How to Add a Background Image to a Word Document

By Filonia LeChat

Make your Word documents stand out with a background design.
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The initial view of a Word document upon opening the software may be somewhat bleak, just a white virtual sheet of paper. Through a variety of ways, you can add a background image to a Word document to accompany your proposals, letters, marketing materials or latest bursts of creativity. Word offers a way to quickly automate the process to ensure you get a perfect fit, or you can opt to add images in manually.

Background Basics

Microsoft Word documents aren’t just for single paper-sized documents. You may find yourself compiling items such as catalogs, magazines, programs and books, all of which may benefit from background images that make your pages go from white to just right. With full-color imagery such as photographs or line sketches and other artwork, having background images in Word can make your text stand out or simply stand on its own as a form of your expression and communication.


Once you’ve selected the image for your background, click the “Page Layout” tab on the Word workspace. Click the “Page Color” button on the ribbon, then choose “Fill Effects.” Click the “Picture” tab, then click “Select Picture” to find your background image. Double-click the file name, then click the “OK” button. This closes the “Fill Effects” window and returns you to the Word document with the background image in place.

Alternate Route

Another way to add a background image to a Word document gives you far more control over the image’s placement and appearance but requires more tinkering around on your part. Instead of using the “Page Layout” tab to instantly insert the image, click the “Insert” tab, then click “Picture.” Browse to the image to add and double-click it. This puts the picture in the Word document, but not in the background. Click the picture and hold down the “Shift” key, which keeps the picture in its original dimensions when you resize it. Click one of the picture’s corners and drag it in to shrink it, such as if your picture is larger than the Word page. It’s more difficult to enlarge a picture, as you run the risk of pixilating it or warping the image. Now that the picture is on the page, click the pink “Picture Tools” tab to open the formatting ribbon. Here, you can alter the image such as fading it or changing it to lighter colors so your text will appear more easy to read. The image is still obscuring the text below. Right-click the image and select “Send to Back” and now your customized image is truly a background image.


The main considerations when adding a background to a Word document are visibility and distortion. If your Word document has text or any other elements on the page, they may become obscured when you add a background image, especially if that graphic is dark like a photograph. Word offers ways to combat this by using the washout or fade sliders on the background dialog boxes and you may have to experiment to get the document exactly right. Distortion is also a potential pitfall. While the background image doesn't need to fit the page exactly, something that is much smaller may look distorted when Word sizes it to fit the page. It may appear stretched out, pixilated or fuzzy. Depending on how you plan to print your Word document, bleeds may also be an issue. A bleed is where the colors of the background image run right up to the edge of the page, like in a magazine or book cover. The majority of traditional home or office printers cannot print bleeds. You’ll always get a white border around the margin edges. A professional printer can print these kinds of bleeds for you.


The information in this article applies to Microsoft Word 2010. Earlier or later versions of this software may present several differences and variations.