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: Making Pictures Show in Word.

Making Pictures Show in Word

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 20, 2018)


Have you ever placed a picture in your Word document, only to have the picture not be visible when you are later working in the document? This seems to be a common occurrence, and there are several reasons for this.

Word implements what is called a "layered" approach to documents. Each document has several different layers. You are probably most familiar with the text layer, in which your text actually resides. There are two other layers, as well. First is the header/footer layer, which contains both the header and footer information that appears on every page in your final document. The other layer is the drawing layer, which contains graphic objects.

In reality, text can appear in all three layers of your document. For instance, headers and footers are composed primarily of text, text obviously appears in the text layer, and text boxes can appear in the graphics layer.

Similarly, graphics can appear on all three layers. People don't normally place graphics on the header/footer layer, but they can. Graphics are much more common on both the text layer and the graphics layer. If you place an inline graphic in your document, it is on the text layer; if you place a floating graphic in your document, it is on the graphics layer.

What does this discussion about layers have to do with whether pictures show up in Word? There are a number of ways to view your document, each accessible from the menus or by clicking on one of the View buttons in the lower-left corner of your screen. Most people do their writing and editing in Normal or Print Layout views. If you are using Normal view, Word displays only the contents of the text layer of your document. Thus, any pictures residing in the header/footer layer or, more commonly, on the drawing layer are not visible. In order to see the pictures on these other layers, you need to switch to Print Layout view. Of course, some pictures are visible when working on your document in Normal view. Why? Because some pictures—inline pictures—are stored on the text layer, and this is the layer being displayed.

You can switch a drawing from the drawing layer to the text layer (or vice versa) by changing whether it is floating or inline. You do that by following these steps:

  1. Right-click on the picture to display a Context menu.
  2. From the Context menu, choose Format Picture. Word displays the Format Picture dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Layout tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Layout tab of the Format Picture dialog box.

  5. In the Wrapping Style area are several options. Choosing In Line with Text places the drawing on the text layer; any other choice places the drawing on the drawing layer.
  6. When you are done making your choice, click OK.

Note that you can switch a drawing to the text layer (make it In Line with Text) only if it is a picture that you placed in your document. If it is a graphic object that you created with the Drawing toolbar, you cannot do this; the In Line with Text option is not available. Graphic objects such as these can only reside on the drawing layer. This is why Word switches to Print Layout view whenever you choose to insert drawing objects in your document—it knows that these are only visible in Print Layout view.

Despite the foregoing explanation, there are other settings in Word that can affect the visibility of graphics in a document. If you cannot see a drawing that you believe should be visible, you may want to check these:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the View tab is selected. (See Figure 2.)
  3. Figure 2. The View tab of the Options dialog box.

  4. Note the Drawings check box. This check box controls whether drawings are displayed or not when using Print Layout and Web Layout views; set it according to your desires.
  5. Note the Picture Placeholders check box. This check box controls whether Word displays any drawings, regardless of the layer on which they reside. If selected, then Word shows a "placeholder" for the graphic, but not the graphic itself. Set this check box according to your desires.
  6. When done, click OK to close the dialog box.

Another thing to remember is that Word treats different types of graphics differently when displaying them. For instance, if you are placing an EPS graphic in your document, and the graphic was not saved with a "preview," then Word won't display it, but will instead display a gray box that shows where the graphic will print. This type of behavior illustrates that graphic filters can affect what you see in a document.

You must also have the proper graphic filters installed in Word (depending on your version) in order to display different types of graphics, but it is not always necessary to have a graphic filter installed to insert a graphic you're your document. This may sound confusing, but according to the Word Help system for some versions of Word, this is exactly the case when it comes to JPG files. It states that you "must have the JPEG filter installed to insert a .jpg file into a Word document as a Microsoft Clip Gallery object or a Photo Editor object. However, to insert a .jpg file directly into a Word document, you don't need the JPEG filter." This means that some JPG files require the filter, and others don't. (Go figure.) The best solution is to simply make sure you have the JPG filters installed, along with filters for all the graphic formats you will be using.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (54) 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: Making Pictures Show in Word.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 6 - 4?

2017-02-20 13:18:00


Helped a lot!

2016-11-07 01:47:36


when i open ms word 2007 then saw that windoes photo viewer not open...why?????pzz tell me

2016-09-15 09:47:20


Clive press ALT and F9

2016-04-05 08:43:39


yeah! problem solved.
Many thanks

2015-12-07 04:51:27


Thank u for taking the time to write this article. It had helped me a lot, as this problem had been perplexing me for a while.

2015-08-24 16:20:48


1. I have an "asterisk" (*) in place of a picture in WORD for the MAC 2011 documents. How do I get the graphics to display?

2. How can I turn off the asterisk so I only display the graphics in a document?

3. Why don't you explain WORD for the iMac? Especially if you migrate from WORD into PAGES?

2015-03-22 12:03:11


Could you give a tip (or explanation) as to why, when I am adding a photo of my own, or one from the web, into a document, I am at times unable to position it as desired; i.e., I cannot change the layout - in front of text, behind text, in-line w/test, tight or square. Seems nothing I do can change the layout. Most of the photos I insert are set inside a text box for my newsletter. Seems if they re not in a text box, they will not insert. ThankX.

2015-03-17 07:09:57


Thanx a lot!! it really works.

2014-10-22 10:49:41

Adrian Lea

I have no options in the tools menu

2014-10-15 11:00:09


Thanks! It worked fine for me

2014-06-12 11:06:18


This is a great article as for me. It helps to understand Word specific better. Many thanks!

2013-06-08 09:58:32



Images are inserted into a document through the use of fields. It sounds like you are seeing the field codes instead of the field results. See this tip for some help:


2013-06-08 06:17:41


Whilst interesting reading, what you have described above doesn't help me. I have MS Office version 2003 running on Windows XP, which normally I'm perfectly happy with and see no need for an upgrade.

I had Word docs which I have used for years with graphics incorporated into them, but all-of-a-sudden, instead of displaying the graphic I now get: {SHAPE *MERGEFORMAT } appear!!! You'll appreciate that this is very annoying. I have tried creating a new doc and copying the graphic in from Powerpoint and even re-installing MS Office, but nothing seems to cure the problem. Can you help?

2013-02-03 07:27:25


i have a need to bring 2 line drawing together in word and i need the bottom one to show through the top one. how do i do this? i saw it done but forget the process

2012-12-28 11:46:40

Simran Matharu

What are the settings for a Word Document 2010 the correct picture settings as i have just installed word and the pictures are not coming in correctly. Could i have a list of the settings which ones are ticked and which ones are not??? Thank you

Simran Matharu

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