HerGeekness Says: Convert Custom Letterhead to Microsoft Word Templates
Few client requests make a designer cringe more than this one: "Can you convert the letterhead you designed for us into a Word template?"
All those hours you spent poring over paper samples, consulting with the printer to get just the right color output, experimenting with different typefaces... Oh, the humanity!
Well, face it. Who sends paper anymore? When was the last time you loaded your own letterhead stock into the printer to send a letter -- or even an invoice -- to someone? Okay, maybe it was just this morning. ;-) Some firms undoubtedly do appreciate the import of their custom stationary and use it often, especially if they're a design firm.
In less design-conscious businesses, though, ink-on-paper custom letterhead is used like Mom's good silver: It's only hauled out for special occasions. For everyday use, memos and reports stay electronic and get attached to e-mails or faxed from the desktop. Still, your clients deserve something a little fancier than a blank Word document and more professional than the homespun ones they could create on their own. (Can you say "Zapf Chancery"?)
To help you cut down on the cringing -- while making yourself some extra cash -- this article includes a process for re-creating your artwork and layout into something that Word understands and the general business client can use. Though I'll focus on a letterhead design (Figure 1), the techniques are applicable to any sort of custom Word template, including envelopes, labels, and postcards.
Figure 1. I'll use this InDesign letterhead design that came with the Adobe Creative Suite as an example throughout this article.
First Things First
Before you dive in, make sure both you and your client understand and can live with these limitations:
- Bleeds are problematic. Though you can bring artwork right up to the page edge in a Word document, and it looks great in Word's Page Layout view or exported to PDF, few clients (or recipients) will print to an oversize printer and trim it! Their office's letter-size printers will force a white non-printable area around all four sides (Figure 2).
- Even if your client has the same typeface you used in the letterhead artwork, people they send the Word files to likely do not. Any text that's part of the letterhead design will either need to be converted to outlines or rasterized in the template you'll create for their use. Neither end result will look as good as the commercially printed letterhead.
- Word converts to RGB any colors in the graphics you import into the Word file, and you have no control over the conversion. I'm sure you know that Word doesn't do CMYK or Pantone, but you need to make sure that your client understands this, especially if they're sticklers about the color used in their logo. "Close enough" color is the best you can expect in an electronic Word file.
Figure 2. You can position artwork in a Word document to the edge of the page (left), but the Quick Preview from the Print dialog box (right) shows the white border that will appear in the output from your client's (or their customers') letter-size printer.
If you and your client are still game, let's get to it!
Prepare the Artwork
Unless it's an extremely simple letterhead -- like a colored box with the company's name on top -- don't bother trying to re-create the design with Word's "drawing" tools. It's much easier to convert artwork from the actual file you used to design the letterhead (e.g., the InDesign or QuarkXPress file), then import that art into a Word document and position it to match the original.
Convert your art into either of the two high-quality image file formats that Microsoft Office programs understand best: PNG for rasters, and EMF (Enhanced Windows Metafile) for vectors. Formats you're more familiar with, such as PDF, EPS, and even TIFF, often cause problems, either with Word itself, or the RAM/RIPs (or lack of same) in end users' printers.
Luckily, there is one ubiquitous program around that can export artwork to both PNG and EMF: Adobe Illustrator. (Who knew?) Your first task, then, is to get your letterhead design into Illustrator. Of course, if you designed it in Illustrator originally, goodie for you! It's almost as easy if it's an InDesign file, because simply using the Selection tool to copy and paste objects from the layout file into an Illustrator document often does the job.
If you're starting with a QuarkXPress layout, or an InDesign file that won't copy/paste correctly, export the file to a PDF and open the PDF in Illustrator with your fingers crossed. The file might need some clean-up but at least it's a good start.
(By the way, if you designed the letterhead in CorelDraw, you've got all the tools you need; just use the Export for Office dialog box. Here's a great tutorial on the process. Adobe and Quark: Please read this page, too!)
Now prepare the Illustrator artwork for exporting. If the design has elements on more than one side (art across the top and art down the left, as in this article's sample letterhead), you'll need to copy/paste each side's artwork into individual Illustrator documents so you can export each side separately. (Where's the "Export Selection" option, Adobe? Huh? Huh?) You can skip this step if you're using Illustrator CS3, though, because its new Crop Area tool can isolate areas for separate exporting and printing within a single file.
Now you're ready to export. Look at the artwork you isolated and decide if it would look best rasterized (in which case, go to File > Export and choose the PNG format) or as resolution-independent vectors (choose the EMF format from the same Export dialog box). EMF files are simply exported; there are no options to set. Exporting as PNG, however, results in a PNG Options dialog box (Figure 3) where you can choose a resolution, background color, and other settings.
Figure 3. In Illustrator, choosing the PNG format from the File > Export dialog box gives you the PNG Options dialog box. The PNG format is similar to JPEG except that it can support transparency.
By the way, don't be tempted by Illustrator's "Save for Microsoft Office" command in the File menu; it exports everything to PNG at a resolution too low for our purposes.
Now that all the elements of the letterhead design are in PNG or EMF format, you're ready to put Humpty together again, so switch to Microsoft Word. My instructions are for Microsoft 2004 for Mac OS X. If you're using a different version or platform, some commands may be different.
Import the Artwork into Word
Create a new letter-size document in Word via File > New Blank Document, but don't jump immediately to the Insert > Picture > From File command, which would put the art at the same level as body text. Instead, you're going to import artwork into the closest equivalent to a Master Page Word's got, the Header/Footer area. Artwork placed in the Header/Footer is repeated on every page of the Word document, and is somewhat protected from users accidentally moving it out of position (Figure 4). This is important, because Word has no "Lock Position" toggle for placed artwork. If it's in a header or footer, users have to go through extra steps to accidentally mess it up.
Figure 4. Importing template artwork into Word's Header or Footer area (top) is a great way to protect it from users accidentally moving or deleting it, because in Page Layout mode (middle), the artwork is inaccessible. (Though content in the Header/Footer appears screened back in this view, it prints and exports to PDF at full opacity.) Like Master Pages, anything in a header or footer appears on every page of a Word document by default (bottom). Click on the image to see a larger version.
Does your letterhead design include two layouts, one for the first page and the other for continuation pages? If so, open the Format Document dialog box (Format > Document), go to the Layout tab and turn on Different First Page in the Headers and Footers section. I've done that for my example letterhead, as you'll see later in this article.
Now make the default page's Header/Footer area active by choosing View > Header and Footer. Your cursor should be blinking in the top Header area, indicated by the dashed rectangle (see Figure 4, top).
Import the first image, the one that goes across the top, into the header by selecting it in the Choose a File dialog box (Insert > Picture > From File). Before you click the Insert button, be sure that the Link to File checkbox (Figure 5) here is unchecked. You want the letterhead art to be embedded in the Word file itself, not linked to the original PNG or EMF, so the end user doesn't have to worry about losing the link to it.
Figure 5. Looking for Word's Place (or Get Picture) command? The equivalent is Insert > Picture > From File (left). In the resulting Choose Picture dialog box, make sure that the Link to File checkbox (right) is unchecked, so the artwork gets embedded in the file.
Word imports the image, and if it's larger than the default Header area, automatically scales it down to fit. (You can reset the image's scale back to 100% in the next step.) If the image is small enough to fit comfortably in the header, you may only need to adjust the horizontal alignment using the paragraph formatting controls. Just treat the image as an inline/anchored graphic, which it is, within the "text box" that is the header (or footer, when you're importing images into the bottom area).
Most likely, though, you'll want more control over the position and size of the artwork than what's possible with anchored graphic adjustments. For example, in my letterhead, the top image needs to be scaled up so that it bleeds on three sides. The way to override the default Header positioning and scaling is to use the controls in the Format Picture dialog box. Click on the image to select it and choose Format > Picture, or just double-click the image to open Format Picture dialog box directly (Figure 6).
Figure 6. To reset an image's scaling back to 100% (after Word shrinks it to fit in the Header or Footer area), use the Scale fields in the Format Picture dialog box.
The Format Picture dialog box is where Word stashes all the good stuff: Strokes and fills, Text Wrap/Runaround settings, Scale fields, Rotation controls -- you can even set a Crop amount. Note that one of the most critical controls, X/Y Position (which lets you override the default Header positioning) is well-hidden in the Advanced section of the dialog box's Layout panel (Figure 7). Alas, there is no Preview checkbox, so it may take a lot of clicking and tweaking to get the artwork exactly where you want it.
Figure 7. If you select "Behind text" as your image's wrapping style (top), you can add text in the Header area that will appear on top of the artwork -- like an automatic page number -- and won't affect the image's position. Click the Advanced button in this panel to open the Picture Position dialog box (bottom). Here, you can specify the X/Y position of the image on the page by entering a measure and choosing "Page" from both of the dropdown menus. Word honors your settings here, even if means the image will end up partially or completely outside of the default Header or Footer area.
To place artwork in the bottom area of the letterhead, click in the Footer area and go back to Insert > Picture > From File. Elements that go on the left or right sides can be imported into either the Header or Footer (you can have more than one image in either), and then scaled and moved into position using the Format Picture dialog controls. That's exactly what I did to get the top and left-side images into my letterhead template, as shown way back in Figure 1.
Now that you've imported and formatted all the elements for the first page of your letterhead design, you can get out of Header/Footer mode by clicking the Close button at the right of the Header/Footer toolbar, or by choosing View > Header and Footer again. If you're returned to Normal view, switch to Page Layout from the View menu; otherwise, you won't see any artwork. In Page Layout view, you'll see that header and footer elements appear, but they're screened back and can't be selected (see Figure 4 above). However, when you view the Quick Preview in the Print dialog box, or export the file to PDF, or of course, print the thing, you'll see them in all their 100% glory.
In fact, it's imperative that you run some test printouts. You might discover that Word is taking too long to print, which should send you back to the original artwork to simplify it a bit, or to try a different resolution setting for your PNGs, and so on. It's also a good idea to send an interim proof to your client to make sure they can print it themselves, should they choose to do so. We're not a paperless world yet.
Add a Second Page
Those of you who created a slightly different letterhead design for continuation pages have a little more work to do. Be sure you've turned on "Different first page" in the Format Document dialog box, as described earlier. Then enter a bunch of carriage returns on the first page until Word adds a second page. Note that on this page, instead of the default behavior of the same header and footer appearing, its header and footer are empty. That's what you want.
Choose View > Headers and Footers, click inside the second page's empty Header area, and bring in the continuation page's artwork, using the same techniques you employed earlier. When you're done, check that everything's working by adding enough carriage returns to force a third or fourth page, which should show the same artwork as the second page (Figure 8).
Figure 8. Here's my converted letterhead design, showing a different first page header than the rest of the document. (The top screenshot is in Header/Footer editing mode, the bottom one is in Page Layout mode.) Click on the image to see a larger version.
Everything working? Great. You can safely delete all the extra carriage returns, leaving you with one page; Word will remember to use the special continuation page elements if the end user writes enough to force additional pages.
Set up your margins (Format > Document) so that the text users enter is a safe distance from the artwork you placed. If you want body text to left-align with an element in the header, or top-align with something on the side, set that up now with your margins.
You might also want to create paragraph styles for date, salutation, body copy, and signature, and delete the default styles that are a part of every Word document. Be sure any styles you create call for typefaces that you know your clients have!
When you're done, save the file as a Word template (.dot), and send it on its way, along with a respectable invoice for all the hard work you did.
Anne-Marie, a design studio owner and busy software trainer, is the geek behind DesignGeek, a free monthly tips and tricks e-zine for digital designers that she's been publishing since 2003. She's also the co-host of the InDesignSecrets.com blog and podcast, with David Blatner.