Skip to content

Beware the unexpected when copying an image from Word/Office

When you’re copying an image out of an Office document something unexpected happens that you should be aware of.

The size (height/width) of the copied image is NOT the original size (i.e the size of the stored picture) – which is what you might expect.

The image is copied according to the displayed dimensions in the current document. 

Here’s an example square image in Word.  The same picture, just in two different visible sizes in the document.  If you copy the image on the left, you’re copying a much larger image than copying from the smaller image on the right.

In other words, re-sizing a picture in Word will change what’s copied to the clipboard and pasted into another document or app.

That might seem bleedingly obvious but it’s not.  The alternative is that copying would include the full image as it’s saved in the Office document file without regard to the visible size of the image.

It’s an important fact if you’re copying from Word or Outlook to another document, email or any other format.  You might get an image a lot smaller (or larger) than you intended.

Why this matters

Pasting images into an email always needs to keep the file size in mind.  Emails can be rejected if the total size is too large, depending on the receivers email settings.  If copying from Word you might want to make the image smaller on the screen (using the corner handles) before copying.

On the other hand, the image might need to be larger.  Copying from Word to a PowerPoint slide that will appear on the big screen.

Or converting into a web page (HTML), you need to ensure the images on the web page are the correct size.

How to export the original image from Word, Outlook or Office

If Word only copies an image by its displayed size, how can you copy out the original image, as stored in the document?  Maybe there should be a ‘Copy original’ option but there isn’t.

There are two ways we can think of to copy the full image as it’s saved in the document.

  • Reset the image to the original dimensions.
  • Open the Office document (as a ZIP) and copy the source file.

Not great options, admittedly. The best solution is to always keep the truly original image/photo as a separate file.  That way you have the truly original, untouched photo to fall back on.

Resize to original

It’s best to copy the image to another place in the same document before doing this so you don’t mess up the look of the doc,

Click on the image then go to Picture Format | Size then Advanced Layout via the little icon at bottom right of that ribbon section.

At the bottom of the Size tab you’ll see the dimensions of the ‘Original’ image.

 ‘Original’ means the dimensions of the image that’s saved in the Office document file.

Choose Reset to restore the ‘original’ height and width.  Then you can copy the image from the document at those dimensions.

Many modern photos are far larger than a standard Word page (Letter or A4) so you will probably have to delete or resize the image after copying.

Copy from the Office document file

The alternative is to open up the document file and look at the innards.  See Look inside an Office document.

Under the folder with the app name (e.g. Word) there’ll be a ‘media’ folder which has all the images embedded into the document.

Copy that file to another folder.

Here’s the proof …

I know some readers might find this copying trick hard to believe so here’s how we tested it.

Starting with one image which is copied within the document then resized as shown at the start of this article.

As we’ve explained in Smaller images make smaller documents in Word and Office an image duplicated within a document is only saved once.

Now copy the larger image (select then Ctrl+C or Home | Copy) and paste into another app.  We’ll paste into Windows Paint because it shows the dimensions of each image in the bottom bar.

As you can see, the larger image from Word pastes into Paint as a 725px square picture.

Now we’ll do the same copy / paste but with the smaller visible version of the picture, shown above.

The pasted image is a lot smaller, just 189px on each side.

Conclusion: the visible dimensions of an image in an Office document control what’s copied to the clipboard.

Images in Excel Cells – at long last
Smaller images make smaller documents in Word and Office
Copying images from Designer to Office documents

Capture full size still images from video

About this author

Office Watch is the independent source of Microsoft Office news, tips and help since 1996. Don't miss our famous free newsletter.