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How to Draw and Use Freeform Shapes in Microsoft Word

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:LongLanguages:
This post is part of a series called Learn How to Use Microsoft Word (Beginner Tutorial Guide).
How to Quickly Find, Add & Use Clip Art in Microsoft Word
How to Add Page Borders for Microsoft Word Quickly With Templates

Call them “doodles,” “sketchnotes,” or “visual notetaking.” Whatever the name, simple hand drawings have become more popular than ever. They’re as welcome in the classroom as they are in the boardroom.

Word Drawings - Hand draw arrows ornament cliparts
Hand-drawn elements like these arrows and ornaments set from Elements add personality to your Word project.

Why? Maybe it’s because they’re quick to create. You don’t have to be an artist to draw stick figures. Yet they communicate everything from how viruses replicate to how a manufacturing supply chain works. They’re a good and unique way to enhance your Word documents.

Hand drawings also allow you to express your personality and stand out from your competition. And because you’re creating your own drawings, you don’t have to worry about using copyrighted materials.

Draw in Microsoft Word - using shapes
Later in this tutorial you'll learn how to draw this bicycle using Word tools.

Freeform Word drawings also help you better understand and assimilate the concepts you’re trying to convey. That’s because you’re forced to simplify the concepts and come up with visual metaphors for them.

You may be wondering "How do I draw on Microsoft Word?" While Word might not be the first drawing tool that comes to mind, there are drawing tools in Word that you can learn to use.

This article shows you, step-by-step, how to draw in Word so that you, too, can harness the power of simplified drawings in your projects. As you'll see, you don’t have to be a professional artist or to use expensive tools and software because you can draw right within Word.

Let’s get started!

(Note: In the examples below, I’m using Microsoft Word for Mac version 16. If you’re using a different version, then the interface may be different.)

How to Draw in Word: Freehand With the Shapes Freeform Tool

There are several ways for you to draw by hand on your Word document. These include the Freeform and Scribble tools in the Shape tab. Both these two tools are very similar because they let you draw in Word using your mouse or trackpad. 

1. Use the Freeform or Scribble Tool

You can draw objects and handwritten lines with either one. One difference is that the Freeform tool lets you draw perfectly straight lines, while the Scribble tool draws exactly what you draw. 

To draw with Freeform, click on the Insert tab.

How to draw in Word - Using the Freeform tool

Click Shapes > Freeform.

How to draw in Word - Insert a Freeform shape

To draw, click, hold, and drag the cursor on the page. Word stops drawing when you either bring the cursor back to your point of origin or double-click on the page. In this example, I'll draw a check mark. 

How to draw in Word - Shape Format a Freeform shape

To draw perfectly straight lines with the Freeform tool, click on your starting point. Then, release the mouse, move the cursor to the end of the line, click there, and repeat until you finish your drawing. Double-click at your end-point. Using this technique, my check mark looks like this:

How to draw in Word - Freeform straight lines

Notice that the lines are perfectly straight, even though my hands were unsteady. That’s because the Freeform tool draws straight lines between two consecutive points where you click on your mouse.

Don’t worry that the text runs straight through the drawing. We can fix this with text wrap because Word treats the drawing as an image. 

2. Format the Text Wrapping Around Your Drawing

Click on the Shape Format tab. Then click Arrange > Wrap Text. Select one of the text wrapping options. In this case, let’s select Square.

How to draw in Word - Wrap text around a Freeform shape

Now the text wraps around the drawing.

How to draw in Word - Square text wrap

Microsoft Word also lets you wrap text around an irregularly shaped drawing. Go to Shape Format > Arrange > Wrap Text > Edit Wrap Boundary.

How to draw in Word - Edit wrap boundary

Click and drag the boundary points to change the boundary.

How to draw in Word - Freeform Change the boundary points

By doing this, you've got more granular control over how text wraps around your drawing.

How to draw in Word - Text wrap for Freeform shape

3. Refine Your Drawing

Refine the drawing you’ve made. Click on your drawing to select it. Under the Shape Format tab, click Edit Shape > Edit Points

Word drawings - Edit points of a Freeform shape

Click and drag any of the points to change the drawing as you wish.

Word drawings - Edit points

You can also use the Shape Format tab to edit other aspects of your drawing. Change its color, weight, and in the case of closed shapes, add a filling color.

To change the look of your drawing, from the Shape Format tab, expand the Theme Styles and Presets selection. Choose one of the styles you want to use.

Word drawings - Theme styles and presets

You’ll have more choices by going to Shape Outline. From there, select a color.

To change the weight or thickness of your drawing, go to Shape Format > Shape Outline > Weight.

Word drawings - Shape outline weight

You can also apply special effects to your drawing. On the Shape Format tab, go to Shape Effects, then choose the effect you want to apply. 

Word drawings - Shape effects

Here’s the check mark now, after I added a shadow.

Word drawings - How to add a shadow

How to Draw in Word: Using the Scribble Tool

The Scribble tool is like the Freeform tool. The only difference I’ve seen is that the Scribble tool doesn’t draw straight lines between clicks. To draw, you've got to click, hold, and drag the mouse. If you release the mouse button, Word will stop drawing.

To draw using the Scribble tool, click Insert > Shapes > Scribble.

How to Draw in Word - Scribble tool

Click, hold, and drag the mouse to draw the shape. If you bring the cursor back to your point of origin, Word closes and fills the shape. In this case, let’s draw a cloud.

How to Draw in Word - Scribble a closed shape

Now the drawing can be edited by using the tools in the Shape Format ribbon. 

1. Change the Fill Color of Your Drawing

For example, to change the fill color, click on the drawing then on the Shape Fill button. Choose the color you wish to use.

How to Draw in Word - Scribble Shape Fill

2. Change the Outline Color of Your Drawing in Word

To change the shape’s outline color, click on the drawing, click Shape Outline, then choose the outline color or style you desire.

How to Draw in Word - Scribble Shape Outline

For this example, I selected No Outline.

How to Draw in Word - Scribble no outline

3. Fill Your Drawing with a Picture

You could even fill the drawing with an image. Go to Shape Fill > Picture

How to Draw in Word - Scribble Shape Fill with a Picture

Find the image in your computer. Select the image file, then click Insert.

How to Draw in Word - Insert a picture

The resulting shape is pretty neat!

How to Draw in Word - Scribble with picture fill

Follow the steps described earlier to change the text wrapping around your drawing, as well as its other attributes.

How to Draw With Microsoft Word Pen Tools

Either Freeform or Scribble are adequate tools for creating simple Word drawings that have only a single element, such as a single line or shape. 

But what if you want to draw something slightly more complicated, such as a stick figure? It’s made up of a circle for the head and several lines for the arms, body, and legs.

1. Draw With the Microsoft Word Pen

In this case, it would be better to use Word’s Draw tools. To access them, click on the Draw tab.

How to Draw in Word - Pen drawing tools

As you can see, the Draw tab gives you some ink types:

  • Pen
  • Pencil
  • Highlighter

Each ink type gives your drawing a different look. To select an ink, click the Draw button on the ribbon, and select either a Pen, Pencil, or Highlighter

Click, hold, and drag to draw with your mouse. Notice that even when you release the mouse, Word stays in drawing mode. This means you can keep adding elements to your drawing. When you’re done, click the Draw button again.

How to Draw in Word - Pen tools

To change the color and thickness of any tool, click on the drop-down menu, and make your selections. A total of 16 standard colors are available, and you can access many more by clicking on More Colors…

How to Draw in Word - Pen drawing colors

Plus, for the pen ink, there are eight special effects: 

  • Rainbow
  • Galaxy
  • Lava
  • Ocean
  • Rose Gold
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Bronze
How to Draw in Word - Pen special effects

If your drawing has several parts, you’ll have to group them so that Word will treat them as one object. Click, press, and hold the Shift key as you click all the elements of your drawing. When you’re done, click Shape Format > Arrange > Group > Group.

How to Draw in Word - Group

Now you can treat the drawing as a single object. (Note: Once drawing elements are grouped, they can't be ungrouped anymore.)

Click on the drawing, Shape Format. Then use the tools in the Shape Format tab. (Note that not all the features on the Shape Format ribbon can be applied to your drawing.) From here, we'll change the text wrap setting of the drawing.

Go to the Shape Format tab. Click Wrap Text. then select a wrap setting.

How to Draw in Word - Wrap text

I chose the Top and Bottom text wrap.

How to Draw in Word - Pen drawing

2. Erase Your Drawing

The Draw tab provides an Eraser tool so you can erase mistakes. First, format the tool by clicking on the drop-down arrow. You've got three choices:

  1. Stroke Eraser. Erases an entire stroke when you click on it.
  2. Small Eraser.  Erases a small area when you click, hold, and drag your mouse.
  3. Medium Eraser. Erases a larger area when you click, hold, and drag your mouse.
How to Draw in Word - Eraser tool

If you selected the Stroke Eraser, click on any line to delete it. If you selected either the Small or Medium Eraser, click, hold, and drag your mouse over any areas you want to delete.

3. Draw With the Trackpad

Draw in Microsoft Word without a mouse by using the Draw with Trackpad tool.

First, choose the ink type you want to use. Then click the toggle to switch on Draw with Trackpad

How to Draw in Word - Drawing with the trackpad

A window appears on top of your document. Use two fingers on your trackpad to move it anywhere on your document. 

Pressing the Command key, move one finger on your trackpad to where you wish to draw. Pause, then draw with your finger. You don’t have to press down on the trackpad to draw.

How to Draw in Word - Trackpad

How to Draw ... Without Drawing!

So far, you’ve learned how to create your own images in Word by hand-drawing with either the mouse or the trackpad.

But what if you really can’t draw? Not even stick figures?

You can still “draw” by using the pre-made lines and shapes in Word. If you think about it, most objects can be broken down into shapes and lines. By putting these together, you can create your very own sketches — without drawing by hand.

Read on to see what I mean.

1. Draw With Lines in Microsoft Word

The simplest images are made up of lines. In this example, we'll make a trellis, which is a grid like what you’d use to play Tic-Tac-Toe.

Go to Insert > Shapes > Line. This tool makes a simple straight line with a starting point and an endpoint.

How to Draw in Word with the line tool

Click on the page. That’s the starting point of your line. Drag your mouse to where you want the line to end, then click again.

Go to the Shape Format tab and use the buttons to edit the line. For this example, I changed the color and the weight of the line. I also added a shadow.

Drawing tools in Word - Format shape

When you’re happy with how the line looks, copy and paste it as many times as needed to create your image. Click on the line, then go to Edit > Copy, then Edit > Paste. Or, use the shortcuts Command + C to copy and Command + V to paste.

Linen Copy Paste

Click, hold, and drag the lines into place. It may be helpful to display gridlines. To do so, click on the View tab, then check the box for Gridlines. This will help you to properly align the different elements of your drawing.

Drawing tools in Word - Gridlines

To change the angle of a line, click on the line, then go to Shape Format > Arrange > Rotate. Choose from one of the available rotation options or set your own. You can also click on one end of the line, hold, and drag it in place.

Drawing tools in Word - Rotate

If you want the elements to line up precisely, select the lines, then go to Shape Format > Arrange > Align. Select an alignment option. 

Drawing tools in Word - Alignment

In this example, I'll use Distribute Horizontally for the vertical lines, and Distribute Vertically for the horizontal lines.

Drawing tools in Word - Distribute Horizontally

These same steps apply to block arrows and other shapes, too.

2. Draw on Microsoft Word Using Shapes and Block Arrows

Now we’re ready to make more complicated pictures!

Let’s draw a bicycle by combining circles and triangles. Go to Insert > Shapes > Oval. Hold the Shift key as you click, hold, and drag your mouse to make a perfect circle. (But, if you want to draw an oval, then don't use the Shift key.)

Drawing tools in Word - Shapes and block arrows

With the shape selected, go to Shape Format, and use the buttons on that tab to edit the shape you made. 

Draw in Microsoft Word - Shape format

To make the bicycle wheels, I'll remove the Shape Fill and change the outline of the circle.

Draw in Microsoft Word - Shape fill

Next, copy and paste the circle. And then follow the same steps to add the triangles.

Use the triangle’s turning handle to change its orientation. Click on the turning handle, hold, and drag the mouse to the desired angle.

Draw in Microsoft Word - Rotate shape

Add and edit more lines and shapes to make the image look just like a bicycle. The bike below is made up of circles, triangles, lines, an oval, and a half-circle (for the handlebar).

Draw in Microsoft Word - using shapes

Remember, you can make your drawing as simple or as detailed as you like. It’s all up to you!

Find Professional Graphics for Your Microsoft Word Project

Now you know how to draw on a picture in Word. But perhaps you don’t have time to create your own Word drawings from scratch. And you still would rather not use stock photos. 

What to do?

You can use premium graphic images from Envato Elements. 

Word Print Templates
An Elements subscription brings thousands of Word templates, hand-drawn graphics, and other creative tools at your fingertips.

An Elements subscription brings thousands of creative tools at your fingertips. This includes print templates for Word, graphics, fonts, photos, and a lot more. And you get unlimited downloads for one flat monthly subscription. 

Another great source of premium graphics is GraphicRiver. As with Elements, this marketplace gives you access to thousands of Word templates and other creative tools. These are also professionally designed for maximum impact. The difference is, at GraphicRiver, you pay for each use of every item.

Use each premium graphic on its own in your Word document. Or better yet, incorporate them with your own or other graphics to create something original.

Learn More About Working In Word

As you can see, Microsoft Word has many robust features. Some of them are little-known functionalities such as the various drawing tools in Word that I showed you in this article. It pays to learn how to use Microsoft Word so you can maximize its potential. Not only will you be able to realize the vision you've got for your Word documents, but you’ll also optimize your workflow.

If you aim to produce the most visually compelling materials using Word, then you may find these articles helpful:

You Can Draw in Microsoft Word

Even though Microsoft Word wasn’t built for graphic design, it's got some tools to help you draw right inside your Word document.

You can make anything from simple line and stick drawings, to more detailed freehand drawings and line illustrations. Use the Freeform, Scribble, or Draw tools to draw by hand. Or combine lines and shapes to create original Word drawings without drawing from scratch.

You can also find hand-drawn graphics and Word templates in Envato Elements and GraphicRiver. If you want unlimited downloads of premium graphics and other design components, then Elements is the place for you. For one-off projects, GraphicRiver is the place to go to access top-quality templates for Microsoft Word and graphics on a pay-per-use basis.

You've just learned how to draw on Microsoft Word. Now, it you're turn to create your best Word drawings.

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