How to add color or a picture to a Word document's background

There's nothing wrong with a white background, but Microsoft Word lets you change the color of a document's background. You can even use a picture, but don't get carried away.

How to add colors or images to the background of your Word documents Changing the look of a Microsoft Word document is simple--here's how to do it.

Editor's note: In the video, Brandon Vigliarolo uses Microsoft Office 365 and walks through the steps of adding colors or images to the background of your Word documents. In the following tutorial, Susan Harkins explains the process when using Word 2010. This article was first published in December 2011 and was updated in March 2019.

Most documents are rather boring--the same black text on a white background. That's the way it should be though because most documents don't require special graphics and colors. However, when a document requires more, Word offers many visual possibilities. For instance, you might want to change the background's color or even use a picture as the document's background. Both are easy to accomplish, technically speaking, and in this article, I'll show you how to do both.

Keep in mind that adding a background color or picture to a document is much easier than designing a visually effective document. I'll share only the mechanical process; how you implement the feature is up to you.

I'm using Office 365 Word (desktop) on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use older versions. You'll find these options on the Design tab in the Page Background group. (In earlier versions, look for the Page Layout tab.) The browser edition doesn't support the background feature.

LEARN MORE: Office 365 Consumer pricing and features

Add color

Adding a bit of color is probably the easiest way to liven up an otherwise boring document. You might decide to add a sedate color to a promotional letter or resume. To add color to a document's background, you'll work from the Design tab, as follows.

  1. Click Page Color in the Page Background group.
  2. Choose a color from the gallery (palette) as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

wordbackgrounda.jpg

Choose a color--it's that easy!

It doesn't get much easier than that. You can click More Colors to fine-tune a gallery color. Choose No Color to remove a colored background.

Although simple, you could create some ghastly backgrounds. There's a lot to consider when introducing color into a document. Color-wise, there are several attributes, hue, chroma, and so on.

Your main consideration should be legibility. In that regard, contrast is usually the most important factor: the higher the contrast, the more legible the text. It also adds to the layers of separation, as shown in the illustration in Figure B. The more contrast, the more depth, which improves readability. I'm not suggesting that you take a crayon-box attitude to your documents though. This illustration is just that, an illustration--not a recommendation for these particular colors.

Figure B

wordbackgroundb.jpg

Documents with high contrast are easier to read.

Limiting your choices will produce the best results. Limit your color palette to two or three colors. Use different shades (hue) and saturation (chroma) to add variation. And remember, even in digital form, there's nothing wrong with a white background.

Add a picture

The process for adding a picture to a document's background is similar to inserting a picture into an AutoShape--you use the Fill Effects option.

Note:This feature has the potential to produce more ghastly results, so just because you can add a picture doesn't mean you should.

You'll use the same Page Color option on the Page Layout tab (in the Page Background group) to add a picture, as follows.

  1. Click the Page Color option and choose Fill Effects.
  2. Click the Picture tab.
  3. Click Select Picture.
  4. Locate the picture you want to insert and click Insert.
  5. Click OK.

Figure C

wordbackgoundc.jpg

You can easily add an interesting background to your document.

Figure C shows an interesting background that might work well with the right subject matter, but it presents quite a challenge. What color font would you use? How much text could you add? Balancing all the requirements takes skill, but most of us can learn those skills with the right training. If you change your mind, it's easy to remove, albeit not intuitive: Choose No Color from the Page Color dropdown.

As I mentioned, adding color or a picture to a document's background is easy. Producing a visually effective document takes specialized knowledge.

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