Create Traditional Certificates of Appreciation or Achievement

Close-Up Of Graduation Diploma With Medal On Table
Erion Dyrmishi / EyeEm/Getty Images

There is no right or wrong way to design a certificate, but placing a free downloadable certificate border in any desktop publishing application gives your certificate a professional and traditional look. Just download one of the many free downloadable certificate borders on the internet, open it in your page layout, word processing or graphics software, personalize it with certificate information and then print it on your printer. Some software programs ship with certificate templates so checks those out as well.

How to Set Up a Certificate

  1. Download a blank certificate border from the internet or use a template in your software, if available. Most of the borders are sized to fit perfectly on a letter-sized sheet of paper turned to landscape orientation. The blank area in the middle of the border is where you put the type.
  2. In your software, open a new document that is 11 inches by 8.5 inches or letter-sized turned sideways.
  3. Place the border in the document. In some software, you can drag and drop the border graphic; in some software, you import the border graphic.
  4. Resize the border to fill the sheet with a small margin around all the edges, if needed. If the border you downloaded is in color, it will print that way. If it is in black, you may prefer to change the color in the software.
  5. If your software has layers, place the border graphic on the bottom layer and add a separate layer for the type. If your software does not offer layers, place the graphics and see if you can type a line of type that appears on top of the graphic. If not, you'll need to find the setting in your software that allows you to overprint.
  6. Personalize the certificate (see next section for details). Create text boxes over the top of the border image and type your information in the fonts of your choice. 
  7. Print out one copy of the certificate and proofread it carefully. Adjust the position or size of any type that needs it. Save the file and then print the final copy of the certificate.

Traditional Wording for a Certificate

Traditional certificates follow a basic layout that don't vary much. Most certificates have the same elements. From top to bottom, they are:

  • The name of the award, such as Certificate of Achievement or Award of Excellence. Sometimes this is set on a curve and centered at the top of the certificate, but a straight line works just as well. For the name of the award, use a fancy "Old English" type font in a large size for a traditional look.
  • The presentation line, which usually says something like is awarded to or is hereby presented to, comes next, centered under the name of the award and set in a smaller, plain typeface.
  • The honoree's name. The honoree can be a person, group or organization. It appears larger than any of the other type of the certificate except for the title at the top of the certificate, and it is centered on the certificate. The name can appear in a fancier font than used elsewhere on the certificate, or it may use the same elaborate font as the name of the award.
  • The reason for the award comes next. It may be for outstanding service or in recognition of superior sales performance or any other reason. It is centered on the certificate in plain type.
  • The date the award was earned or the date it was presented usually appears in the bottom left corner near the border.
  • signature or a blank line for a signature usually appears in the bottom right corner near the border. Sometimes, if the certificate has two signatures, one goes to the far left and one to the far right, in which case, the date is centered between them, or they are stacked one on top of the other. 

After you have your first certificate set up, you can make small changes to it for additional certificates. Use them to recognize special achievements at home, school or office.