Rectangular Prism Formulas, Types and Real-world Examples

By: Mitch Ryan  | 
Glass and wooden prisms on a grey surface with black backdrop
All opposite faces on a rectangular prism are rectangular (or square, but a square is a rectangle). That means all faces on these types of prism are rectangles. Aleksandra Konoplia / Getty Images

A rectangular prism is a three-dimensional cuboid figure. In the same way that a triangular prism brings three connected lines to life in the real world, a rectangular prism takes the length and width of two-dimensional rectangles to the next level by adding height into the equation.


2 Types of Rectangular Prisms

All rectangular prisms consist of eight vertices that are connected by 12 edges ending at right angles. However, there are some differences between these types of three-dimensional shapes.

Regular Right Rectangular Prism

Right rectangular prisms are the most common, with real-life examples including buildings, shoe boxes and pretty much any other three-dimensional object resembling a four-sided fish tank.


Oblique Rectangular Prism

An oblique rectangular prism is a special case that allows us to draw parallelograms in three dimensions. These shapes closely resemble a regular right rectangular prism that is tipped off its axis to lean sideways.


Rectangular Prism Formulas

For prisms, all the sides extend upward from the base area before being capped with a top face like a flat roof on a large building. Use the following formula variations to solve for both volume and surface area.

Volume of a Rectangular Prism

You can find the volume of a rectangular prism by multiplying its length, width, and height:


L x W x H = V

Once you calculate the volume of a three-dimensional shape with rectangular bases and six faces, ensure the measurement is recorded in cubic units to accommodate the object's three dimensions (e.g., inches3 or cm3).

Volume of a Rectangular Prism Calculator

Surface Area of a Rectangular Prism

Remember that the total surface area includes all the faces of the prism. There are six rectangular faces, so you must account for the lateral surface area of the sides with the addition of top and bottom faces. This is illustrated mathematically as:

SA = 2(LW + LH +HW)
Surface Area of a Rectangular Prism Calculator


9 Common Rectangular Prism Examples

Once you know what to look for, you'll start noticing rectangular prisms everywhere. Here are some everyday items that typically qualify as rectangular prisms.

  1. Apartment buildings
  2. Bricks
  3. Doors
  4. Laptops
  5. Picture frames
  6. Protein bars
  7. Reams of paper
  8. Refrigerators
  9. Tissue boxes