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Best Quality for High Resolution Graphics

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: Best Quality for High Resolution Graphics.

Nina is creating a letterhead, and she wants to use a graphic for the address portion of the letterhead. She saved the text portion out as an EPS vector file, thinking this would provide the best resolution when she later inserted the graphic into Word. When she did that, the EPS file is treated, in Word, as if it is 72 dpi. This makes the original size of the graphic (according to Word) huge, something like 69 inches. Word automatically fits the image to the available space, which means it is resized to 11% of its original. This means that the resulting graphic, in Word, looks terrible; the text in graphic format doesn't appear as crisp or sharp as the original text version of the address. Nina wonders what the best way is to embed a high-resolution graphic in her letterhead so that it appears with the crispness and clarity she expects.

There are several issues at play here. First of all, you may want to strongly consider not using EPS for your high-resolution graphics that will end up in a Word document. EPS is a vector format, meaning that a graphic file consists of many separate "objects" that are mathematically defined. Most programs, including Word, do not decode the math to the screen, but instead rely upon a low-resolution "preview" of the image. This preview is generated by the program that created the EPS file and it is typically at a low resolution, such as 72 dpi.

When you use Word to print the EPS file, what you see on the printout depends on the type of printer you are using. If you are using a PostScript printer (and the correct printer driver for that printer), then the EPS graphic will be printed correctly because PostScript is able to decode the EPS files correctly. If you are using a different type of printer—one that doesn't understand PostScript—or if you are using a non-PostScript printer driver with a PostScript printer, then what you see will be what you see on the screen—the low-resolution preview image for the EPS.

Since there are so many things that have to be "just right" in order for EPS files to work properly with Word, it is best to not rely on them unless you have to. Instead, choose to export your image to a high-resolution TIF format. Normally, for most printers, either 300 dpi or 600 dpi will work just fine. The resulting image file will be rather large, but it will be just as crisp and clear as you expect. The reason is that Word can work with TIF files just fine and scale them to whatever size you need.

If the large file sizes are a problem, there are a couple of things you might try. First, export your image using a format such as PNG. It has great resolution, but the file sizes are much smaller than corresponding TIF files. You should also consider using a graphics program to resize the graphic to whatever final size you need in the Word document.

Finally, whatever format you decide upon for your graphics, you'll want to use Insert | Picture to actually insert the image into your document. If you paste the image instead of inserting it, Word may convert the image to a bitmap version that is not the greatest for some purposes.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10217) 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: Best Quality for High Resolution Graphics.

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Comments for this tip:

Kawika    11 Jan 2015, 00:53
The obvious solution has been omitted: don't paste, don't insert. Instead, link to the image file. This will preserve the original resolution.
Chris Hubley    10 Dec 2012, 13:24
There's some poor advise here. The best way to incorporate line graphics into MS Word is with Microsoft's own formats, WMF or EMF.

EPS is an industry standard format, and produces quality prints in MS Word. Unfortunately Microsoft doesn't play well with industry standard formats, and the screen rendering is atrocious (as mentioned). However, if you save the file as an PDF format before you share it, the image will be crisp. EPS is the second-best way to incorporate line-art into an MS Word document.

Unfortunately, when it comes to bitmap formats like TIFF or PNG, Word automatically "helps" by reducing the resolution to 200dpi to reduce file size. I've found no way to stop Word from doing that, and it has a tendency to bork your high-quality images when it comes time for printing.

When possible, I'd recommend against using MS Word when you need to incorporate high-resolution bitmap images into your document for that reason. There are alternative word processing and desktop publishing programs which handle bitmap images better (some of them free; LibreOffice Writer and Scribus, for example).

When inserting images into Word, the best bet is to use EMF images produced in MS Expression Design or similar software. I *think* that you can trick MS Word into maintaining the resolution of raster/bitmap images by opening them in MS Expression Design and saving them as a EMFs.

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