Word as a Graphic Tool?

Working with Graphics is Microsoft Word
Working with Graphics is Microsoft Word | Source

Creating Graphic Content

If you are a graphic designer or perhaps in some other design field, you may have access and experience with graphic design programs that are the tools of your trade. If you are an amateur designer, perhaps you have dabbled in Photoshop or used a drafting program like Sketch-up or maybe put together a presentation using In-Design. You might even be good at it. But most people, I would suspect, do not have access to these types of programs or much experience using them. There are also programs that come with camera software or printer software and others that are available on the web (either free or for a fee). You might have tried this route at one time or another. Maybe to create a birthday invite or a neighborhood flyer.

Here is another option that I have used to create and manipulate both simple and more complicated graphic content: Microsoft Word. This may not be for everyone but there are few key reasons why it might be worth a try for some of you:

  • Word is a program most people are familiar with and have access to.
  • Beginning in 2007 and updated in 2010, Word has made the graphic portions of their menus much more user friendly.
  • The graphic capabilities of Word have grown and it employs a number of powerful graphic tools.
  • Word is especially good for creating graphically enhanced text documents, such as flyers, brochures, marketing materials, etc.

Manipulate Graphics in Microsoft Word

If you have ever inserted a chart or photograph in Word then you have been introduced to some of the graphic capabilities of the program. That is a start but you can do much more. Here are some of the basic capabilities available:

  • Insert elements - photos, shapes and clip art
  • Insert screen shots
  • Make text boxes (including many that are pre-formatted)
  • Change colors of elements, add shadows and manipulate fonts with "Word Art"
  • Place graphics on top of one another and control the opacity of an object (see through it)
  • Make shapes 3-dimensional and add texture
  • Scale, crop and group elements together

These are just some of the options available under the Insert Tab on the Word dashboard or "Ribbon" as they like to call it. I find Word especially useful in creating annotated documents and graphic rich reports. Below are three examples of graphic design exercises that I completed using Word.

The first image is an annotated map that was used in a written report on my family history. I used a part of a map inserted as a picture (JPEG) and used text boxes to label each state. Additional text boxes were used for annotated notes and a shape was used to make the tags (line and arrow) for the text boxes. You might note that the text boxes are slightly transparent.

The second image is a blog header. This was created by assembling elements in Word and then copying them out as one JPEG. Each of the different text elements is a different text box. The netting was a graphic found on the web, which was cropped and scaled. The line with arrows at each end was another inserted shape.

The third image is a marketing "postcard." In this case, normal Word text was used for the written portions. Photos and drawings were inserted, scaled and arranged and borders were added. Note the background image on the top part of the postcard. To make this, a JPEG was inserted, scaled to fit the area between the borders, placed in the background (behind text) and faded.

Examples of Word Generated Graphics

An Annotated Map
An Annotated Map | Source
A Website Header
A Website Header | Source
A Marketing Postcard
A Marketing Postcard | Source

A Few Highlights

Working with graphics in Word will take a little practice and this article is not meant to be a complete tutorial on the subject but here are a few tips if you're just starting out.

  1. After you place a graphic in Word, you can manipulate it by clicking on it. When you do that, a new menu command will appear in the ribbon called Format (and Drawing Tools). You will be using the Insert and Format commands most of the time when manipulating graphics.
  2. Right-Clicking on an object will also give you some common commands including: Group, Bring to Front, Send to Back, and Format Picture.
  3. The Group command is especially helpful. Once you have organized your graphic elements, if you group them, then they will stay together when you want to move them around in your document. Group also makes it easy to copy graphics out of Word as one element.
  4. The Position command is another favorite of mine. If you want to be able to float your graphic elements on the page (so they are not aligned with text in any way) then use the text wrapping command called Tight (found under the position tab).
  5. Not all graphic elements are created equal. Each type has different properties that can be manipulated. You have to experiment to find out the possibilities.
  6. Check-out the SmartArt tab for pre-made stuff. This is good for making simple charts and graphs (such as an organizational chart).
  7. Text Box is also a powerful tool because Word now has a bunch of pre-formatted boxes for you (a sidebar, for example that can be placed in your report). This adds a great deal of professionalism to a document.
  8. Many of the typical text editing tools that you are already familiar with will work with text boxes; such as paragraph tools (line spacing, alignment, etc.), fonts and spell check.

Format Command

The Word Ribbon showing the "Format / Drawing Tools" menu
The Word Ribbon showing the "Format / Drawing Tools" menu | Source

More Examples

Three shapes are inserted into a Word file and manipulated using the Format Command on the Ribbon. They start out as blue boxes and end up as an arrow, a button and an annotated map.
Three shapes are inserted into a Word file and manipulated using the Format Command on the Ribbon. They start out as blue boxes and end up as an arrow, a button and an annotated map. | Source

The graphic above was created to show an example of some simple tasks. Each of the text boxes at the bottom (which are inserted pre-formatted text boxes provided by Word) explain how the simple blue box was inserted and then manipulated to get the three results. In case you are having trouble reading the text boxes, I have repeated the information below.

  1. (Left) Insert a shape, change the fill of the shape to 'none', change the outline color of the shape, even change the shape itself to something else (a blue square becomes a red arrow).
  2. (Middle) Insert a shape, stretch the shape, fill the shape with a 'texture', 'bevel' the shape, add a 'glow' affect.
  3. (Right) Insert a shape, insert a picture, crop and scale the picture, send the picture to the back (send to back), change the shape outline to a dashed line, insert the line/arrow shape, insert a text box, type the text and change the text box outline to 'none'. All elements in this graphic have their position/text wrapping set to 'tight' and they are grouped so their position relative to each other never changes.

You might also notice that the numbers 1, 2, and 3, at the top and the words 'Blue Squares,' at the bottom have been manipulated with 'word art'. The blue border is actually a rectangular shape with no fill.

Practice Makes Perfect

Like any other piece of software, using Word to make a graphic presentation does take a bit of practice. As it has become a more powerful tool, it has also become more complicated to use. Still, I have found it to be manageable and with a little trial and error, the program can yield some great looking graphics.

Getting your graphic creation out of Word and onto a website is also relatively easy. Even though I have access to Photoshop, most of the time I use Paint to convert the graphic elements to a JPEG format. Paint has also been substantially improved in recent years (viewing and cropping, elements, for example is much improved). To make a JPEG of your graphic, simply copy (or cut) the element from Word, open Paint and paste. Grouping all of the element first will make copying them easier. Once in Paint, you save-as a JPEG.

Looking for more?

  • I plan on publishing additional Hubs on more specific topics. Check those out to learn more about creating and manipulating graphics with Microsoft Word.
  • If you want to see step-by-step instructions that show how I created the ProNet 6 website header, read the article: Design a Header for Your Blog.

I hope that this little introduction to using Word as a graphic tool was helpful and perhaps, you will give it a try. Good luck . . .

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Comments 11 comments

internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

Very cool! This is useful because I don't have any experience with photoshop, but enjoy playing around with custom headers for my blog! I checked out your blog article about that and it was very useful! Great hub!


brblog profile image

brblog 4 years ago from Chicago, Illinois Author

Thanks Internpete,

I never really used Word for graphics until the 2007 version and the ribbon. All of a sudden, I could see the potential and ever since, I have been using it in this way. Other programs, like photoshop are great but let's face it, if you are not using them on a regular basis, they are just too hard to master.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

I usually write all my hubs in word and have needed help with graphics. I've just kind of learned by trial and error. But now, with your good instruction on using word for graphics, I am eager to try some new projects. Great hub and thank you.


missolive profile image

missolive 4 years ago from Texas

I keep forgetting to play around with all the tools Word has to offer. Graphics have always been something I enjoy creating and manipulating. Thanks for the suggestions and ideas.


brblog profile image

brblog 4 years ago from Chicago, Illinois Author

missolive,

What I like about it is it is a one-stop shop; I don’t have to go back and forth between more than one piece of software – text and graphics in one place . . .


brblog profile image

brblog 4 years ago from Chicago, Illinois Author

vocalcoach,

Thanks for the comment, give me a holler if you ever get stuck or need any help . . .


dwachira profile image

dwachira 3 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

Hi Bruce,

As hubbers, we always seek to use original graphics that we can manipulate the way we want in our articles. I believe these are handy tips that can be used by hubbers to create their own original graphics which can compliment their articles in more better ways. Thanks for sharing such valuable tips. Voted up, useful and more.


brblog profile image

brblog 3 years ago from Chicago, Illinois Author

dwachira,

Thanks for reading and for your comment - I agree, making original graphics has many advantages for a writer (either blogger or hubber).


ib radmasters profile image

ib radmasters 3 years ago from Southern California

I had no idea about these capabilities of word.

Thanks


brblog profile image

brblog 3 years ago from Chicago, Illinois Author

ib radmasters,

Thanks for the comment, I have a couple of other hubs that go into more detail on creating text boxes and using "Smart Art" - you might want to check them out.


ib radmasters profile image

ib radmasters 3 years ago from Southern California

brblog

Thanks, I will do that

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