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How to Quickly Add & Edit Great Background Images in Microsoft Word

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:
This post is part of a series called Learn How to Use Microsoft Word (Beginner Tutorial Guide).
How to Quickly Find, Edit, & Use Microsoft Word Templates (MS Theme Files)
How to Quickly Find, Add & Use Clip Art in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word backgrounds are little-known features of to those who are new to the application. Even if you're just starting out, you can learn how to insert background picture in MS Word. 

Microsoft Word background photos
Get unlimited downloads of great background images at Envato Elements.

Adding a Microsoft Word background image can serve a variety of uses. They can enhance the design of the material as well as add a layer of security. 

This is only one of the many features of Word that lets you create awe-inspiring materials. It's worthwhile to learn how to use Microsoft Word so you can take advantage of its many robust functionalities.

This article takes you step-by-step on how to add a background image in Word, as well as how to use watermarks and color backgrounds.

(Note: The instructions and screenshots in this tutorial are from Microsoft Word for Mac version 16.38. If you’re using a different version of Word, the steps and interface may be different from what you see here.)

Working With Background Text (Add a Text Watermark)

A watermark is a semi-transparent object that appears on every page. A text watermark is commonly used for either security or branding. For example, add a “CONFIDENTIAL” watermark as a constant reminder to people that the document shouldn't be shared freely.

There are two ways to add a text watermark:

1. How to Add a Text Watermark from a Template

Go to Design > Watermark. The Insert Watermark dialog opens.

Microsoft Word background - Watermark

Click on the radio button for Text

Microsoft Word background - Template text watermark

A few text templates are available for you to use. Click the drop-down menu to display the text templates.

Choose one of the pre-loaded text watermarks. You can change the formatting of the text watermark:

  • font
  • size
  • transparency
  • emphasis (bold or italics)
  • font color
  • orientation

Then, click OK.

The text watermark is now on every page of your document. It won't be affected even if you change the text, formatting, and layout of your document.

Microsoft Word background - Default text watermark

2. How to Add a Custom Text Watermark

You can also create a custom text watermark if none of the pre-loaded watermarks fit your needs. 

To create your custom text watermark, click Design > Watermark.

Microsoft Word background - Design watermark

Click on the radio button for Text. Double-click inside the text input box. Type the text you wish to use as your watermark.

Microsoft Word background - Text watermark

Set the font format settings for the text watermark, then click OK.

Microsoft Word background - custom text watermark

Your custom text watermark is now on every page of the document.

How to Add an Image Watermark

A watermark can also be an image, such as your company logo. Used this way, the watermark reinforces your visual branding. We'll use the clean rain logo from Envato Elements.

To add an image watermark, go to Design > Watermark. Click the button for Picture.

Microsoft Word background - picture watermark

Click Select Picture. Locate the picture you wish to use, then click Insert.

Microsoft Word - Picture Watermark from file

Select the Scale you want the picture to be displayed at. By default, the Washout button is selected. This makes the picture lighter. Click OK.

Microsoft Word background image full page - Picture watermark

The image watermark has been added to the document.

Image Watermark - Microsoft Word

If you want the picture to be displayed without transparency, un-check Washout, then click OK

This creates an image background on all the pages of the document. You can't insert a watermark on just one page, but there's a way to get around that.

How to Add an Image Background to a Single Page

Sometimes you may want to add an image background to a single page — not on every page of the document. This is useful for designing a creative cover for your document and chapter dividers of a long document or manuscript. 

To add an image background to only one page of your document, first insert the image. For this part of the tutorial we'll use an image of a business person thinking from Envato Elements.

 Go to Insert > Pictures > Picture from File ….

Microsoft Word background image full page - Picture from file

Locate the image you want to use as a background. Select the image file, then click Insert.

Microsoft Word background image full page - Find image

With the image selected, go to Picture Format > Arrange > Wrap Text > Behind text. This allows the text on the page to show on top of the image.

Microsoft Word background image full page - Behind text

Click and drag the corners of the image to resize it and completely fill the page.

Microsoft Word background image full page - single page

Now you've got an image background that's on one page of the document only.

Work With Microsoft Word Background Color

Another way you can vary the background of your document is by adding a background color. Use this sparingly because colored backgrounds can make the text hard to read. Since the background color is applied to the entire document, it’s best to use it in short documents, such as a flier, business card, or a short brochure — materials that contain very little text.

Let's get started:

How to Add a Background Page Color

From the Design tab, click on the Page Color button.

Change background color of Word document

Choose the color you wish to use.

Change background color of Word document - Choose color

The background color is applied to all the pages in your document.

Change background color of Word document - done

How to Add a Background Color to a Single Page

As with the watermark, Word doesn't let you set a background color for an individual page.

If you want to add a background color to just one page of a multi-page document, you’ll have to use a work-around:

Click Insert > Shapes > rectangle.

Change background color of Word document - single page

Click and drag to create a rectangle that’s the same size as the page.

Click Shape Format > Shape Fill and select a color for the background.

Microsoft Word background - Colors

To show text in front of the background color, from the Shape Fill tab, click Arrange > Wrap TextBehind text.

Microsoft Word background - Shape fill

Now, you’ve added background color to a single page in your document.

Microsoft Word background - single page workaround

Find Great Images for Backgrounds

The successful use of images as background in your document depends mostly on the quality and relevance of the photo itself. You can find some of the best premium stock photos from Envato Elements. For a fixed monthly subscription, you get unlimited downloads of all the high-quality images you’ll ever need along with other design assets.

Elements Stock Photos

Aside from photos, Elements also gives you unlimited downloads of Microsoft Word templates, fonts, graphics, and other ingredients you need for a professional communication material.

For one-off projects look to Envato Market for Microsoft Word templates as well as stock photos and other creative elements. Download any item you need on a pay-per-use basis.

Learn More About How to Use Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word has all the features you need to create both printed and digital materials for various purposes. These articles describe what these features are and explain how to use them:

Common Microsoft Word Questions Answered (FAQs)

As you use Microsoft Word and explore its different functionalities, you’ll have questions. That’s why I’ve compiled some of the most commonly asked questions (FAQ) people ask about Word with links to tutorials and articles that address them:

1. Should I Use Microsoft Word or Google Docs?

Microsoft Word is the most widely used word processor in the world. But that may be quickly changing with the arrival of similar applications. Google Docs, for example, has many of the features most users need to create communication materials. And because it comes free with your Google account, it’s attractive to folks who are on a tight budget. 

This article puts Microsoft Word head-to-head with Google Docs, so you can make the best choice:

2. How Can I Get a Different Header/Footer on Different Pages of My Document?

Adding different headers and footers throughout your document may seem confusing at first. This feature of Microsoft Word lets you create remarkable documents that are user-friendly and easy for readers to navigate. Follow this tutorial on how to work with headers, footers, and page numbers in your Word document:

3. Can Word Help Me Spell Check My Document?

In a word: Yes! Microsoft Word has a robust spell and grammar checker, so you can avoid those embarrassing typos and other mistakes. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to work with Microsoft Word spelling and grammar checker — including how to troubleshoot common problems that may come up:

4. What Are Some Shortcuts I Can Use So I Don’t Need to Click on So Many Buttons?

Microsoft Word is designed to be as intuitive as possible. But if you use it often, whether for personal, educational, or business purposes, you’re going to want to make your workflow more efficient. 

Try these keyboard shortcuts for many of the most frequently used features of Word. They cover everything from managing documents to working with text, graphics, and more. You’ll also find shortcuts for both Windows and MacOS.

5. What’s the Best Way to Reconcile Changes in Two Different Versions of the Same Document?

Microsoft Word has several features that make collaboration much easier and smoother. Those features include:

  • tracking changes
  • document comparison
  • document merging
  • even real-time co-authoring 

As can be expected, these powerful functionalities can be intimidating to all but the most advanced users. 

But no worries, we've got another tutorial to walk you through each of the steps for how to compare and merge two Microsoft Word documents. It also includes tips for troubleshooting common problems:

Create Professional and Effective Documents with Microsoft Word

Background images and text can be useful in your Word document, whether for creative design, branding, or document security. Follow the steps detailed in this article to add a background text or image in your document.

If you've got many creative projects, then Envato Elements is a better option. With a subscription to Elements you can download as many photos, fonts, templates for Word, video clips, and sound effects you need—all for one flat monthly fee.

Or choose relevant and high-quality images, Word print templates, and other design ingredients from the thousands of offerings at GraphicRiver. Download whatever you need and pay for each use of each item.

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