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.

Creating See-through Text Boxes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 3, 2013)


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.

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. ...


Quickly Selecting Cells

Need to quickly select a range of cells? Perhaps the easiest way is to use both the mouse and the keyboard together, as ...

Discover More

Inserting a Cross-Reference to the First Style on a Page

A common way to set up a header is to have it refer to the first occurrence of a heading on the page. (Think how the ...

Discover More

Colors and Fonts for Worksheet Tabs

Changing the color used on a worksheet tab is easy. Just follow the three steps in this tip.

Discover More

Do More in Less Time! Are you ready to harness the full power of Word 2013 to create professional documents? In this comprehensive guide you'll learn the skills and techniques for efficiently building the documents you need for your professional and your personal life. Check out Word 2013 In Depth today!

More WordTips (menu)

Columns within Text Boxes

Text boxes are a common design element for some documents. If you want a text box to contain multiple columns, you are ...

Discover More

Changing Text Orientation

Word allows you to change the orientation of text contained within certain objects, such as AutoShapes, text boxes, and ...

Discover More

Letters and Numbers in Page Numbers

A common task is to add page numbers to document headers and footers. If you want those page numbers to include more than ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is four less than 8?

2015-04-30 11:46:51


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?

2015-03-15 04:13:40

S Jane Minard

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

2014-12-13 19:49:27


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.

2014-06-17 12:58:13


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.

2014-06-17 12:31:18


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.

2014-06-17 11:50:29


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".

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the menu interface (Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, or Word 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.