Wrapped Full Page Graphics

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How can I wrap text around a full-page graphic?

Users who are laying out books and other complex documents often ask how they can have a photograph, diagram, table, chart, or other graphic item that occupies an entire page, with text flowing smoothly from the page before the graphic to the page after it—in short, how to wrap text around a full-page graphic.

The answer is that you can’t! A “picture” in Word (and this term encompasses pretty much anything that isn't normal text) has two possible formats:

  1. It can be In Line With Text, in which case it behaves just like a giant font character. It is in a text paragraph that can be left- or right-aligned or centered, can be indented left or right, can have Spacing Before or Spacing After, and if the line spacing of the paragraph is set to an Exactly amount that is smaller than the height of the image, it will be truncated. An image that is In Line With Text naturally flows with the text: if more text is added above it, it moves down; if text is deleted, it moves up.

  2. Alternatively, it can be “wrapped” (previously called “floating”). There are several “wrapping styles”: Behind Text, In Front of Text, Square, Tight, Through, and Top and Bottom. All have their uses, but the important point is that when any of these styles is applied, that is, when any image is not In Line With Text, it must be anchored to a text paragraph. The position of the graphic doesn't have to be relative to the position of the anchor paragraph—its position can be specified relative to the page or page margins—but the image always has to be on the same page as the text paragraph to which it is anchored.

From the above, you can see the problem:

  1. If the image is inline, it will move with the text, and you can't guarantee that it will end up on the page where you want it (much less alone on the page).

  2. If the image is wrapped, it can't take up the whole page because it has to be anchored to a text paragraph, meaning that there has to be at least one line of text on the page, and there's no guarantee that that line of text will be part of the text flow.

Needless to say, I am not writing this article to tell you that you cannot achieve the result you need! You can achieve at least the appearance of that result, but it requires a little fiddling, and you have to abandon the idea of “wrapping” the graphics: they are going to be inline.

Initial preparation

As you prepare the document, insert images (or placeholders for them) in the text immediately following the paragraphs in which they are referenced. They should be In Line With Text, and it's usually a good idea to use a specific paragraph style for them (for one thing, this makes them easier to find). If they require captions, add those above or below the image in a separate paragraph. Don't make any further effort to position the graphics.

Final layout

When editing is complete (that is, when you are sure the text will not change), you can start dealing with graphics. Graphics that occupy less than a full page can be positioned (inline or wrapped) as desired, but special handling will be needed for the full-page ones. Start at the beginning of the document and deal with all the graphics (both full-page and smaller) in order.

When you come to a full-page graphic, obviously, it (or it and its caption) will fill a page. The preceding page will probably end short (if it doesn’t, you’re already home free). Move text from below the graphic to above it until the text just fills the page. If it happens that the end of a paragraph and the end of a page coincide, again, you’re home free.

Most likely, however, you will have to break the paragraph in the middle. Not a problem: just press Enter at the end of the last line that fits and move the rest of the text (now a separate paragraph) to the top of the page after the full-page graphic.

If your text isn't justified and you haven’t used a first-line indent, you’re done, but if this is a book, the paragraphs are probably both justified and indented. To achieve the appearance of a single paragraph continuing from the page before the graphic to the page following, here’s what you do:

To justify the last line of text at the end of the page before your full-page graphic:

  1. In order to see what you’re working with, display nonprinting characters: press Ctrl+* or click the Show/Hide ¶ button on the Standard toolbar (Word 2003 or earlier) or in the Paragraph group of the Home tab (Word 2007 or later).

  2. Insert a line break (Shift+Enter) at the end of the last line.That will justify the last line, but it will also push text to the next page.

  3. Not a problem! Just select the paragraph mark, which will be on a line of text by itself, and format it as Hidden (Ctrl+Shift+H).

  4. When you hide nonprinting characters (press Ctrl+* or click the Show/Hide ¶ button again), the paragraph mark will have disappeared, and the text will be back on the page where it belongs.

Helpful Hint: If you don't want the text flow to fluctuate when you show/hide nonprinting characters, and if the spacing at the bottom of the page is not extremely tight, you may be able to get away with formatting the paragraph mark as 1 point instead of Hidden.

To remove the first-line indent from the first paragraph on the page following your full-page graphic:

  1. You can just modify the paragraph formatting through the Paragraph dialog or by dragging the First-Line Indent marker on the horizontal ruler.

  2. It is preferable, however, to apply an unindented style. For example, if you have used Body Text First Indent for the indented paragraphs, you can apply Body Text (identical except for the indent) to this paragraph.

Special cases

If the graphic, or combined graphic and caption, that you want to have on a separate page does not entirely fill the page, then you will need to insert manual page breaks at the beginning and end of the page (that is, before and after the graphic/caption content).

If you need to insert a broadside table or landscape photo—that is, content for which the page orientation needs to be landscape—you will need to insert Next Page section breaks before and after the graphic and caption. Note that the orientation is for the entire page: you can't have a portrait caption with a landscape graphic unless you use a text box with rotated text. For more on this type of layout, see “How to put a portrait page number on a landscape page.”

All these solutions are for general nonfiction books. If your book is a technical one with a lot of numbered headings and paragraphs, it maybe that splitting paragraphs as described will cause problems. In such cases, it may be more expedient to group illustrations at the beginning or end of a section or chapter instead of trying to integrate them with the text.

This article copyright © 2014 by Suzanne S. Barnhill.