Working with Images in Word

Tuesday Nov 20th 2007 by Helen Bradley

They say a picture's worth a thousand words, but wait 'til you see what Word can do with that picture. We take a look at the application's image tools and how using them lets you add pop to any document.

Photos and other images add visual variety to your Word documents. You can use them as decorative features to break up large pieces of text, and they play an important part in delivering your message to your reader. Word offers handy tools for working with images in your documents and, in this article I’ll show you a few ways to use them.

Default screen shot
You can change the way Word inserts new images into a document to make it more user friendly.
(Click for larger image)

Inserting Images
By default, Microsoft Word 2003 inserts images with the default wrapping option set to In Line With Text. The result is that the image is treated like a character within the text. You can't move it around easily, and the text doesn’t wrap neatly around it. It’s very confusing behavior particularly for anyone new to Word, and it stumps many people.

You can change how the image moves and how text wraps around it by clicking the Text Wrapping tool on the Picture toolbar. If the Picture toolbar does not appear when you click a picture, display it manually by choosing View > Toolbars > Picture. Select any option in the list except In Line With Text. For example, selecting Square will wrap the text around the image to its left and right sides and allow you to drag the image around the document.

You can also change how Word inserts images so, if you’d prefer to default to using Square wrapping instead of In Line With Text you can do this. Choose Tools > Options > Edit tab and from the Insert/Paste Pictures As dropdown list, select the option to make your default – for example, select Square.

Picture Toolbar Options
Most of the options for working with pictures are to be found on the Picture toolbar. From left to right the Picture toolbar includes an option for inserting a picture, which you can click to insert a picture from your disk.

Picture toolbar screen shot
The Picture toolbar offers a range of tools for working with images in your documents.
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The Color tool offers Grayscale, Black and White and Washout as options. Grayscale converts the image to shades of gray and black and white converts it to a simple black and white image – of the two options, grayscale gives the best monochromatic results. Washout brightens and lightens the image so it loOKs, well, washed out. You might use this when placing an image behind text so you can still read the text clearly. The Automatic option simply reinstates the image to the color it was when inserted into the document.

Use the More Contrast, Less Contrast, More Brightness and Less Brightness buttons to add or remove contrast and brightness from the image. If desired, you can combine these with the Color options so you can choose Washout and then tweak the result with these Brightness and Contrast tools.

Use the Crop tool to crop away unwanted portions of the image. Select it and drag on a side of the image to crop from that side. You can also ‘crop’ by dragging outward so that if you make a mistake you can drag back out to undo the crop that you have made. If you drag back beyond the edges of the image you can add extra white space around the image with this tool.

The Rotate tool lets you rotate the image around in increments of 90 degrees. Provided you aren’t using the In Line With Text wrapping option the image will also display a green rotate button when selected that you can use to rotate the image to any angle. Use the Line Style tool to add a black or colored border around the image.

Color tool screen shot
There are four alternatives you can choose from with the Color tool on the Picture toolbar.
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The Compress Pictures button lets you permanently delete cropped areas from your images and compress their size for Web or print use. So, if you have inserted a large image from your digital camera and reduced its size in your document, you can save space in your Word file using the Compressed Pictures tool to compress the image to a resolution of 96 dots-per-inch (dpi) for Web use or to 200 dpi for printing. Additionally, if you have cropped the image you can permanently remove the cropped area using this same tool.

The Text Wrapping button lets you control how text wraps around your image. Typically something like Square will be what you need although selecting Behind Text lets you place text over the top of the image. The Edit Wrap Points option in the Text Wrapping menu lets you adjust how text wraps around an image. Click it to see the wrap points and the wrapping shape that surrounds the image.

You can drag on the line to add nodes, which you use to control the shape that text wraps to. So you can, for example, drag the shape in over the image so that text flows across it or drag it out-wards to add more space around the image. This is quite a sophisticated tool, but it's buried where you might not find it easily or know what to do with it.

Wrap points tool screen shot
Using the Edit Wrap Points tool you can configure how text wraps around an image.
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The Format Picture button opens a dialog box that you can also access by selecting the image and choose Format > Picture. There are some additional tools in this dialog that you can use to format your image.

The Set Transparent Color button is of most use when you are working with a drawn image. Use this to click on a single color in the image to set it as a transparent color. You might use this, for example, to remove the background from an image so that it looks transparent on the page. Note that you can only make one color transparent at a time.

Finally, the Reset Picture button, when clicked, resets the picture to how it looked when it was first inserted in the document.

Images in Every Shape
Images stored on your computer are rectangular or square in shape – it’s just not possible to save a circular image. However, you can create a circular image in Microsoft Word very easily. Display the Drawing toolbar and select the Oval shape tool. Hold the Shift key and drag a circle on the page. Don’t worry too much about the colors you’re using as the fill is about to be replaced.

Circle tool screen shot
Using AutoShapes you can create pictures in your documents in any shape you choose.
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Next, right-click the shape and choose Format > AutoShape and then the Colors and Lines tab. From the Fill Color dropdown list choose Fill Effects > Picture tab and click Select Picture. Select the image to use and click Insert. Click the Lock Picture Aspect Ratio checkbox, deselect the Rotate Fill Effect With Shape checkbox and click OK twice. The image now appears inside the shape.

If you change the shape, the photograph adjusts to fill it. If you rotate the shape the photograph will stay in place because you deselected the Rotate Fill Effect With Shape checkbox when you inserted the image.

You aren’t limited to using circles, and you can fill any AutoShape with an image using the same process. You make the image in the shape semi-transparent using the Transparency slider on the Colors and Lines tab and, to remove the border from the shape, choose No line from the Line Color dropdown list. To adjust how text wraps around the shape, right click it, choose Format AutoShape and click the Layout tab.

Sourcing Images
If you are looking for images to use in your Word documents you can use any image stored on your disk whether it be clipart or your own photography. You will also find a good selection of photos and clipart available on this page of the Microsoft Web site. Just make sure to look for the free Microsoft content – some of the content advertised here requires payment.

Screen shot
You can take a copy of the screen and insert it into your document and use it to illustrate it.
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If you are creating documents that explain how to use various software tools, you can use your own screenshots in your documents. To do this, first display the screen that you want to capture on your computer screen and then press the Print Screen key.

Alternatively, you can capture just the current window by pressing Alt + Print Screen. Switch to your Word document and choose Edit > Paste to paste the screen shot into position. You can now edit the image. For example, you can crop the screen shot to show just the portion that you want to use, or you can resize it. You can add a callout to it using the AutoShapes tool on the drawing toolbar. Locate the AutoShape Callouts collection, draw the shape and write your text in it. This is a handy way to annotate screenshots to make them easier for readers to understand.

If you plan to place the screen shot image in a shape, you’ll need to paste it into your photo editing software first, save it as a file and then follow the instructions for inserting it into the shape.

Use the image tools in Word as a handy way to add visual elements to your Word documents.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site,

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