Simple image overlays in Word

Adding some text, an arrow or graphic to an image should be an easy task in Word … and it is … once you know the trick.

You can insert an image into Word or a Word created email in Outlook but the defaults make it hard to add overlays. Adding an arrow or caption over the image.

Look at this image and the arrow. The image was inserted normally then Insert | Shape to add the arrow.

It looks OK but if you move or reformat the document you’ll see that the arrow is separate from the image.

Word image and arrow out of alignment image from Simple image overlays in Word at

What you need to do is link or ‘group ‘the image and the arrow so they act as a single object. Once they are grouped together, they’ll move around as one.

Here’s where it gets tricky, you can’t select the image plus the shape! The Group button on the Picture toolbar is greyed out.

What’s wrong?

The trick is to change the image setting that links the image to the text around it and to do that you have to change yet another option!

Right click on the image, choose ‘Size and Position’. On the Position tab, turn off ‘Move object with text’.

Word image - move object with text image from Simple image overlays in Word at

Often the ‘Move Object with text’ check-box is greyed out.  To fix that, go to the Text Wrapping tab and switch away from the ‘In line with text’ option (Top and Bottom will put the image/object between paragraphs).

Word image layout - text wrapping image from Simple image overlays in Word at

Under the hood, about Word Layers

What’s going on with all those settings about ‘Move with text’ and Text Wrapping changes?  Why are they necessary?

All Word documents have two Layers.  Think of them like clear plastic sheets, one on top of the other.  Similar to old hand-drawn animation cells.

There’s a Text Layer which is the one we normally use and type onto. Despite the name, the Text Layer can have non-text objects like Pictures.

The Object Layer has images and other objects, like Shapes.  There are features, like Grouping that are only available for items in the Object Layer.

When you change a picture etc from ‘In line with text’ wrapping to one of the other options, you’re also moving that object from the Text Layer to the Object Layer.

That’s why a change in Wrapping makes Grouping possible.

Group objects

Now that’s done you can hold the Ctrl key and select each object by clicking. Alternatively, show the Selection pane (Home | Select | Selection Pane) and select the objects while holding down the Ctrl key.

At Drawing Tools | Format | Arrange select Group which will link the selected objects (image and shapes) into a single object that will move together.

Word shape layout - Group image from Simple image overlays in Word at

You can unlink the objects using the Ungroup command.

If the shape or arrow disappears when you move it over the image, mostly likely the object is there but hidden by the overlaid image. To fix that go to Drawing Tools | Format | Arrange and choose ‘Send to Back’ under the ‘Send Backward’ button. This puts the image on the bottom layer with the shape/s over it.

Word image layout - send to back image from Simple image overlays in Word at