How to Create a Poster With Microsoft Word

If you need to make a small or a medium-sized poster, Microsoft Word 2013 is a good choice, particularly if you're already familiar with the app. All of the same elements you would use to create a document can be used for a poster, however there are a few potential problems to watch out for.

Page Layout

To get started, open a new blank Word document. Click the Page Layout tab to set the poster's size margins.

Click the Margins and Size icons in the Ribbon to set these as needed. If you don't want margins, click Custom Margins at the bottom of the Margins drop-down menu and set each margin to 0.

Page Setup Margin options
All four margins and the gutter are set to zero.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

To use a custom page size, click More Paper Sizes at the bottom of the Size drop-down menu and specify the height and width you want, which is measured in inches.

Page Setup's Paper tab
Word only accepts page dimensions between 0.1 and 22 inches.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Adding Text

You have two choices for adding text to your poster. You can simply type the text as you would a letter, or use text boxes.

If you're putting in a lot of text, consider using two columns, a feature available in the Page Layout Ribbon. This breaks up the text visually, making it more inviting to read.

Word's column options
Columns can be the same or different widths.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Text boxes are ideal if the poster is light on text, as in the example here. Before adding text boxes, press the Enter key several times to add some blank space to the poster. Moving text boxes and images around in a Word document can be troublesome without any space.

To insert a text box, click the Text Box icon under the Insert tab.

Type the text you want as a title first and then press Ctrl-A to highlight it. Click the Home tab and then change the font, font size, color as needed. If you want a font size beyond the default 72pt size, click the number and type the size you need. Use the icons in the Home tab's Paragraph section to change the alignment.

Word's Home tab options
Center-align the text by clicking the Center Alignment icon.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Adding Images

Insert images from your computer by clicking the Picture icon under the Insert tab. To find images using Bing Image Search, click the Online Pictures icon.

Once the image is on the page, drag it to any position you need. Drag the corner anchors to resize the image. Additional options are located under the Picture Tools Format menu, including Text Wrap and picture Format options.

Picture Tools Format ribbon
The Picture Tools Format ribbon includes cropping and image editing options.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Add additional photos or text as needed. Use the Zoom slider to zoom in so you can ensure that any resized images aren't pixelated at full size. Zoom out so you can see the whole poster at once.

Word's Zoom slider
Drag the Zoom slider left to zoom out.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Adding a Background

A white background is more friendly to your printer's ink supply, but if you want to get people's attention, a colored background works better. While Word does have a background color option, this won't be visible when you print it. Alternatively, you can use an image as a background or even a tiled image.

To add a color background, click the Insert menu, select Shapes and then click the Rectangle.

Shapes drop-down menu
Drag a rectangle over the page to add a colored background.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Drag the cursor over the entire page and then right-click the shape to change its fill and outline colors. In our example, we're using a Gradient, which is an option in addition to colors that's available when you click Fill.

Right-click menu
Right-click the shape to change its Style.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Once the shape looks the way you want, right-click it again, click Send to Back and then select Send Behind Text. Note that if you're using a dark background, you may need to change the font color to something light.

Send to Back options
Send the image behind the text so it stays in the background.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Printing and Exporting

When you're finished the poster, press Ctrl-S to save it. If you're sending the poster to a commercial printer, make sure that there isn't any text too close to the edges. You should usually leave a 1/4-inch space around the edges to account for bleed during the printing process.

To export the poster as a PDF, click the File menu and select Export.

To print the poster, click the File menu and select Print. Note that most home printers won't print to the edge of the paper, so you will have to accept a thin white border around the poster, or trim the poster yourself with scissors and a ruler.

lost squirrel poster
This is our completed poster.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Pro Tips for Printing

If your home printer doesn't accept large paper sizes, Microsoft suggests using Publisher, which comes with Office 2013. Publisher can print large posters in pieces, which you can then assemble and tape together.

To open a completed Word document in Publisher, click Open and change the Format menu to Word 2007-2013 Document. After Publisher converts the DOCX file, you may need to adjust the image and text positions and sizes.

Publisher's Open menu
Publisher 2013 can open DOCX files
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.