Take Control of Page Backgrounds in MS Office Docs

Page Color, Background Images, Watermarks, and Borders

Page Background Options in Word 2013
Page Background Options in Word 2013. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

Looking for ways to take control of page background, whether on-screen or when printed? You have a lot of options depending on which program you are in.

In general, once you create a Microsoft Office file, you should be able to change Page Color or Background at a minimum, but most programs also allow you to change Page Watermarks, Page Borders, and more.

By customizing a few of these details, you can really change the look and feel of your file, adding impact to your message. Think of these tools as a way to polish what you are trying to accomplish, capture, or convey to the reader, even if that reader is yourself!

Here's How

  1. Open a program in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher, etc.) and either start a new document or open an existing document (File or Office Button, then New).
  2. Select Design or Page Layout, depending on the program and version, to find page background tools such as Page Color. If you do not see one of these options, try right-clicking the area you want to add formatting to. Many versions of Office offer a contextual menu, meaning the program will offer a list of recommended tools that many users implement in that area of the interface or file.
  3. In many Office programs, any image you have saved on your computer or device can also become a page background. Select Page Color - Fill Effects - Picture. Note that this does not mean using a picture background is your best choice in terms of readability. Try to choose backgrounds or effects that add to the overall message rather than distracting from it or making the words difficult to read!
  4. A watermark is a light text or image placed across a page below other document elements. You will notice pre-made ones under the Watermark tool button, such as 'Confidential', but you can also customize that text. Some programs don't offer this feature, but you can always create an image the size of a page and add it as a background.
  1. Page Borders apply to the entire document, but you can customize which sides (top, bottom, left, or right) are activated. You can choose from various designs and border widths, as well as the distance from the text.
  2. For additional tools relating to document layout, it can be a good idea to scan certain menu tabs for even more options. I suggest looking through the Page Layout or Design menus in particular. For example, you may be interested in playing with Themes under the Design tab, and so on.

If you are looking for how to change your on-screen document viewing experience only, rather than changing how the file will look when printed, you may also be interested in these 15 views or panes you may not be using yet.

Or, jump into a few related tips and tricks for document design: