Word as a Graphic Tool?
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
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.
- 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.
- Right-Clicking on an object will also give you some common commands including: Group, Bring to Front, Send to Back, and Format Picture.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Check-out the SmartArt tab for pre-made stuff. This is good for making simple charts and graphs (such as an organizational chart).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- (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).
- (Middle) Insert a shape, stretch the shape, fill the shape with a 'texture', 'bevel' the shape, add a 'glow' affect.
- (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 . . .