Dave! I’m so frustrated! How can I import a photo into a Word document and then enlarge it without it appearing stretched?
Sometimes having too much power is more dangerous and troublesome than having a limited set of options. This is a prime example of that because Microsoft Word has a lot of ways you can tweak, adjust and modify a photograph, image or picture that you import into a Word document. For power users, this means you can have a lot of fun making things visually interesting and fine tune exactly how big an image is versus the text surrounding it. For everyone else, however, a little too much power can be a confusing thing and can result in frustration as images don’t do what you want them to do in your documents.
Fortunately the solution is pretty easy once you understand how Microsoft presents the so-called “handles” that let you move, distort and resize your images. In fact, once you get the hang of it, you might find yourself deliberately distorting and stretching your images to create striking visual effects!
Let’s just start out with a photo that I dragged onto a Microsoft Word document. This is Word for Mac, but the basic behavior is the same across Mac and Windows. As you can see, a set of tiny white squares has shown up around the edges of the image:
By default, when you insert or drag and drop an image into your Word document, it shows up with the original image aspect ratio. In other words, not stretched too tall or too wide, as shown above.
Here’s the key: Click and drag on a corner handle (as those white squares are called) and you’ll be able to resize the image proportionally. No stretching, no squishing. But click and drag on one of the handles mid-point along a side and you can stretch it to your heart’s delight, just changing that dimension of the image:
Notice also that while you’re dragging to resize an image, there’s a pop-up that shows the current dimensions. In the above, I’ve stretched the image horizontally to be 6.9″ x 4.34″. Looks a bit weird.
Undo with Edit > Undo to get back to the original image proportions and now I’ll resize it by clicking and dragging a corner handle instead:
Here the proportions are correct, albeit a bit smaller: 4.13″ x 3.1″.
That’s it. Corners good. Sides not so good.
And what about that little curved arrow on the top? Click and drag it and you can skew the photo in a most attractive way:
That’s rotated 19.05 degrees, as shown in the tiny pop-up. As a shortcut, here’s a color coded guide to image resize handles in Microsoft Word:
Green = proportional resizing. Red = stretching and distorting image. Blue = rotation.
It’s interesting to note that other programs, like Gmail, simply skip the mid-edge handles entirely:
It also offers shortcuts to Small | Best fit | Original size and an easy way to remove the image. I kind of like this better than how Microsoft offers too many options, but at least now you know what’s what!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Microsoft’s Office Suite and Windows for quite a while. Please check out my extensive Windows help area for lots more tutorial content!