How to change background color in MS Word

Microsoft Word is the premier word processor and document creator in the world. Millions of people use it for formal documents – resumes, theses, reports, and contracts. But you can also use it for making simple graphic designs. All you need is a pop of color! Check out this guide below to get started.

Now, you have two basic options to add color to your Word documents.

2 Methods to Change Background Color in Microsoft Word

  • Using the Default Standard or Theme Colors. 
  • Using a Custom Color You can Choose from a Spectrum.

This guide walks you through both these methods. It also covers using gradients, textures, patterns, and pictures as backgrounds. You’ll find these towards the end of the article, along with a guide to putting them all together. Don’t miss it and make sure to scroll all the way through!

Now, the first method gives you a grid of standard or theme colors that you can use to decorate your background. If the color you want isn’t in the standard choices, then you can use the second option. The second option gives you the freedom to customize the exact color and shade you want. And If you ever change your mind, and want to return your background color back to white, scroll to the end to learn how. 

Without further ado, let’s get to it!


Why Should You Change the Background Color in MS Word? 

The truth is that sometimes, the best solutions are the simplest. If all you want to do is make simple designs, MS Word is all you need. Its interface makes it possible for anyone to turn a blank page into an art canvas. You don’t need to spend days learning programs like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator to make something colorful. 

MS Word is used and accessed by millions of users around the globe. Learning how to color the backgrounds of MS Word files enables millions more to be creative and artistic. People can make their own Christmas cards, personalized notepads, gift wrappers, etc., with a few clicks of their mouse. 

It’s simple, efficient, and effective. 

Now, here’s how you can change the background color in MS Word.  


Method 1: Using the Default Standard or Theme Colors. 

If you don’t have a particular color in mind, you can conveniently choose from two sets of colors provided in MS Word. These are the Standard Colors and the Theme Colors. 

Standard Colors are the constant default options, while Theme Colors are linked to the theme of the MS Word document. This means that a change in the document theme also changes the Theme Colors. The Standard Colors remain the same. Both these options provide users with consistency in the colors they use. 

Here’s how they work. 

Step 1: Open up your MS Word file. 

Let’s start with opening the Word file you want to work on. If you don’t have one, feel free to make a copy of the document used in this guide. Any Word file will do.

Don’t worry about altering the content of your file, as we’ll only be working on the background. In any case, you can always undo any changes by pressing the CTRL + Z keys on your keyboard.

Step 2: Go to the Design Tab. 

Once you’ve opened your file, look up to the row of tabs, which is called the Ribbon. The Ribbon is indicated in the image below as the area in the red rectangle. Go ahead and click on the Design tab. The design options should now appear.

Step 3: Open the Page Color Menu. 

Now that you’re on the Design tab, turn your attention to the right side of your screen. Tap on Page Color. That will open a drop-down menu of options you can choose from. 

The grid of colors are Theme Colors. These change as the document theme changes. The row of colors below the grid are Standard Colors. You can find more standard colors if you click on More Colors. Go ahead and pick a color. 

Voila! You have just changed the background color of your MS Word document.


Method 2: Using a Custom Color You can Choose from a Spectrum. 

You now know how to change the background color of your Word file. But what if none of the standard colors are to your liking? That’s perfectly alright. With this method, you have free reign to choose your background color from a spectrum. 

Here’s how you can change your background to a custom color.

Step 1: Open up your MS Word file. 

Again, let’s start with opening the Word file you want to work on. Any Word file will do. If you don’t have one, feel free to make a copy of the document used in this guide. 

Don’t worry about accidentally altering the contents of your file, as we’ll only be working on the background. In any case, you can always undo any changes by simply pressing CTRL + Z keys on your keyboard.

Step 2: Go to the Design Tab.

Once you’ve opened your file, look up to the row of tabs which is called the Ribbon. The Ribbon is indicated in the image below as the area in the red rectangle. Go ahead and click on the Design tab. The design options should now appear.

Step 3: Open the Page Color Menu. 

Now that you’re on the Design tab, turn your attention to the right side of your screen. Tap on Page Color. That will open a drop-down menu of options you can choose from. Click on More Colors.

Step 4: Choose a Custom Color

In the More Colors window, there are two tabs. Click on the Custom tab. You should be able to see a box of colors, and a bar to its right. Click and drag inside the box to get your desired hue and saturation. Now look to the bar. Moving the slider up and down adjusts the brightness of your color. 

Also, notice that box on the bottom labeled Hex. Hex is a system of codes that represent colors in the RGB format. One code represents one color. This allows you to easily replicate any custom color you have used before. All you have to do is type in the color code into the box. In this illustration, the Hex code is #1F717F. 

Once you’re satisfied with the color you’ve chosen, click OK to apply it to your background. 


Other Backgrounds 

Aside from solid colors, MS Word also has other options you can use to change your background. You can put a gradient, texture, pattern or picture as the background of your document. Each of these options have their own complexities, but we made sure to include only the basics in this guide to keep it simple. Just follow these steps!

To get started on any of these other backgrounds, first go to your Design tab. Open the Page Color menu and click on Fill Effects.

Gradient Background

A gradient is a gradual and smooth blending from one color to another. For MS Word, you can make a gradient out of any two colors. Start with opening up the Fill Effects window, and click on the Gradient tab.

To get your gradient, there are two settings you need to configure. These are the Colors and Shading Styles. Let’s go through each of them. 

For your Colors, you can choose between One Color, Two Colors, or a Preset combination of colors. A gradient blends at least two colors. If you choose One Color, your color will blend with its own brightness. To make it darker, move the slider to the left. Inversely, move the slider to the right to make it lighter.

Shading Style changes the direction your colors blend. Your options are Horizontal, Vertical, Diagonal Up, Diagonal Down, From Corner or From Center. Find the one that works best for you.

Variants are four combinations made from your choice of colors and shading style. Go ahead and select your gradient. The small Sample box allows you to verify your choice before you apply it to your background.

Congratulations! You’ve just made a gradient background!


Textured Background

This option allows you to have a texture as the background of your document. This allows for more complex colors and shapes. There are default options you can choose from, but you also have the option to upload an image of the texture you want to use. 

First, bring up the Fill Effects window, then go on the Texture tab. Select a texture you prefer from the given choices. If none of them work for you, click on Other Textures to upload your own preferred texture. Be mindful of the image size. Images that are too large won’t be uploaded. 

You’ve successfully applied a texture to your background!

Patterned Background

Sometimes, a good patterned background is all you need. Thankfully, MS Word gives you a lot to choose from!  Let’s open up the Fill Effects window to get started, then go to the Pattern tab.

To make your pattern, you need to configure three settings. The Pattern refers to the repetitive design itself. The Foreground changes the color of the design. The Background is the color behind the design. Fool around with these three settings and see the changes in real-time on the Sample box on the bottom right. 

Once you’re satisfied with your pattern, click OK to apply it to your background.

Great job! Your patterned background is ready to go.

Picture Background

You can use any picture as a background for your document, however, the options to manipulate the picture are limited. You have to make sure that the picture you upload is the same size as your document page to have the right fit. If your document is in letter size (8.5” x 11”), then make sure that the picture you upload is also in letter size. 

Let’s get to it. Open up the Fill Effects window, and click on Picture. Click on Select Picture to browse your device. Upload the picture you want to use and verify that it’s the correct picture. If everything is set, click OK to apply the picture to your background.

Done. Now you can use any picture as a background!

Shape your Background

All the methods explored in this guide, so far, all apply directly to the entire document. Do you want to be able to control where you put a pattern, texture, color or picture? Do you want to have the flexibility to give every page a different background? If you do, then this is the guide for you.

Shape your background by inserting shapes onto your page. Everything covered above can be applied to individual shapes. Let us show you how.

Add your Shapes and Lay them Out on the Page

The first thing you want to do is insert all the shapes you’ll need. To do that, go to the Insert tab on the Ribbon. Once that’s open, click on Shapes, and choose the shape you want to use. To make a shape, click and drag your mouse. It doesn’t have to be perfect on the first go. You can change the dimensions of your shape anytime. Also, don’t fret if you already have texts on the page that are being covered by the shapes. We will address that next.

Wrap Text

This is an important step. Doing this will ensure that the shapes stay in their place behind the text. Take note that you do this step for every shape on your page. 

Start by selecting a shape. Once you do, a new tab appears on the Ribbon. Click on Drawing Tools Format. Look for Wrap Text and click on it to open the drop-down menu. Select Behind Text. This moves the shape behind any texts on your page. It also keeps them in place regardless of what else you type. 

Repeat this step for every shape on the page. 

Decorate your Shapes

This is where you apply everything you’ve learned thus far, Solid Colors, Gradients, Textures, Patterns and Pictures. There are minor changes, but the steps are mostly the same.

Start by selecting a shape. Go to the Drawing Tools Format. Look for the portion of the ribbon that’s labeled Shape Styles. There should be a small symbol on the lower right corner that looks like two ends of an arrow. Click it to open the Format Shapes menu. Once you have that opened, you can decorate any shape as you please. 

Remove the Background Color

If, after trying all these backgrounds, you decide to go back to the default, white, background color. Don’t worry. This is, by far, the easiest guide here, and you’ll have that clean background again in no time!

First, go to your Design tab. Click on Page Color to open up the colors menu, and click on No Color. 

And you’re done! You’ve successfully removed all designs from your background and are back to your default white!


Conclusion

You have finally arrived at the end of this guide. We hope that we’ve helped you learn how to add some color and design to your MS Word document. 

Knowing how to change the background of an MS Word file is definitely a valuable skill to have. Some documents just need a little manipulation and design to elevate its quality. Being able to add that element in MS Word makes everything simpler!

You can change the background color of your MS Word document with a few clicks of your mouse. You also have options for gradients, textures, patterns and pictures.

We hope you found this article helpful!

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