220-320 number of holes where the empty capsules are placed
  • Powder segment tray
  • Pin plate with 220-320 holes
  • Sealing segment made of rubber
  • Simple lever
  • Handle

Capsule Filling Procedure in Manual Machines

Follow the procedure below to fill the capsules.

   i. Pack and fill the empty capsules into the loading pan and raise it high over the bed.

  ii. Initiate the operation of the handle to unpack the capsules into two halves.

 iii. Ensuring that the powdered tray is properly stationed, fill it with an accurate amount of the active ingredient using a scraper. The excess amount of powder can be collected.

 iv. Lower the pin plate carefully, ensuring that the filled powder is pressed by the pins downwards.

  v. Thereafter, raise the pin plate subsequently the remaining powder shall be filled into the carrier half of the capsule.

 vi. Once the filling is done, remove the powdered tray and place the cap holding dish in the designated position.

vii. Lower the plate with the rubber tops, then operate the lever to seal the capsules.

viii. Finally, pull open the loading tray to collect the filled and ready capsules.

b) Semi-automatically operated filler machines

Unlike the manually operated filler machine, these machines are user-friendly and recommended for the pharmaceutical purposes.

It is because they meet high hygienic standards.

In addition, rivets with stainless steel and hence cannot, therefore, corrode or rust.

They are relatively expensive compared to the manual fillers and available in different kinds depending on the size and output.

Procedures for Semi-automatic Machine Operation?

    i. Place the cap sheet on a tidy and dry surface.

   ii. Using the pegs fix the encapsulation sheet on top of the cap correctly.

  iii. Now place the tops of the capsules into the encapsulation sheet and shake the tops into the holes in a circular motion. Ensure that the walls of the encapsulation sheet are covered with the other hand to prevent spillage of the tops.

  iv. Once the holes are fully filled, remove the excess tops and the encapsulation sheet, putting the filled sheet onto one side.

   v. Take the bottom sheet and fix it together with the encapsulation sheet correctly, you may use pegs if necessary, pour the bottom halves into the encapsulation sheet.

  vi. Shake as previously done in the procedure (iii) to ensure all the holes are maximally filled thereafter pour out the excess ones.

vii. Again remove the encapsulation sheet positioning it on one side.

viii. Now pour powder filler on the bottom sheet and use the spreader to spread it evenly.

ix. At this point, you can now take the filled cap sheet and position the middle sheet on it again using pegs for correct fitting.

 x. Thereafter turn and twist the cap sheet over the bottom sheet.

xi. Finally, apply equal pressure using hands to fit both the parts of the capsule together.

c) Fully Automatic Capsule Filler Machine

Fully automatic capsule filling machines are known for high production capacities.

They have advanced capability and they come in different shapes and designs.

Remember, this guide was mainly focusing on the capsules.

Therefore, I will not go into the details of fully automatic capsule filling machine.

But, I will give links to the essential concepts you need to know:


Softgel encapsulation machineSoftgel encapsulation machine

Therefore, with these machines, you can fill both hard and soft capsules.

All you need is to choose an appropriate machine for the intended capsule filling purposes.

Fully automatic capsule filling machines are known for high precision and reliability.

This machine is highly recommended and preferred for pharmaceutical purposes due to the following reasons:

  • It is precise and accurate in operation for handling the capsules
  • High production, hence suitable for bulk filling of different capsule sizes
  • The machine parts are standardized and can be easily acquired for replacement.
  • It is capable of opening the capsules in pairs to ensure all are timely opened.
  • It is fused to assist in cutting down any electrical short circuit.
  • It has a dosing tube system that limits the interference of temperature and its parts are constantly swept by the automated vacuum cleaner to rid its parts of dust.
  • Non-corrosive – since it is made from rust-resistant materials like the stainless steel.



I know you can now start your capsule filling business.

This is because you can choose a suitable capsule – either hard gelatin and vegetarian capsules or soft gelatin capsules.

Besides, you can choose from manual, semi-automatic or fully automatic capsule filling machines.

More importantly, you now know the various capsule sizes and shapes available.

At SaintyCo, we care about you.

Tell us more about you capsule filling business, and we’ll offer you free advice.

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