10 ways to make your pictures pop in Word 2010

You don't have to be a design professional to produce stylish documents. Word 2010 offers built-in tools that make it easy to enhance your graphics with special effects and formatting.

Lucky us. Some of the greatest changes in software over the last five or six years have involved making it easier to find, include, and spruce up the pictures on our document pages. A few years back, the photo in your annual report had to be done by a professional photographer and then pasted (literally) on the page. Expensive, right? Today, not only can you easily take a good snapshot and include it in a document, but you can use Word 2010 to edit the image and apply all sorts of styles and special effects, making it look like a piece of art on your page.

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1: Use your own photos

This option may seem obvious -- especially today -- but one of the great things about all the picture editing tools in Word 2010 is that you can use the photos that mean something to you instead of finding (or purchasing) canned photos that just smack of marketing appeal. Your own photos of products, customers, events, or people have an emotional impact that other photos won't. And what's more, you can use them as often as you like in as many ways as you like-for free! You can't beat it.

2: Get stylish with your pictures

After you add a picture to your page, click it. Word will display a whole new set of tools. In the Picture Tools Format contextual tab, you'll find everything you need to apply special effects (artistic effects, shadows, and more) to the image you've added to the page. You can also add a picture style to the picture, which displays the picture in a frame, with a shadow, skewed on the page, and so on (Figure A). Click Picture Tools Format and point to one of the styles in the Picture Styles gallery to see how it all works.

Figure A

You can apply picture styles to give your photos a professional look.

3: Try smart and snazzy cropping

Word 2010 makes it easy to crop photos so you can draw the readers' eyes to just the part of the image you want them to see. You can click the Crop tool in the Size group of the Picture Tools Format tab to crop the image by dragging a corner or a side of the image inward. If you want to create special effects with the crop, you can crop the picture to a specific shape (Figure B), or choose Fill or Fit to control the way the image appears in the cropped area.

Figure B

You can crop a picture using a shape to create a special effect for your page.

4: Apply artistic effects

A new feature called Artistic Effects in Word 2010 gives you a set of special filters you can apply to the picture on your page (Figure C). For example, you might apply the Glass effect to change the look of the image or use Pencil Sketch or Cement to give the picture a special look. Experiment with the different filters to find just the right style. Artistic Effects are available only for documents saved in Word 2010 format.

Figure C

Artistic Effects make it easy to turn a photo into art.

5: Tweak lighting and brightness

The tools you use to touch up the light contrast and brightness in pictures you place in your Word documents are now set in a gallery format you can use to choose the effects you want to see. You don't have to rely on sliders and numeric values to gauge how much change you want to make. Instead, click the picture and click Corrections in the Adjust group of the Picture Tools Format tab. Each of the thumbnails in the Sharpen And Soften and Brightness And Contrast areas show you how the picture will change if you choose one of the settings.

Of course, if you'd prefer to do it by the numbers, you can click Picture Correction Options at the bottom of the Corrections list to display the Picture Corrections tab of the Format Picture dialog box. There, you can use sliders and enter values to adjust the balance in your picture to your heart's content.

6: Choose styles of all types

Once you get the content of the picture in focus, you will start to think about how it looks placed on your page. Word 2010 includes ready-made picture styles you can apply to the picture to give it a designer look. You might display the picture in a frame, add a drop shadow, skew the picture, or add a mirror effect. To try out the different styles, click your picture and click the More button in the lower-right corner of the gallery in the Picture Styles group on the Picture Tools Format tab. Point to the style you'd like to see and Word will preview it on your picture. Simply click the one you want to apply.

You can further customize a style by clicking the Picture Border, Picture Effects, and Picture Layout tools in the Picture Styles group. With Picture Border, you can add a border -- in the color, style, and thickness you specify -- to the selected picture. Picture Effects lets you control the shadow, reflection, glow, and more. You can use Picture Layout to convert a picture to a SmartArt graphic so that you can use it in the diagrams you create.

7: The Shadow knows

One of the easiest ways to add a sophisticated feel to your layout is to add simple shadows to your pictures. This gives the pictures a three-dimensional look and helps the page appear more polished. In Word 2010, you can add a simple shadow using one of the picture styles or you can customize the shadow to change where it appears on the image, how deep it is, what color it displays, and more. To tweak the shadow for your pictures, click the image and click Picture Effects in the Picture Styles group of the Picture Tools Format tab. Point to Shadow and click one of the options in the displayed gallery or click Shadow Options at the bottom of the list to display the Format Picture dialog box. There, you can change the various settings related to the look of the shadow.

8: Rotate for fun and effect

Another cool picture technique involves changing the angle of pictures to fit the flow of your text or to create a special effect. You can rotate your pictures easily -- simply click one and drag the little green handle that appears above the top of the image in the direction you want to rotate the picture.

You can also click the Rotate tool in the Adjust group of the Picture Tools Format tab to display additional options that offer more precision. For example, using the Rotate Left 90 degrees option, you can rotate the picture to a specific point. You can also use Flip Vertical and Flip Horizontal to change the orientation of the picture. And if you want to get further into the details of rotating images, click More Rotation Options at the bottom of the list.

9: Remove the background

How many times have you taken a great picture and then realized later that the background either includes something you don't want to show or detracts from the quality of the person in the foreground? Word 2010 makes it easy (and fun, really) to remove the background of an image so that people see only the part of the image you want them to focus on. Remove Background is available in the Adjust group of the Picture Tools Format tab. Simply click your image and then click Remove Background. Use the tools in the Refine group of the Background Removal tab to fine-tune the area you want to keep and then click Keep Changes to remove the background (Figure D).

Figure D

The Remove Background tool is available on the Picture Tools Format tab.

10: Layer your pictures

There's no rule that says you can include only one image per page or that all pictures need to be arranged in some linear way. In fact, some of the most compelling layouts set pictures askew, layer graphic elements, and use shapes and space in an interesting and inviting way. When you're working with multiple graphics on a page, you need to be able to layer and group them so that you can work with them easily. These kinds of picture management tools are available in the Arrange group of either the Picture Tools Format or the Drawing Tools tab.

Begin by clicking and selecting the picture object you want to layer. Click Wrap Text if needed and click Tight (so the images will be able to overlap). Now, drag the image on top of the other image (or shape) and release it. In the Adjust group, a variety of tools will become available. You can rearrange the layers by clicking Bring Forward or Send Backward; you can use Group to combine the objects into one; and you can use the Selection Pane to change the order of items or make them visible or invisible while you work.

The payoff

You can spend all afternoon just playing around with the picture features in Word 2010, and someday that might be a fun thing to do just for the heck of it. But the bottom line is that the picture tools enable you to create great-looking documents quickly and at a fraction of the cost it would take to get something professionally designed. And that's definitely a skill that pays off.

Katherine Murray is the author of Microsoft Office 2010 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2010), Microsoft Word 2010 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2010), and Microsoft Word 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press, 2010). You can reach Katherine through her blog, BlogOffice or by emailing kmurray230@sbcglobal.net.

By Katherine Murray

Katherine Murray is a technology writer and the author of more than 60 books on a variety of topics, ranging from small business technology to green computing to blogging to Microsoft Office 2010. Her most recent books include Microsoft Office 2010 P...