Pencil sketch of a guy at an office desk by Jem Yoshioka

Photo: Jem Yoshioka

At the end of a design project, it’s common to hear your client say: “I need this as an editable letterhead template in Microsoft Word.”

Generally they don’t own or know how to use advanced graphics-editing programs like Adobe Illustrator, InDesign or Photoshop — and it simply doesn’t make sense for them to purchase those expensive programs.

Microsoft Word is pretty low-tech compared to Illustrator or InDesign; however, that’s what your clients are using and your letterhead design is useless to them if they can’t edit and add content to it. So knowing how to create a Microsoft Word letterhead template is key.

Let’s get started.

1. Create your letterhead design

Set up your design Convert your letterhead design into an editable MS Word template

We’ve created this example in Illustrator, but Photoshop and InDesign can be used to create letterhead designs too. We’re using a full bleed design in this example with a 1/8″ bleed, which will give s us a document that is about 8.63 x 11.13 inches. Create your design in CMYK color mode, and if you’re using photos or complex graphics make sure that they 300ppi or higher, because Microsoft Word compresses all images that you place into it. There’s a great full-bleed letterhead template that you can download here.

2. Export your letterhead design as a high res PNG file

Export your deisgn as a PNG Convert your letterhead design into an editable MS Word template

To do this, click File > Export > PNG. Make sure you select 300 ppi as the resolution. You can also save your design as a JPG and even as a TIFF; however TIFF files will dramatically increase files size and loading times in Microsoft Word for your client.

3. Set up your Microsoft Word document

Set up your Word document Convert your letterhead design into an editable MS Word template

Next, set up a Word document to insert your letterhead design into. Click File > New Blank Document. While the document opens, click File > Page Setup > Paper Size > Manage Custom Sizes. Set the paper size to 8.75 x 11.13 to accommodate your full bleed design, set all the margins to “0″, and set the Non-Printable Areas to “User Defined.” Doing this lets you set up your letterhead as a full bleed instead of conforming to Word’s default margins.

4) Place your letterhead design into your Microsoft Word document

Insert Picture Convert your letterhead design into an editable MS Word template

Your letterhead design is going to be placed into the Header and Footer section of your Word document, which will automatically repeat on all additional pages. Go to View > Header and Footer. Now some guidelines for headers and footers will show up on the document. Click Insert > Photo > Picture from File. Select your PNG file. Now your .png file will appear centered in the middle of the page. Select the png image, clickFormat > Picture.

Adjust your picture size Convert your letterhead design into an editable MS Word template

A “Format Picture” menu will pop up. First, go to Size. Word automatically scales down your artwork, but you can fix that by setting the height and width to 100%.

Adjust picture size Convert your letterhead design into an editable MS Word template

Next, click on the Layout tab, and select the “Behind the text” option. Click the “Advanced” button and make sure the Horizontal and Vertical Absolute positions are set to Page. Now hit ok to apply all these picture formatting adjustments. Your letterhead design should now appear at 100%. Adjust the positioning if needed.

Convert your letterhead design into an editable MS Word template

Go to View, and uncheck Header and Footer so that you can leave the Header and Footer area and start editing your text area. Now that you’re not in header and footer editing mode the letterhead design will appear to be faded, but it won’t actually print that way so let your client know that. Adjust your margins and paragraph styles as desired. If you hit return until word creates a new page for you, you’ll notice that the same design has appeared on the next page. This is because you inserted your design into the header and footer section of the document, and the design will automatically repeat on every additional page.

4. Save it as a template

Save it as a template Convert your letterhead design into an editable MS Word template

Go to File > Save As. Choose .dot as your format and Save. Now you can send your editable Microsoft Word letterhead template to your client!

5. Prepare the Microsoft Word letterhead template for printing

prepare your template for printing Convert your letterhead design into an editable MS Word template

If your client is printing the Microsoft Word letterhead template at a printer who is able to print full-bleed pages, tell your client to save the finished file as a PDF file for better printing results. Printing directly from a Microsoft Word document can have mixed results. To save the template as a PDF, go to File > Print > Save to PDF. Now the file is ready to print :)

It’s important to let your client know the colors in your Microsoft Word letterhead template will display the colors slightly differently than the original design. In creating the template, the trick is to get its colors as close to the original design as possible – they simply won’t display the exact same way no matter what, and are bound to look different when printed. On the chance that your client hasAdobe Acrobat orAdobe Reader, you should recommend they edit their letterheads in those programs instead because the print quality will be higher than in Microsoft Word.

Additionally, if the design is full bleed and your client wants it as a Microsoft Word letterhead template, make sure to inform them that it cannot be printed properly on a typical home or office printer, as this will result in a white margin around the edges. They need to take the full-bleed design to a professional printer who can print full-bleed designs.

Microsoft Word has a lot of disadvantages and is simply not on par with other more advanced graphics-editing programs, but it’s likely what your clients know and you have to work with that.

Do you know other Microsoft Word template-creating techniques? Share in the comments below!

Originally published on the 99designs Designer Blog
Rebecca was born and raised in the Bay Area, where she currently lives. She has a BFA in Design with a Visual Communications emphasis from UC Davis. Her passions include travel, design, pasta, and hanging out with her Beagle, Spud.

  • Kalpesh Singh

    it means we can also edit any design including resumes or business related stationary. That’s great!

  • Jim Mortenson

    A good, practical article. Most of us in the Web/IT industry probably turn up our noses at MS Word, but one has to face the facts; it’s the 800-lb. gorilla of word processing. One nit: in step 5, the author is assuming that the designer and/or client is using Word on Mac OS X, and will have the ability to save to PDF format. It’s been a while since I’ve dealt with MS Office on Windows, but I don’t think that option is available to Windows users. Please correct me if I’m wrong about that… :-)

    • Ian Lewis

      The current version of Word for Windows – Word 2013 – allows users to save to PDF and I think the feature was in the prior version (2010) too. Having created a couple of letterhead templates in the past, I’d also suggest trying WMF for line artwork such as logos – it’s a vector format and often produces smaller file sizes than hi-res bitmaps such as JPEGs or PNGs.

  • Alex Walker

    Thanks Ian. A great answer to Jim’s query, and a super handy tip about the WMF. How would you go about converting, say, an Illustrator logo file into a WMF? Or even an SVG for that matter?

    • Ian Lewis

      Hi Alex. All you need do to convert an Illustrator logo into a WMF, is go to File > Export and select Windows Metafile from the file type drop down. SVG conversion you’ll find under File > Save As. I’m using Illustrator CS6, but both options have been there for several previous versions. If you’re creating SVGs to use on a website, I accept Illustrator’s default save settings and then run the resulting file through an optimiser to slim it down a little – I use and I’ve found it gives great results.

  • Alex Walker

    Ah, nice. I’ve been playing with Peter Collingridge’s SVG cleaner. I’ve tried a few — SVGO and a few others — but Peter’s seems to be the go.

  • Scott Kelty

    I would make two suggestions/corrections for this article, based on my experience with clients and MSWord for letterheads: (1) If you have to use PNG files, I would suggest (esp. based on your design here) that you NOT place the entire thing as one piece; instead, place the header and footer separately. That will help reduce the file size without sacrificing anything. (2) Virtually no letterhead I’ve designed in the past 15 years has used the letterhead in full on anything but the first page — so it would serve you pretty well to investigate the “first page” options for the header & footer to set that up.

  • OldHonky

    If you are using the letterhead as a word template there is no point in using a full bleed. Most office printers still won’t print edge to edge especially the cheaper ones, so your client will be left with an unwanted white border. Much better to make the design with a white background and sacrifice the dubious design advantage of full bleed for something that works on all printers.
    Also If you want to make the letterhead editable I would not make the header one big image, I would position the logo separately from the address etc which can be editable text in a text box with no background colour and no border. Alternatively if you want the image in-line use a simple table with no borders inside the header & footer. The advantage of this is that if the customer wants to change the address or telephone number it is easy. Also they might open another office and need to copy the template and just change the address.

    Personally I always use tiff files for the images and they seem to load quickly enough.
    I agree with Scott Kelty’s 2 points – a letter where the second page has the same header as the first looks very unprofessional and it is so easy to set up a different first page header and footer.

  • mmahgoub

    Why PNG? Word 2010 supports EPS, I did a letterhead lately and it looked great! sharp and crisp!

  • Tracey Munn

    Brilliant Rebecca, just created my first letterhead! Thank you :)

  • Juan C

    Many thanks. It’s the only site that actually gives a decent information. All other sites regarding this are pure BS.

  • viamarket

    Great tutorial, but is there anyway that the art doesn’t get washed out?

  • FlyingScud

    Nice one. Thank you. The first tutorial to explain this. Word is a b******d usually when compared to Quark or inDesign. It make one wonder why we don’t go completely potty!

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