We examine here a series of meso-phenyl porphyrin micro- and nanostructures. Optical absorption and emission spectroscopy imaging and atomic force microscopy are used to investigate the effect of peripheral groups in nano- and microstructures of 5,10,15,20-tetraphenylporphyrin (H2TPP) compared to three other phenylporphyrins, i.e. 5,10,15-triphenylporphyrin (H2-Tri-PP), 5,10-diphenylporphyrin (H25,10-BPP) and 5,15-diphenylporphyrin (H25,15-BPP) molecules. We show that nanospheres and nanorods are formed, the occurrence and properties of which are influenced by the number and position of the phenyl substituents. This journal is © 2014 the Owner Societies.