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We describe a method for simply characterizing the size and shape of a nanopore during solution-based fabrication and surface modification, using only low-overhead approaches native to conventional nanopore measurements. Solution-based nanopore fabrication methods are democratizing nanopore science by supplanting the traditional use of charged-particle microscopes for fabrication, but nanopore profiling has customarily depended on microscopic examination. Our approach exploits the dependence of nanopore conductance in solution on nanopore size, shape, and surface chemistry in order to characterize nanopores. Measurements of the changing nanopore conductance during formation by etching or deposition can be analyzed using our method to characterize the nascent nanopore size and shape—beyond the typical cylindrical approximation—in real-time. Our approach thus accords with ongoing efforts to broaden the accessibility of 3 nanopore science from fabrication through use: it is compatible with conventional instrumentation and offers straightforward nanoscale characterization of the core tool of the field.