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Creating See-through Text Boxes

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Creating See-Through Text Boxes.

Word allows you to create text boxes in your document. These can be used to create special document elements, such as sidebars or boxed text. There may be times when you want the text box to be transparent, meaning that whatever is behind the text box shows through. There are two ways you can handle this: you can either make the text box partially transparent or make it fully transparent. To control the transparency, follow these steps:

  1. Place your text box, as normal.
  2. Right-click on the text box. Word displays a Context menu.
  3. Choose Format Text Box from the Context menu. Word displays the Format Text Box dialog box.
  4. Make sure the Colors and Lines tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Colors and Lines tab of the Format Text Box dialog box.

  6. Click the Semitransparent check box if you want a "ghost image" of what is behind the text box to show through.
  7. If you want the text box to be fully transparent, use the Color setting in the Fill area to choose No Fill.
  8. Display the Layout tab. (See Figure 2.) (In Word 97 it is the Wrapping tab).
  9. Figure 2. The Layout tab of the Format Text Box dialog box.

  10. Make sure the wrapping style is set to None or In Front of Text.
  11. Click on OK.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (609) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Creating See-Through Text Boxes.

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The First and Last Word on Word! Bestselling For Dummies author Dan Gookin puts his usual fun and friendly candor back to work to show you how to navigate Word 2013. Spend more time working and less time trying to figure it all out! Check out Word 2013 For Dummies today!


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Comments for this tip:

Chris    30 Apr 2015, 11:46
Hi and thanks for the tips.
In my personal experience I am already aware of this particular tip for text boxes in Microsoft Word.

However, I am using Microsoft Word 2003 to design a web site (by designing it in Word and then clicking File, then "save as web page" and then usually choosing "web page filtered" format). The problem only comes in when I make the text box fill colour semi transparent. When I do that I get white criss-cross and diagonal lines across the entire area that I made transparent in Word. In other words in works in MS Word, but not once I save the document as a website and test by uploading it to the web server, or opening in the web browser.

I know I am asking a lot here, but do you have any idea how to overcome this particular problem?
S Jane Minard    15 Mar 2015, 04:13
hi, I am looking for see through box 6" x 2.5" x 2.5" (charity only, not for personal)
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
kind regards Jane
Serena    13 Dec 2014, 19:49
Selecting "square" in formatting the text box (at least with Word 2013) did not work for me. I had to select "behind text" in order for my text to show up inside the text box.
Dave    17 Jun 2014, 12:58
HOWEVER: It might look fine on your screen, but won’t print out that way. See this web link:


Their solution at the bottom is to create the photo and text box separately, save them as a photo, i.e. jpeg, then insert them. This will work for some designs but not all. Microsoft says this is a work-around for a known Publisher problem.
Dave    17 Jun 2014, 12:31
Next steps: On "Colors and Lines" Tab, Click "Fill Effects". On "Gradient" click "One Color". Move the slider all the way to the right for "Light". On "Transparency" slide or click "From" to 20%, and slide or click "To" to 20%. Finish by clicking "OK" then "OK". This might not be the exact effect you need, but you can adjust it from here.
Dave    17 Jun 2014, 11:50
I was able to use this tip in Microsoft PUBLISHER as well! It was exactly what I was looking for: shading back a portion of the photo (square) to insert text, with the screened back photo showing through behind the text. This allows the text to be readable, and it doesn't look like a solid square was pasted over the picture. The key steps are "RIGHT click the Text Box, then select "FORMAT TEXT BOX".

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