Changing Text Box backgrounds

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How to make a Word, Excel or PowerPoint Text Box transparent – the option that should be obvious but isn’t

The Word, Excel or PowerPoint ‘Text Box’ feature is a way to have ‘pull quotes’ or sidebar text in your documents however the default background for the box isn’t always what you want.

Inserting a Text Box is easy from Insert | Text Box then choose from a style or draw the box onto your document. Either way the formatting and size can be changed later.

The Text Box defaults to a white background, regardless of the page background.

1591 Word Text Box default with drawing tools - Changing Text Box backgrounds


Thanks to Simon and Richard for pointing out an alternative method to that in our original article.  

The ‘No Fill’ option works the same as 100% transparency as well as being faster to apply to your Text Box.

No Fill is on the pull down menu of Fill options as well as on the more complete Format Shape dialog box of options under Fill.

1591 Text Box No Fill - Changing Text Box backgrounds

There is similar option No Outline which will remove any border. It is on Format Shape | Shape Styles under the Shape Outline button or in the Format Shape dialog | Line Color | No Line

1591 Text Box No Outline - Changing Text Box backgrounds

Combine the two to make a seamless Text Box that blends with the page background automatically.


To make it blend in with the rest of the page go to the Drawing Tools tab and choose Shape Fill (top right beside the Shape Styles gallery. There are the usual color choices plus Gradients, Textures and Pictures to choose from.

You could choose the same color as the page background however that means you’d have to change the color in two places if the page background changes. In addition there’s a printing issue. By default, the page background isn’t printed but a text box background is printed. What you see on the screen won’t be what is printed.

The better solution for a text box is missing from immediate view – Transparency. A transparent text box will show the page background automatically which means any change in the page color will automatically reflect in the text box. This is easier than changing the Text Box background each time the page background changes and makes more sense when printing.

To find the Transparency option, and many others, click on the little arrow button in the bottom right corner of the Shape Styles section.

1591 Text Box Format Shape button on the ribbon - Changing Text Box backgrounds

This opens up the full range of formatting options for the shape.

As we’ve mentioned many times before, those little arrows on the bottom right of ribbon sections are important because they often open up a lot of additional features as well as revealing the dialog boxes familiar to Office 2003 / XP users.

1591 Text Box Format Shape dialog Transparency - Changing Text Box backgrounds

To get the transparent effect, choose Fill | Solid Fill then move the Transparency slider to the right or type in 100%. The Fill color is irrelevant when the Transparency is total.

With the page and text backgrounds matched you might want to try a border around the text box to make it stand out.

In Drawing Tools | Format there are also Position and Wrap Text options to place the Text Box on the page and have the main text wrap around it.

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