HerGeekness Says: Convert Custom Letterhead to Microsoft Word Templates

Few client requests make a designer cringe more than this one: “Can you convert the letterhead you designed for us into a Word template?”

All those hours you spent poring over paper samples, consulting with the printer to get just the right color output, experimenting with different typefaces… Oh, the humanity!

Well, face it. Who sends paper anymore? When was the last time you loaded your own letterhead stock into the printer to send a letter — or even an invoice — to someone? Okay, maybe it was just this morning. 😉 Some firms undoubtedly do appreciate the import of their custom stationary and use it often, especially if they’re a design firm.

In less design-conscious businesses, though, ink-on-paper custom letterhead is used like Mom’s good silver: It’s only hauled out for special occasions. For everyday use, memos and reports stay electronic and get attached to e-mails or faxed from the desktop.

Still, your clients deserve something a little fancier than a blank Word document and more professional than the homespun ones they could create on their own. (Can you say “Zapf Chancery”?)

To help you cut down on the cringing — while making yourself some extra cash — this article includes a process for re-creating your artwork and layout into something that Word understands and the general business client can use. Though I’ll focus on a letterhead design (Figure 1), the techniques are applicable to any sort of custom Word template, including envelopes, labels, and postcards.

Figure 1. I’ll use this InDesign letterhead design that came with the Adobe Creative Suite as an example throughout this article.

First Things First

Before you dive in, make sure both you and your client understand and can live with these limitations:

  • Bleeds are problematic. Though you can bring artwork right up to the page edge in a Word document, and it looks great in Word’s Page Layout view or exported to PDF, few clients (or recipients) will print to an oversize printer and trim it! Their office’s letter-size printers will force a white non-printable area around all four sides (Figure 2).

Figure 2. You can position artwork in a Word document to the edge of the page (left), but the Quick Preview from the Print dialog box (right) shows the white border that will appear in the output from your client’s (or their customers’) letter-size printer.


  • Even if your client has the same typeface you used in the letterhead artwork, people they send the Word files to likely do not. Any text that’s part of the letterhead design will either need to be converted to outlines or rasterized in the template you’ll create for their use. Neither end result will look as good as the commercially printed letterhead.
  • Word converts to RGB any colors in the graphics you import into the Word file, and you have no control over the conversion. I’m sure you know that Word doesn’t do CMYK or Pantone, but you need to make sure that your client understands this, especially if they’re sticklers about the color used in their logo. “Close enough” color is the best you can expect in an electronic Word file.

If you and your client are still game, let’s get to it!

Prepare the Artwork

Unless it’s an extremely simple letterhead — like a colored box with the company’s name on top — don’t bother trying to re-create the design with Word’s “drawing” tools. It’s much easier to convert artwork from the actual file you used to design the letterhead (e.g., the InDesign or QuarkXPress file), then import that art into a Word document and position it to match the original.

Convert your art into either of the two high-quality image file formats that Microsoft Office programs understand best: PNG for rasters, and EMF (Enhanced Windows Metafile) for vectors. Formats you’re more familiar with, such as PDF, EPS, and even TIFF, often cause problems, either with Word itself, or the RAM/RIPs (or lack of same) in end users’ printers.

Luckily, there is one ubiquitous program around that can export artwork to both PNG and EMF: Adobe Illustrator. (Who knew?) Your first task, then, is to get your letterhead design into Illustrator. Of course, if you designed it in Illustrator originally, goodie for you! It’s almost as easy if it’s an InDesign file, because simply using the Selection tool to copy and paste objects from the layout file into an Illustrator document often does the job.

If you’re starting with a QuarkXPress layout, or an InDesign file that won’t copy/paste correctly, export the file to a PDF and open the PDF in Illustrator with your fingers crossed. The file might need some clean-up but at least it’s a good start.

(By the way, if you designed the letterhead in CorelDraw, you’ve got all the tools you need; just use the Export for Office dialog box. Here’s a great tutorial on the process. Adobe and Quark: Please read this page, too!)

Now prepare the Illustrator artwork for exporting. If the design has elements on more than one side (art across the top and art down the left, as in this article’s sample letterhead), you’ll need to copy/paste each side’s artwork into individual Illustrator documents so you can export each side separately. (Where’s the “Export Selection” option, Adobe? Huh? Huh?) You can skip this step if you’re using Illustrator CS3, though, because its new Crop Area tool can isolate areas for separate exporting and printing within a single file.

Now you’re ready to export. Look at the artwork you isolated and decide if it would look best rasterized (in which case, go to File > Export and choose the PNG format) or as resolution-independent vectors (choose the EMF format from the same Export dialog box). EMF files are simply exported; there are no options to set. Exporting as PNG, however, results in a PNG Options dialog box (Figure 3) where you can choose a resolution, background color, and other settings.

Figure 3. In Illustrator, choosing the PNG format from the File > Export dialog box gives you the PNG Options dialog box. The PNG format is similar to JPEG except that it can support transparency.


By the way, don’t be tempted by Illustrator’s “Save for Microsoft Office” command in the File menu; it exports everything to PNG at a resolution too low for our purposes.

Now that all the elements of the letterhead design are in PNG or EMF format, you’re ready to put Humpty together again, so switch to Microsoft Word. My instructions are for Microsoft 2004 for Mac OS X. If you’re using a different version or platform, some commands may be different.

Import the Artwork into Word

Create a new letter-size document in Word via File > New Blank Document, but don’t jump immediately to the Insert > Picture > From File command, which would put the art at the same level as body text. Instead, you’re going to import artwork into the closest equivalent to a Master Page Word’s got, the Header/Footer area. Artwork placed in the Header/Footer is repeated on every page of the Word document, and is somewh
at protected from users accidentally moving it out of position (Figure 4). This is important, because Word has no “Lock Position” toggle for placed artwork. If it’s in a header or footer, users have to go through extra steps to accidentally mess it up.

Figure 4. Importing template artwork into Word’s Header or Footer area (top) is a great way to protect it from users accidentally moving or deleting it, because in Page Layout mode (middle), the artwork is inaccessible. (Though content in the Header/Footer appears screened back in this view, it prints and exports to PDF at full opacity.) Like Master Pages, anything in a header or footer appears on every page of a Word document by default (bottom). Click on the image to see a larger version.


Does your letterhead design include two layouts, one for the first page and the other for continuation pages? If so, open the Format Document dialog box (Format > Document), go to the Layout tab and turn on Different First Page in the Headers and Footers section. I’ve done that for my example letterhead, as you’ll see later in this article.

Now make the default page’s Header/Footer area active by choosing View > Header and Footer. Your cursor should be blinking in the top Header area, indicated by the dashed rectangle (see Figure 4, top).

Import the first image, the one that goes across the top, into the header by selecting it in the Choose a File dialog box (Insert > Picture > From File). Before you click the Insert button, be sure that the Link to File checkbox (Figure 5) here is unchecked. You want the letterhead art to be embedded in the Word file itself, not linked to the original PNG or EMF, so the end user doesn’t have to worry about losing the link to it.

Figure 5. Looking for Word’s Place (or Get Picture) command? The equivalent is Insert > Picture > From File (left). In the resulting Choose Picture dialog box, make sure that the Link to File checkbox (right) is unchecked, so the artwork gets embedded in the file.


Word imports the image, and if it’s larger than the default Header area, automatically scales it down to fit. (You can reset the image’s scale back to 100% in the next step.) If the image is small enough to fit comfortably in the header, you may only need to adjust the horizontal alignment using the paragraph formatting controls. Just treat the image as an inline/anchored graphic, which it is, within the “text box” that is the header (or footer, when you’re importing images into the bottom area).

Most likely, though, you’ll want more control over the position and size of the artwork than what’s possible with anchored graphic adjustments. For example, in my letterhead, the top image needs to be scaled up so that it bleeds on three sides. The way to override the default Header positioning and scaling is to use the controls in the Format Picture dialog box. Click on the image to select it and choose Format > Picture, or just double-click the image to open Format Picture dialog box directly (Figure 6).

Figure 6. To reset an image’s scaling back to 100% (after Word shrinks it to fit in the Header or Footer area), use the Scale fields in the Format Picture dialog box.


The Format Picture dialog box is where Word stashes all the good stuff: Strokes and fills, Text Wrap/Runaround settings, Scale fields, Rotation controls — you can even set a Crop amount. Note that one of the most critical controls, X/Y Position (which lets you override the default Header positioning) is well-hidden in the Advanced section of the dialog box’s Layout panel (Figure 7). Alas, there is no Preview checkbox, so it may take a lot of clicking and tweaking to get the artwork exactly where you want it.

Figure 7. If you select “Behind text” as your image’s wrapping style (top), you can add text in the Header area that will appear on top of the artwork — like an automatic page number — and won’t affect the image’s position. Click the Advanced button in this panel to open the Picture Position dialog box (bottom). Here, you can specify the X/Y position of the image on the page by entering a measure and choosing “Page” from both of the dropdown menus. Word honors your settings here, even if means the image will end up partially or completely outside of the default Header or Footer area.

To place artwork in the bottom area of the letterhead, click in the Footer area and go back to Insert > Picture > From File. Elements that go on the left or right sides can be imported into either the Header or Footer (you can have more than one image in either), and then scaled and moved into position using the Format Picture dialog controls. That’s exactly what I did to get the top and left-side images into my letterhead template, as shown way back in Figure 1.

Now that you’ve imported and formatted all the elements for the first page of your letterhead design, you can get out of Header/Footer mode by clicking the Close button at the right of the Header/Footer toolbar, or by choosing View > Header and Footer again. If you’re returned to Normal view, switch to Page Layout from the View menu; otherwise, you won’t see any artwork. In Page Layout view, you’ll see that header and footer elements appear, but they’re screened back and can’t be selected (see Figure 4 above). However, when you view the Quick Preview in the Print dialog box, or export the file to PDF, or of course, print the thing, you’ll see them in all their 100% glory.

In fact, it’s imperative that you run some test printouts. You might discover that Word is taking too long to print, which should send you back to the original artwork to simplify it a bit, or to try a different resolution setting for your PNGs, and so on. It’s also a good idea to send an interim proof to your client to make sure they can print it themselves, should they choose to do so. We’re not a paperless world yet.

Add a Second Page

Those of you who created a slightly different letterhead design for continuation pages have a little more work to do. Be sure you’ve turned on “Different first page” in the Format Document dialog box, as described earlier. Then enter a bunch of carriage returns on the first page until Word adds a second page. Note that on this page, instead of the default behavior of the same header and footer appearing, its header and footer are empty. That’s what you want.

Choose View > Headers and Footers, click inside the second page’s empty Header area, and bring in the continuation page’s artwork, using the same techniques you employed earlier. When you’re done, check that everything’s working by adding enough carriage returns to force a third or fourth page, which should show the same artwork as the second page (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Here’s my converted letterhea
d design, showing a different first page header than the rest of the document. (The top screenshot is in Header/Footer editing mode, the bottom one is in Page Layout mode.) Click on the image to see a larger version.


Everything working? Great. You can safely delete all the extra carriage returns, leaving you with one page; Word will remember to use the special continuation page elements if the end user writes enough to force additional pages.

Final Touches

Set up your margins (Format > Document) so that the text users enter is a safe distance from the artwork you placed. If you want body text to left-align with an element in the header, or top-align with something on the side, set that up now with your margins.

You might also want to create paragraph styles for date, salutation, body copy, and signature, and delete the default styles that are a part of every Word document. Be sure any styles you create call for typefaces that you know your clients have!

When you’re done, save the file as a Word template (.dot), and send it on its way, along with a respectable invoice for all the hard work you did.

Anne-Marie, a design studio owner and busy software trainer, is the geek behind DesignGeek, a free monthly tips and tricks e-zine for digital designers that she’s been publishing since 2003. She’s also the co-host of the InDesignSecrets.com blog and podcast, with David Blatner.


Posted on: April 2, 2008

Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie “Her Geekness” Concepción is the co-founder (with David Blatner) and CEO of Creative Publishing Network, which produces CreativePro, InDesignSecrets, InDesign Magazine, and other resources for creative professionals. Through her cross-media design studio, Seneca Design & Training, Anne-Marie develops ebooks and trains and consults with companies who want to master the tools and workflows of digital publishing. She has authored over 20 courses on lynda.com on these topics and others. Keep up with Anne-Marie by subscribing to her ezine, HerGeekness Gazette, and contact her by email at amc@cpn.co or on Twitter @amarie

99 Comments on HerGeekness Says: Convert Custom Letterhead to Microsoft Word Templates

  1. About every two years, I get a Word or PowerPoint layout request that keeps me chasing my tail for a couple of days. I always have to perform a cryptic mix of Export/Insert of various graphic formats then test on a PC to see how much I screwed it up. Of course, the hardest part is telling the client that “yes, it does looks crappy on screen now, but wait until you see how good it looks when you print it. Er, you do have a postscript printer, don’t you?”

    Now I’ll just refer to your great article. Thank you!

  2. Thank you for this REAL WORLD article! I’m an in-house designer and embrace my Microsoft side daily. I loved the article and just when I thought I knew what I was doing – you helped immensely! (Especially appreciated the “Zaph Chancery” reference!) Keep these kinds of articles coming!

    Love your podcasts too! I listen while I’m working and so far you’ve trimmed many, many minutes of bad habits out of my everyday tasks.

  3. Working alone is never easy, but having Creative Pro send me valuable tips every week really makes my life much easier!

  4. I often create Word letterhead templates, but up until now I’ve been placing high-resolution JPGs. It will be interesting to see how well the colors in PNG and EMF files match those of InDesign printouts. It’s been a real problem for me, but somehow the end user doesn’t seem to mind or even notice the discrepancies. Stoopid end users! Oh, did I type that or think it?


    Laura Foley

  5. thanks everyone. I’m interested in hearing how the technique I outlined works out for you (e.g., were the colors better than jpegs?). I know it works for my clients, but I’m just one lone designer.

    Also, if anyone knows any secret setting to get art in the header/footer to show up at 100% in Page Layout/Preview mode, I’d love to hear it. I mean it’s nice that it *prints* at 100%, but it would be nicer if the artwork previewed at 100% while people were actually opening and reading the Word docs on their computers. I scoured the Internet and Word .mvp sites for hours looking for a solution but couldn’t find one.


  6. I work in a corporate communications office and quite often I have to create MS templates for use by our various facilities. For example, last week I created posters in Word with a textbox so they could put in the specific details for their location (time and place of a meeting). I created the poster in InDesign (photo and text), exported to pdf (high quality print), opened the pdf in Photoshop (150 pixels/inch) and then saved as a png. Then I set the Word margins to 0, inserted the picture, and inserted a text box on top of it.

    Another method would be Format > Background > Fill Effects > Picture, but you’d have to experiment to get it sized correctly before you insert it (no way to resize it in Word).

    Anyway, great article, I enjoyed it. I’d also be interested in an article that explains what Microsoft office actually does to an image that’s inserted. How does Insert Image compare to copy and paste? When you resize an image in Word, is it changing the resolution? etc. Same with powerpoint?


  7. Can someone please help me? Great article on converting custom letterhead to Microsoft Word templates. I have repeated Hergeekness’s steps in new Word files umpteen times and cannot remove the second page without losing the first page logo header and footer.

    The file I have created has a logo header and graphic footer. The second page has a blank header (no logo) and a modified version of the original graphic footer. The file looks great and functions as a two pager. However, I do not want page two to be present until needed for a longer letter. When I try to delete this page, the first page header and footer delete, too.

    What am I doing wrong?

  8. I forgot to add that I am working in Word 2007. The margins on page one are 2.2″ at the top of page 1 and need to be 1″ on continuation pages.

    The file works great so long as I keep the same margins on both pages. The trouble equation starts when I change the top margin on page 2. Is it that I can’t have a Word letterhead with different margins? The graphics work great until then.

  9. not sure about 2007, but in Word 2003 you can insert a section break (Insert > Break > Next page) and then in Page Setup you can change the margins for each section (make sure This section is your choice under Apply to:).

    As far as I know, there’s no way to create the second page with different header/footer from a one page document. You’ll need to create a one page version and a two page version.

    hope this helps…

  10. Jeremy, you can embed a different first page header in a one-page document. But as explained in the article, you have to add a 2nd page temporarily in order to *see* the 2nd page header, so you can add the artwork there. Then you can delete the text or run of carriage returns you entered to force the 2nd page. You’re left with a 1-page document. You can close it, email it, turn it into a template, whatever. As soon as you open it again and add enough text to force a second page, the 2nd page header reappears.

    At least, that’s how it works with Word 2004 on the Mac, the version I used for the article.

    I *think* we’re confusing margins/sections with headers here (speaking to Jeremy here, too). And there is some overlap between the two, so it’s common to get discombobulated trying to figure it out.

    Side Margins: The only way to set different side margins on a per-page (or even per-paragraph) basis is to use Section breaks. When you choose Insert > Break > Section Break (any of them, including Continuous); and you click your cursor below the break, you can go to Format > Document and change the margins (top/bottom and left/right). Note that by default the “Apply to:” dropdown menu is set to “This Section.”

    Top/Bottom Margins: There are 2 ways to get different top/bottom margins on different pages. Method #1 is to use Section Breaks as above. Method #2 is to insert live text (even empty placeholder carriage returns) into the header or footer to increase their depth. If you insert 20 lines of text in a header, it grows dynamically to fit. When you get out of Header/Footer mode, you’ll see the top margin of the live page area is directly below the header, wherever it ends.

    Since you can’t have a different header/footer every page (unless you use Section breaks — each section can have its own header/footer, a topic for another article!), you can only use Method #2 if you just want page 1’s top/bottom margin to be different from any additional pages in the document. Of course you needed to turn on “Different First Page” in the Header area of Format > Document.

    Now … in my article, I recommended people place artwork into the header and then via Format > Picture, set its X/Y position to an Absolute value. When you do that, it’s like adding a layer (background or foreground) to the page, and it pays no attention at all to the live area in the header. In other words it won’t force the header area down, so it doesn’t affect the top margin.

    The moral of the story: If you use my method to add header art, AND you have a different first header, AND you need the top margin of page 1 to be different than the top margin of additional pages, I recommend you cheat with placeholder carriage returns in the headers. Add as many as necessary to force live text down to where it should start on the page.


  11. Man I wish we could edit these comments …

    In my long comment below, in the 3rd paragraph, I meant to say “(speaking to Windward here, too)” … the commenter who can’t get my instructions to work.

    Also, Windward, don’t take my comments to mean that I don’t believe you … 😉 I do, I do. I just can’t replicate them over here. No matter what I try, what checkboxes are enabled when I place the images (linked/not linked, e.g.), I cannot *shake* the 2nd header art. It’s always there, even after I delete the 2nd page and add it back in again.

    Just to confirm … you’re not using Sections, are you? The method I described has nothing to do with Sections. If a section break is on page 2, and you delete the page, then I’m guessing you might lose any header/footer that belonged to section 2.

    I just used the Different First Header method. It’s important to turn this on BEFORE you add art to the first header, btw. Otherwise, as soon as you turn it on you lose the art in the first header — it empties out, and you have to redo it.


  12. The article helped me immensely, too. (twice in the last week since I read the article!) I’ve used it to help our Marketing folks create somewhat “branded” documents. (User/technical manuals.) The info about having 2 different page styles (first page different) was PRICELESS. THANKS!

  13. I’ve developed a letterhead for a client and they’ve just reported to me that after editing some text and re-saving, it balloons from <1 mb to 21 mb!
    Anyone else experienced this? They’re using Word 2003, Windows; I’m on Mac Word 2008 and no ballooning on my end.

  14. Thanks Anne-Marie!!! I get this request a lot. I’ve never been able to make it work very well. Unfortunately I will now be able to satisfy those requests. I really, really hate Word…but not quite as much as I hate Publisher!

  15. I have also been experiencing this problem. Any solutions yet?

    Thanks for the great article. I always cringe when I have to “design” something in Word.

  16. I have not run into this problem… but I’m wondering if Word’s Fast Save could be at fault? With the file sizes that are already big, ask the user to choose Save As and name it the same/save it in the same location as the original, to overwrite it, and see if that’s any smaller.

    And then ask them to go to their Preferences, choose the Save panel, and disable Fast Saves if it’s on, see if that makes any difference.


  17. I’ve had to do this numerous times for clients and hate having to do it as I hate Word and always have to remember how I did it. I now have a bookmarked reference, so thanks Anne-Marie for this.

    I have to generate stationery exactly like ‘Windward-DG’ , where letterhead and continuation differ in their header graphic AND their top margin depth. From reading the comments and Anne-Maries, it appears that her article does not cater for this scenario. Unfortunately it doesn’t explain how to adjust your doc to allow the second page header AND margin to be different.

    Using sections (Method #1) removes the ‘natural’ way, after enough carriage returns, a different header is added to continuation pages in Anne-Maries article and my clients like this. What I think Anne-Marie needed to clarify for her ‘Method #2’ was the following.

    SOLUTION: If you want different headers on first and continuation AND different Margins on First and continuation, follow the article to a T, then set the whole documents top margin (Format>Document>Margins>Top and Apply to Whole document) to the size of the SMALLER top margin, which is usually the continuation top margin as the first page has address details etc. You then add additional carriage returns to the First page header only, to ‘push’ down the live text area to your desired start point.

    Out of interest, I find the AI export to .EMF is not accurate and does something akin to a ‘roughen’ filter on closer inspection. I tend to export (save for web using max setting for JPG with ICC embedded) the page graphics from PShop at 144ppi, then place in Word and scale to 50% so it is effectively double the screen res, but the correct physical size. This is ample for most clients in-house inkjet/ laser jet printers and generates a filesize that is not prohibitive to it being sent regularly via email


  18. Dozza, great info from someone who’s “been there.” Thanks!


  19. oh so brilliant, thanks i really appreciate your insite it was easy to follow and got me outa some deep doodoo this week,
    ta mucho

  20. Great article. It really helped me out with a past project.

    Now, I would like to create a document for my client that shows them the graphic, but doesn’t print the graphic since we have previously printed letterhead available. Any ideas? I’ve been searching and reading articles, but haven’t found a solution yet.


  21. My graphic and outlined text look bad (“chunky”, for lack of a better term) when I export them from Illustrator as EMF files. So, I placed the eps file from Illustrator to see, and it worked fine, but I have had eps files display/print incorrectly before – seems to be a bit hit and miss. Is there a setting or preference in Illustrator that may be causing my EMF files to not export correctly? I’m using Word for the Mac 2004 and I tried both CS2 and CS3 Illustrator with the same result. Any suggestions?

  22. How do I add a blank second page? Each time I turn on “different first page” it gets rid of what I’ve done and makes the first page blank. I just want any pages after the first to be blank from then on. How do I go about doing that?

    Thanks so much for at least getting me through all this Word nonsense. I was just asking myself, why do people want me to put their nice letterheads into Word b/c I don’t know Word as a designer and Word is stupid. I found your article just in time to help a current client. Look forward to hearing how to add blank 2nd and 3rd pages and so on.

  23. Great info. Referencing the below statement, I believe once you free the image from being inline w/ the text, you can position it easily just by dragging it with your mouse. No need to guess the x/y coordinates.

    “Alas, there is no Preview checkbox, so it may take a lot of clicking and tweaking to get the artwork exactly where you want it.”

  24. I have all of that sorted but only want one letterhead on the first page…. great.
    but page 2, the content is stuck more than a quarter down the page,
    But for no real reason. (from the point of view of the person recieving the letter.)
    Sorry, I appreciate this article, just been scanning, reading, trying and frustrating for hours over this now.

    I need the header only in the first page, and to not affect the second at all…


  25. Thanks for your article. I have wrestled a beast of an assignment for hours and hours of the last week. Your article was a helpful reference. Just wanted to note my experience…

    I was having trouble getting graphic exported from AI and inserted in right format, resolution, etc. to ensure nice PDF “print”. Everything I tried gave me a nasty, jaggedy version of my header.

    My header file was 8″ wide, so it needed .25″ margins. I found that when I set the margins to .25″ BEFORE inserting graphic, I got much nicer results. It seems word’s resizing (even though it was resizign from 81% to 100% of original file) was wrecking my resolution somehow.

    I set margins to .25″, inserted 8″ PNG file (300 ppi), changed it to fixed position, then readjusted my margins to 1″ so that the body copy area would have the appropriate margins.

    Another key was to go into Print Properties dialog box and choose Press Quality or other high-resolution output instead of “standard”.

    After dozens and dozens of attempts, the combo of these two tricks made it work for me. Let’s hope that works for client! 🙂

  26. Great article … is there a way to create a second page of the template that contains different margins? I tried this but when the “content” is deleted from the entire document the second page replaces the first page.


  28. Finally! A well written, easy to understand set of instructions on how to create a letterhead template in MS Word! (i hate word, i hate word, i hate word) Way to go Anne-Marie! This Mac user salutes you.

  29. I’ve actually had to do this a few times for clients. Some companies don’t even want letterhead stock, they no they will almost never use it now.

  30. Thanks a lot for this well written and very informative tutorial!!

    obs* word is not a program, is a virus.

  31. I was wracking my brain and the support sites trying to find a better solution. With CS4, I had to save it as a pdf from illustrator to crop it, and then I opened the pdf file and exported a png.

  32. I’ve created a series of Word templates for my office. Everything has been working fine with the exception of one co-worker. When she opens the template, the page is a square (instead of 8.5×11), and part of the background image is cut off! I’m at a complete loss, and it’s just one computer. Does anyone know how to fix this?

  33. Enormously helpful Article and comments that take this tutorial to a new level.
    I bow down to her Geekness, I’m not worthy

  34. Not long ago, I had to do something just like this (though it was a fax cover page, not their letterhead, thank God) and had NO idea how to force Word to do my bidding. It was a long, incredibly frustrating process. I was recently asked to do another Word template and decided there had to be a better way. There are very few resources out there on how to use this godawful program from a designer’s point of view. Thank you so much for posting this!

  35. Great but when i make the emf from ill the emf file has some broken text and icons? not sure why it does this? it seems to happen to smaller text (which has been outlined) and the small icons

  36. That was so so very very helpful. Thank you so much for the post!

    xo Graphic designer and loather of Word

  37. Is there a way to view the header NOT screened back when you’re working in the body of the document? I need to see the full color of the artwork in my company logo, instead of the faded “header” version…

  38. Thank you fellow designer.
    “Bleeds are problematic. Though you can bring artwork right up to the page edge in a Word document, and it looks great in Word’s Page Layout view or exported to PDF, few clients (or recipients) will print to an oversize printer and trim it! “
    When I…. Print – Save as PDF. I always get a white border on my pdf. Is that the nature of the beast? Can eliminate the white border when I look at the pdf on screen?

  39. Thank you. exactly the information that i needed.
    great help for an amateur.

  40. This was a great article, I have one problem though, when I made my first header and footer, and then clicked “different first page” it erased what i did on the first page and kept it on the second page. When I wanted the reverse to happen… how do I fix that?

  41. Your article was great!
    A couple things, I cannot seem to get my side panel to show up in the print preview. Abd U don’t know how to fix it! And I also will need to insert graphs into this template however I am having trouble with the spacing and them going over the margins. They need to be organised in a certain way and I feel like it won’t conform to the margins.

    I am also having trouble with page numbers, I have put in a symbol behind the page number in the footer on Page 2, which at first repeated on every page, and then suddenly disappeared from the other pages! Things either keep moving or disappear and I can not figure out why to control it.

    Is there any way to lock the template?

    thank you so much!d

  42. I just had a request for this and I am glad I read this before I started! Thank you so much.

  43. This was so helpful for me. I am a graphic design student doing a letterhead for a client that is paying me. I had no idea how to convert my illustrator design into word. I asked my computer guru boyfriend to help me and it took him forever to try to figure it out. As he was making it very difficult for himself, I googled and found this site. I was finished in no time. He was so upset with me because I was working on this at the same time. Male ego is a mutha. Anyway thanks again. JB

  44. To me, ms word has simply been a means by which to get copy from clients. Kudos to Anne-Marie for this easy-to-follow article and your gracious assistance with what was looking to be a pretty head-achy addition to a letterhead package. Thanks you!!!

    Steve Moore

  45. Wow … all these kudos are great. Thanks so much! And thanks to Terri for reminding me to check here to see all these!


  46. Great breakdown of the process. The gotcha is in getting Word to honor margins less that 1.5 inches when printing. The secret to that is in page setup. No matter what I try, the page attribute reverts back to “page indent” — and it must be US Letter (or whatever your pleasure).

  47. this was great. i hate figuring out how to translate between programs. Thank you! one thing- for me when I got to formatting the picture and moving it around – you mention x/y coordinates- I couldn’t actually affect anything in my advanced dialogue box. I had to get out and then manually move it around. ? It works for me, but was the one point I felt like I couldn’t follow you. Thanks for this great, layman term explanation.

  48. Thanks for your tips.

    However, I got some difficulties that I would like to share. First, either the EMW/PNG export work – both produced too low resolution a file exported, it’s better to use jpg, and the MS word version I use is 2007 (windows) which has different look and some functions (like Advanced layout) disappeared in this new version…

  49. thanks so much for creating this tutorial. I followed it for a “challenging” client and all is good. Yippee! thanks again…

  50. This is exactly what I needed, and it worked perfectly. Thank you!

  51. Thank you! I’ve been digging in the Help pages of Microsoft for hours now. Frustrating. This did the trick!

  52. Hi Anne-Marie,

    I exported my outlined Illustrator logo as an EMF but when imported into Word the elements are distorted.

    Do you know of a solution to this?


  53. So helpful — could not have done this without your awesome tutorial!

  54. Ok, so the issue I’m having is that when I made a pdf my artwork is getting cropped into. the design has a blue bar that bleeds off of the left side of the page and my pdf now looks like it would look if you tried to print it and that part of the page is outside the printing area. Any ideas? Looks right in the document.

    Thank you for this wonderful article!!

  55. Thank you for the fabulous instructions however, I ran into problems when I chose the overprint option. That was the only way I could position the PNG files I was adding and as soon as overprint or any other option besides wrap around (figure 7) was selected the images would no longer print. I am still working on it. If anyone has any ideas….

  56. Found this so invaluable!!! Thanks ever so much!

  57. thanks so much – this really helped a lot! 🙂

  58. Seriously, super informative, love the way that the article pretty much directly addresses the “troubles” of us corporate designers.


    This article is in need of some kind of update – Word 2010 is already out, and a lot of companies seem to have already upgraded, if not to the latest, then at least 2007. To boot, both of these document programs are a huge step DOWN from the 2003-2004 era of Microsoft Office in regards to design compatibility, which really says a lot… and might make a case for an updated method.

    I’m going to search out more articles like this, though!

  59. I do have Word 2010 for the PC, don’t think I’ve upgraded yet to the latest Mac version of Office. I’ll check my instructions and see if I can slip in an update. Thanks for the reminder, “guest” 😉


  60. Need the best dimensions for creating the banner in illustrator?

  61. Thanks for your help, EMF worked perfectly

  62. This was a wonderfully clear and extremely useful article. Worked perfectly. It anticipated all of my issues and questions. Well done!

  63. Nice post. Thanks for sharing.
    You may check out the article below on how to convert Pdf document to word or Doc file through website.
    I hope that you will find it useful. cheers.

  64. Very helpful article… I was working in Windows Vista version of MS Office and Inkscape as an open-source alternative to Adobe products.

    I was able to translate this and make an excellent, well-formatted MS Word letterhead from my organization’s PDF letterhead. The margin and bleed issue relative to printers is going to be an issue with mine since I have color all the way to the edge, but there’s nothing I can do without changing the whole letterhead.

  65. Fantastic tutorial for me who knows Illustrator like the back of his proverbial hand and for whom Word is a foreign land.

    It enabled me to do what the client wanted with minimal pain, thank you thanks you!

  66. Great. that was driving me crazy. But what do you consider a reasonable price value for a job like this one?

  67. Awesome article, Anne-Marie; really nice to compare techniques, as I’ve been doing the dreaded InDesign to Word templatey goodness for years, and you are so right, it’s worth every penny the clients pay me.

    One thing you didn’t cover in much detail is how Word handles color. I’m often asked to recreate designs for specific document types other than Letterhead, which is where some of the more rarified Word stuff can come up. I’m a bit of a zealot about stylesheets for everything, and a big part of the work I do on Word templates is making them as fool-proof as possible, so that it actually takes work for the end users to go off the design guidelines. It’s pretty straight-forward with most things, but color is a complete nightmare.

    Designing with color in Word is frustratingly complex. You point out in your article that Word doesn’t understand anything but RGB, and while this isn’t gospel according to Microsoft any more—Word 2007 & 2010 for Windows and 2008 & 2011 for Mac all allow color definitions in Greyscale, CMYK, RGB & HSB, the programmers of Word seem to have made some really stupid assumptions about how to handle color, making it almost impossible to keep the colors used consistent.

    I just received some Word template files this morning that I designed, and the values I set for the type colours have subtle changes. The kind of changes that people who don’t care about design don’t notice.

    My designs called for converting Pantones into RGB values, which I used the InDesign values for consistency. Each Word stylesheet was built from scratch, using the values from InDesign. When the templates are saved, opening them again in Word shows different RBG values than the designed ones. It feels like a rounding error to me. In one instance, the RGB equivalent of Process Cyan (100%C) converts to 0, 174, 239, but changes on reopening to a different value. The same thing is happening to greyscale text elements. The style requires 85% K text, which is defined in the styles, then when the file is reopened, the font color is 74%K.

    This is a huge problem for people who use this software to earn their living in part by translating professional design into office-usable digital stationery.

    I often warn clients, both designers and end-users, that Word places severe limitations about what’s possible, but this kind of unpredictable problem defeats the purpose of trying, and will cost more than it saves.

  68. That anonymous poster was actually my comment. I just joined, but submitted that before doing so.

  69. Great in depth article and you do it just like I’ve been doing it for years, which is comforting. Also, i wasn’t aware that PNGs could be anything other than 72dpi !!!

    I came here looking for help on creating a template for a letterhead with continuation sheet where the cont sheet has a less deep margin, so you cover that with use of section breaks.

    I also now need help with placing a separate text box on the first page for addressee address details, so that it’s not repeated on the continuation sheets. Trying to make it as easy as poss for the client.

    Any suggestions?

  70. I was using JPGs which printed fine from Word on my Mac, but it was pixelated on the client’s print outs from Word on a PC. Thank you for the PNG information! It saved a lot of frustration!

  71. Thank you! I’ve been struggling for days thinking that ‘watermark’ was the way to go, but it kept placing margins on me every time I saved as PDF. This is perfect!

  72. Hi, im wondering if theres a way to do this in Pages. So far I had done one and without these many steps, however, I don’t know if the PNG is embedded in the template or linked to the document. Theres no dialog box letting you choose.


  73. Hi, im wondering if theres a way to do this in Pages. So far I had done one and without these many steps, however, I don’t know if the PNG is embedded in the template or linked to the document. Theres no dialog box letting you choose.


  74. So helpful. Thank you!

  75. Lovely stuff Anne,

    I have another way of doing this which I would like you to know about and let me know if there be any problems with doing it this way.
    Do your artwork up in Indesign place a box the full size of the page with a paper fill behind the artwork, export that as a pdf and open in illustrator, export it as you described in this article. Open a Word document to the correct size and place the png file as a water mark with no transparency. This is great for same artwork every page only I think. but is a lot more straight forward. Set up your margins and away you go.

  76. Your instructions were fab!!
    Importing my Letterhead design into Word for my client, worked a treat. Thank you!!

  77. YOU ARE A GENIUS. Thank you thank you thank you.

  78. I was dreading making a letterhead for my client, but your post has made my life infinitely easier. Thanks so much for consolidating so much important information in one place! I even took notes!

  79. I’m not a designer but this was exactly what I needed. I love the details! Thanks EL

  80. I know this article is 5 years old. Does this method still work if you’re using CS6 and a current version of Word?? Thanks!

  81. Help! I can’t get the Format Picture dialog box to appear when I click on my imported graphic and go to Format> Picture. I’m sure it’s really simple?

  82. HerGeekness, It’s stationery, not “stationary.” Stationary means something else. But thanks for the how-tos.

  83. Thank you so much !! Every once in a while I get this odd client that wants “everything to work in Word”. Your article helped saved a lot of time !! Thank you. Keep them coming 🙂

  84. Peter Gabany - RGD

    October 24, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Finally, clear, concise, HELPFUL direction. We hate MS Word, but a necessary evil. Thank you for this helpful article – now if MS could get this into their instruction set…

  85. This did not work for me, I seem to be the only one so I hate to even throw this out there, since I feel like it might be user error.  I am not heavily experienced in adobe,  I usually have minutes to put together something for my company and use photoshop if it is 20 or more minutes and publisher if I have even less time.  I appreciate someone bridging the gap between the office side and the design side.  Once I had 20 minutes to remove the background from a complicated photo.  After doing so super quickly to meet the print deadline everything looked great.  The next day they wanted the same ad on a 6 foot banner.  No one understood why it took so long to redo the thing I had done already.  They don’t get why you can’t turn a business card on red cardstock into full page ad, and you can crop and paste elements and get asked why it looks grainy or spend hours redesigning it, matching text etc… to be asked why you wasted so much time.  So the simple fact that art people are still trying for business people is astounding.  That being said, no one in the business world understands or cares about things the way art people do.  I am sad when I make something magical and people slaughter it with suggestions and changes so by all means you have the right to be upset if someone prints your work low quality or bastardizes your text.  But give us a break.  The boss tells people like me to print and we don’t have time to load the letterhead in the printer sometimes we just need it on the computer.  And yes I have multiple drawers of paper types on multiple printers and notes on the printers saying, “do not adjust paper tray settings or refill drawers, ask for help”.  But someone always has to ruin it for the rest of us.  Bottom line is, everything yall do is great.  But rarely does anyone in the business world have the mindset/talent/schooling/appreciation for it.  Once I made beautiful letterhead.  A year later a new girl changed hers to be green lettering with 3 fonts.  Everyone loved it.  There was no way to explain to the lady who uses comic sans as her everyday font why mine was better.  I know why you do it.  I always secretly hope no one with a design degree looks closely at some of my stuff.  After reading tons of comments I really appreciate the tips and sympathize with the complaints.  I still don’t know why I can’t work it out.  I saved it as both types of file in illustrator, neither will open in word.  I will have to do it another way but hopefully I can master it incase I ever need it.  Oh and I am using cs5 and office 2007 and 2010 wouldn’t open the files.  Seriously might be me.  I guess I wanted my story outthere in case it helped bridge the gap.  And sorry for saying art vs business, that’s just what my sister and I call it.  Oh and I know publisher has a bad rep on the artsy side but I tend to use it as my document software because word can be so frustrating with the limitations.   So I’m gonna go use one of the simple methods that lose quality to make my letterhead work. And thanks for all the suggestions that made me realize there was an easy way if I wasn’t going for high quality!

  86. THANK YOU.  Worked like a charm. Crisp and beautiful using .png.

  87. I am a designer, but I work in an educational setting where Microsoft Office reins supreme, so I’ve had to except the many limitation of this software. I build as much as possible outside of the Office programs and just rebuild in Word or PowerPoint. Even though this would not be my first choice, my clients (a.k.a. technology-challenged faculty) are pleased, which works for me!

  88. Anne-Marie, have you tried saving an InDesign file in PDF, opening it in Acrobat (not Reader) and doing “Save As Other…/Microsoft Word/Word Document”? It’s like magic. I have done a product page for a client recently, which included three column tables and an image of a product and was amazed how well it came out. I could’t have done it better in Word in a day, had I built it there from scratch. And all it took was about 30 seconds of my day (my product page was already in InDesign). It also saved me a headache and a lot of swearing! Thank you Acrobat. 🙂

    • Anne-Marie Concepcion

      March 12, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      Jan, cool! I have had little luck on the Mac side with Acrobat’s Save As Word. Curious if you were on a Mac or on Windows, and which ver of Acro and Office are you using?

  89. Gary Schelling

    March 12, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Anne-Marie, I’ve been doing something similar to thisprocess for a while now. All my small business clients want e-letterhead! (I’ve had a couple who ask for business card “blanks” too, and it’s not very different.) When you mentioned “export selected” in Illustrator, I thought “you should be able to do that,” and it turns out you can. The secret is nesting your artboards. Make each letterhead segment a new artboard, snapped to the edges of the art. Then, when you export yor artwork, select the use artboards option at the bottom of the save box. Alas, this technique only works for PNGs, not EMFs or WMFs.Cheers!

  90. Lukas Engqvist

    April 2, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    I teach my students to convert via PDF. Still needs some massage in word but at a crunch Indd to PDF and then save as word is a quick fix 🙂 styles need a bit of tweasking, and some text is best to create outlines so that word doesn’t mess things up.

  91. Thank you so much for this. Life saving stuff.

  92. Thank you! Your information was very helpful and relevant as someone still using CS4.

  93. I have a physical letterhead of the company where i work with recommendation.It is hand written,will it be okay?

  94. help please update this tutorial for those in cs6 and above!

  95. Is there a reason when viewing image that was inserted appears to be a watermark, with transparency…not sure how to fix this?

  96. If you are only worried about a single page layout, I export my design as a full page and use the watermark feature. I don’t decrease the opacity. It works for me and is duplicated if they add another page. I still have not figured out how to use a second page option though. Hopefully this will work for someone else too..

  97. I should have given some more detail. I export my layout from Indesign as a High Res. PDF. In Word I import my layout as a watermark, the image does not look bad. It does not look like awful like a jpg and png file.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.