Word for Mac can't print backgrounds

Workarounds for a curious omission in Microsoft Word for Mac.

Eileen B writes:

“I designed an awesome certificate, but the background won’t print. I’m working on a Mac.”

Eileen has been using the tips and supplied certificates in our popular ebook “Creative Certificates with Word“. This includes sample certificates like this one, made in Word with a full page background.

In Word for Windows there’s a print option (normally turned off) that allows the background in a Word document to be printed.

In Word 2003 and before it’s under Tools | Options | Print.

In Word 2007 and Word 2010 go to Word Options | Display | Print background colors and images ( we don’t know why a series of print options are under the Display heading)

But there’s no such option in Word for Mac – you can open a document with a background and even set a background but can’t print it. Yet another annoying difference between the Windows and Mac versions of Office.


The alleged Microsoft workaround has been copied in various forums but we think there’s other options.

The ‘official’ workaround goes like this:

What you’re looking for is View> Header & Footer. Insert the higher res image there using Insert> Picture> From File. Set the Text Wrapping (Format>Picture> Layout) to Behind Text & use the features of the Advanced button to set the position of the image Relative To: Page horizontally & vertically. When you return to the text layer the image may appear to be dimmer than you expect but it will print as it should

This only works in limited circumstances and can get messy to change.

If you have access to Word for Windows (either on another computer or a virtual machine on your Mac) there are alternatives.

  • Send the document to a Word for Windows machine and print from there. The easiest option on an office network.
  • Send the document to someone with Word for Windows. Open the document in Winword and either ‘print’ or ‘Save As’ the document to a PDF file with the background printing set on. Check the PDF to make sure it has the background.  Email the PDF back to you for printing from your computer. The Mac OS comes with PDF preview support in-built though you get more options if you install the free Adobe PDF viewer as well.

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