Invisible/Nonprinting Graphics

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I inserted some graphics in a document, but now I can’t see them;
or there is just an empty box where one should be;
or my graphics won’t print

The solutions

Word 2003 and earlier

  •  On the View menu or horizontal scroll bar, choose Print Layout view. Floating (wrapped) graphics don't display in Normal view.

  •  Go to Tools | Options | View and make sure that “Drawings” is checked and that “Picture placeholders” is not checked.

  •  If some graphics are not printing (or not displaying in Print Preview), go to Tools | Options | Print and make sure that “Drawing objects” is checked.

  •  Go to Format | Paragraph and make sure that line spacing of the paragraph the picture is in is not set to an ‟Exactly” value.

  •  If the graphic was inserted using Format | Background, it will not print unless you check the box for “Background colors and images” under “Include with document” at Tools | Options | Print.

  •  If the graphic is a “Printed Watermark” inserted via Format | Background, it is a picture or WordArt object anchored to the page header and formatted as “Behind Text,” so it will not be displayed unless you have “Drawings” checked at Tools | Options | View, and it will not print unless you have “Drawing objects” checked at Tools | Options | Print.

  •  If none of these suggestions help, see Graphics pasted from the Web, below.

Word 2007

  •   On the View tab of the Ribbon or on the status bar, choose Print Layout view. Wrapped graphics don’t display in Draft view.

  • Go to Office Button | Word Options | Advanced: Show document content  and make sure that “Show drawings and text boxes on screen” is checked and that “Show picture placeholders” is not checked.

  •  If some graphics are not printing (or not displaying in Print Preview), go to Office Button | Word Options | Display: Printing options  and make sure that “Print drawings created in Word” is checked.

  •  On the Home tab of the Ribbon, locate the Paragraph group and click the dialog launcher arrow in the bottom right corner to open the Paragraph dialog; in that dialog, make sure that line spacing of the paragraph the picture is in is not set to an ‟Exactly” value.

  •  If the graphic was inserted using Page Layout | Page Background | Page Color | Fill Effects | Picture, it will not be displayed unless you check the box for “Show background colors and images in Print Layout view” at Office Button | Word Options | Advanced: Show document content, and it it will not print unless you check the box for “Print background colors and images” at Office Button | Word Options | Display: Printing options.

  •  If the graphic is a “Watermark” inserted via Page Layout | Page Background, it is a picture or WordArt object anchored to the page header and formatted as “Behind Text,” so it will not be displayed unless you have “Show drawings and text boxes on screen” checked at Office Button | Word Options | Advanced: Show document content , and it will not print unless you have “Print drawings created in Word” checked at Office Button | Word Options | Display: Printing options.

  •  If none of these suggestions help, see Graphics pasted from the Web, below.

Word 2010 and above

  •  On the View tab of the Ribbon or on the status bar, choose Print Layout view. Wrapped graphics don’t display in Draft view.

  •  Go to File | Options | Advanced: Show document content and make sure that “Show drawings and text boxes on screen” is checked and that “Show picture placeholders” is not checked.

  •  If some graphics are not printing (or not displaying in Print Preview), go to File | Options | Display: Printing options and make sure that “Print drawings created in Word” is checked.

  •  On the Home tab of the Ribbon, locate the Paragraph group and click the dialog launcher arrow in the bottom right corner to open the Paragraph dialog; in that dialog, make sure that line spacing of the paragraph the picture is in is not set to an ‟Exactly” value.

  •  If the graphic was inserted using Page Layout | Page Background | Page Color | Fill Effects | Picture (Page Background is on the Design tab in Word 2013), it will not be displayed unless you check the box for “Show background colors and images in Print Layout view” at File | Options | Advanced: Show document content, and it it will not print unless you check the box for “Print background colors and images” at File | Options | Display: Printing options.

  •  If the graphic is a “Watermark” inserted via Page Layout | Page Background in Word 2010 or Design | Page Background in Word 2013, it is a picture or WordArt object anchored to the page header and formatted as “Behind Text,” so it will not be displayed unless you have “Show drawings and text boxes on screen” checked at File | Options | Advanced: Show document content, and it will not print unless you have “Print drawings created in Word” checked at File | Options | Display: Printing options.

  •  If none of these suggestions help, see Graphics pasted from the Web, below.

The explanation

An understanding of the possibilities requires a little background. To understand how Word deals with and displays graphics and other objects in Word, see also the excellent article The draw layer: a metaphysical space and the excellent Microsoft Knowledge Base article WD2000: General Information about Floating Objects. The articles explain the difference between floating and inline objects (and how to convert one to the other) and describe the various layers in Word.

Every document in Word has several layers, including the text layer, the drawing layer(s), and the header/footer layer. The header/footer layer is like the “background” in a page layout application: anything you put there will appear on every page (and can “float” anywhere on the page so long as it's anchored to the header or footer paragraph).

Text, unless it is in a text box (or a header or footer) is always in the text layer. Graphics can also be placed in the text layer. They are then said to be In Line With Text or “inline.” An inline object is part of the text stream and moves with it. Its formatting is determined by the formatting of the paragraph it is in (centered, left-aligned, with Spacing Before/After, and so on). Note that one reason an inline graphic may be incorrectly displayed is that the line spacing of the paragraph it is in has been set to an exact amount too small to accommodate the graphic.

Note: Objects in the text layer (inline objects) are visible in any view in Word 2003 and earlier; Word 2007 and 2010 handle inline graphics somewhat differently. They are displayed as expected in Print Layout view. In Draft view, however, they are displayed as expected in Word 97–2003 format (Compatibility Mode) documents, but in Word 2007/2010–format documents, there is just a blank space that can be selected.

Drawings (that is, AutoShapes created with the drawing tool, WordArt, text boxes, and “floating” or “wrapped” graphics) are in the drawing layer. They are not part of the text stream, though each has to be anchored to a text paragraph. They can float anywhere on the page, inside or outside the margins, and can be Behind Text or In Front of Text or can have text wrapped around them in various ways. Objects in the drawing layer are visible in Print Layout view and Print Preview but not in Normal (Draft) view. Interestingly, a frame is a sort of hybrid object that can appear to float (and text can be wrapped around it), but it is actually inline and can be viewed (though not in position) in Normal (Draft) view.

So if you are in Normal (Draft) view, you will not see any floating (wrapped) objects at all. There are also several Options settings that further affect what graphics are visible.

  •  If you are in Normal/Draft view, naturally you will not be able to see floating objects. But if “Picture placeholders” is checked, inline graphics will also not be displayed. Instead you will see an empty box the size of the picture.

  •  If you are in Print Layout view and “Picture placeholders” is checked, you will not see inline graphics. Furthermore, if “Drawings” (or “Show drawings and text boxes on screen”) is not checked, you will not see floating objects either. Note that for this purpose “drawings” means anything in the drawing layer—AutoShapes, WordArt, text boxes, and wrapped (floating) graphics.

  •  If you are in Print Preview and “Drawing objects” (or “Print drawings created in Word”) is not checked, you will not see any floating/wrapped objects, and they will not print, either. Again, “drawing objects” or “drawings” means any object in the drawing layer.

Objects in the header and footer are (like the rest of the header/footer) dimmed except when you are working in the header/footer pane.

Graphics pasted from the Web

The default Paste behavior if you copy a picture from a Web site and paste into Word 2000 and above is to create a field such as:

{ INCLUDEPICTURE "http://www.whatever.com//temp.gif" \* MERGEFORMATINET }

(Incidentally, there doesn't appear to be any reference to the MergeFormatInet switch either in Word's Help or in the Microsoft Knowledge Base).

If the picture is wrapped (floating), you will need to change it to inline in order to see the field.

If you try pasting from a Web page when working offline, Word just hangs. And if you print your document when working offline, with “Update fields” enabled, your pictures just disappear.

The issue here is that most pictures displayed on Web pages are just links to the locations of the pictures online, and what you are pasting is that link. There are several ways to work around this:

  •  Paste the picture and immediately press Ctrl+Shift+F9 to unlink it. The picture will then be embedded in your document.

  •  If you find that Word hangs when you try to paste, you can instead select Edit | Paste Special (Home | Clipboard | Paste | Paste Special in Word 2007/2010/2013) and choose “Device-independent Bitmap” instead of the default of “HTML format.”

  •  The best approach, however, is to right-click on the image on the Web page and choose Save Picture As Save it in My Pictures or some other convenient location on your hard drive, and then insert it in your Word document using Insert | Picture | From File (Insert | Illustrations | Picture in Word 2007/2010/2013). The advantage to this approach is that, if anything happens to the picture in your document, you still have it saved externally. Also, you can edit (crop, compress, recolor) the picture in your document without affecting the original. Further, if the document does not need to be portable, you may be able to reduce the file size by linking to the external picture instead of embedding it.

This article copyright © 2000, 2009, 2010, 2013 by Suzanne S. Barnhill. A version of this article was published at http://word.mvps.org, with Dave Rado as coauthor.