| Branding, Design Basics, Startups

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Whenever we design an identity project for a new company or service we usually create a letterhead as part of the logo package. The letterhead design gets sent off to the offset printer and the client has a ream of beautifully designed and printed stationery paper. But in this internet age, many people are sending letters, proposals, estimates, etc. only as electronic files. So if you use Microsoft Word to write letters, it makes sense to have an electronic version of your letterhead.

To ensure that we are able to design a cohesive look and feel for our client’s electronic letterhead, we start by creating many of the elements in either Illustrator or Photoshop and then pull them into Word.

I put together a video showing how to create an electronic version of a letterhead design. The tutorial includes how to get your graphic images to bleed to the edge of the page by overriding the margin settings in the header and footer area.

Not sure you have all the graphic elements ready to create your own electronic letterhead? Need a professional graphic designer to help you? Contact us and let us design both your printed and electronic stationery.


  1. Mike Maddaloni - @thehotiron | October 12, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Thanks Emily – this is good to know.

    I am assuming there’s not much difference between Word for the Mac or the PC?

    I kept my letterhead “simple” for that reason, as I didn’t realize you could do more with the template, especially a graphic stretching the entire width. Thanks for showing the true potential for Word templates!


  2. Emily Brackett | October 13, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    The potential in Word is still pretty limited. But knowing that trick about overriding the margins does open up some more design possibilities.

  3. Emily Brackett | December 17, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Follow up: I received an email in regards to placing files in Word.

    “The thing I don’t understand is what file formats I need. My designer supplied me with JPEGs, which is what I thought I needed. I assembled the electronic letterhead and printed it, and it was a bit fuzzy and borderline not acceptable.”

    This is my response: Jpegs are generally the best format for Word. They are usually set up rgb which Word seems to like best. But jpegs are “lossy” types of files, meaning that they lose quality when you save them. So, if your designer creates the logo (and other header and footer artwork) in Illustrator and then imports it to PhotoShop and saves it as a jpeg, it can lose clarity. With jpegs you can control the quality of the save, and you’ll want to keep it very high-quality to keep it from looking fuzzy. The only reason not to make it very high-quality is if the end result is a file that is too large for your uses (say if you are emailing the final word file and the imported images makes it too large). Another thing to keep in mind is that you should try to avoid resizing the image in Word, create it at 100% size in PhotoShop.

  4. ashley | July 1, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Hey Emily –

    I did this, but its almost watermarking my jpg. What can I do?

  5. Emily Brackett | July 14, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Ashley, I’m not sure what you mean by watermarking the jpg. Word should not affect the jpegs that you import.

  6. Karen | June 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I had no trouble placing the jpgs in the header and footer according to your instructions, but in the print layout view the header and footer appear to be screened back by about 50% or more. When I go to the Page Layout view the header and footer appear full strength but I can’t type in the document. My customer doesn’t like the screened back look in the print layout, but that seems to be the only way she can type anything in it. Thanks in advance.

  7. Emily Brackett | June 5, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Karen, Thanks for your comment. Yes, when you place the graphics in the header or footer it is just as you described: It is faded back when you are writing/editing in the main part of the document. This is just the way it is in Word. I guess so it keeps you focused on what is editable. (and vice versa when you edit the header/footer you can’t edit the main text). It should print out fine.

    BTW, you may want to read my more recent post about why you shouldn’t send Word files. https://www.visiblelogic.com/blog/index.php/2012/03/7-reasons-why-you-need-to-stop-sending-word-files/
    If your client converts to PDF they should look fine.

  8. Karen | June 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Thank you Emily! Yes, I have read that article and agree wholeheartedly! I work in the prepress department in a print shop and one of our clients requested this specifically. I was happy to find your easy to follow tutorial, much appreciated. I believe what I need to to is communicate to the client how to view and save the file correctly. Thanks again!

  9. Jenn Eliot | August 15, 2012 at 1:22 am

    Hi. Thanks for this tutorial. Very helpful and I’ve used it already. My problem is that if a document is more than one page long, how do I remove the header and footer from the subsequent pages? If you choose “Different First Page” from the options under the Header and Footer tab, it removes the logo and address from the first page but includes it on all subsequent pages. I want it the other way around. Logo and address on Page 1, but blank pages following that. Any thoughts? We do a lot of multiple page documents. Thanks in advance. Jenn

  10. Marc | September 25, 2012 at 3:28 am

    Hi Jenn,

    in the header/footer settings of Word you’ll find a checkbox ‘different first page’ (could be slightly different due to different Word versions)

    Hope this helps

  11. Wajiha Kanji | September 28, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks for sharing this tutorial it has been really helpful!

  12. letter head printing | February 4, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing the very nice idea.

  13. Emily Brackett | February 4, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    Glad we can help. This tutorial continues to be helpful to many.

  14. amanda | May 31, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    This is great, BUT I have the following problem that is not solved by the suggestions above:
    1) Full page image to sit behind text
    2) first page and second page are different (as above)
    3) First page and second page need different header/footer sizes because the image takes up less space on P2.
    4) “Different first page” doesn’t allow the headers to be different sizes
    5) Inserting a “section break” doesn’t allow the text from letterhead p1 to flow to p2 and subsequent pages (this makes it very unfriendly for most who will use the document.


  15. Emily Brackett | May 31, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Amanda, I get a lot of questions like this and I’ll need to work on an advanced video next. However, you need to keep in mind that Word is not a design software.

  16. Tatum | August 9, 2013 at 2:04 am

    I created a letterhead for Word for a template that I could use for electronic and printing (hopefully) but the problem is that whenever I view my document with My Template (the one i made with the letterhead), but it is all blurry unless i click on the actual header itself or print it. I don’t want my documents to look blurry at the top, and so far i have been completely stumped on how to resolve this because EVERY electronic copy of my new template has a blurry header so it is not useable. ANY advice is appreciated!! I am also having the same issue with PAGES if anyone can help with that?

  17. DjuBoy | August 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Hi, Thanks for the tutorial.

    I did as you suggested, and everything worked out, but there’s still something I can’t get to work : actual full bleeding.

    Even though it looks to be a full bleed *on screen*, when I try to export my file as a PDF, there’s always a small margin on each sides.

    Any idea how to resolve this and get a full bleed?


  18. Howard | August 31, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Dear Emily, have you investigated similar solutions for Excel documents? I am sure I am not the only one who wants invoices, packing slips, etc. that can go full width (bleed). Thank you!

  19. Serhan | October 31, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Thank you so much. 🙂

  20. Christine | December 12, 2013 at 3:26 am

    Hi Emily, I am also unable to crack the problem of how to get my full bleed digital letterhead, which looks great in Word, to print all the way to the edges without a white border around it. I have full bleed art under the entire letterhead with the letter typed on top of the art. I have set the art up as a watermark to get this effect and it looks great on the screen. When I make a pdf of the file and print it, a white border cuts into the art on all 4 sides with a larger white border on the bottom. Any way to get around this unprintable area? I can’t believe more people have not wanted/needed this to work. I spent over 3 hours on the phone with Microsoft and they could not help me.
    Do you have a solution for this?
    How would you print out the sample on your video which has full bleed art in the header?

  21. Emily Brackett | December 12, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    @Christine, It has to do with how you make the PDF, and has nothing to do with Word.

    This is what I do: I hit “print”. Then I choose page setup and choose Adobe PDF. Then go back and select the submenu for PDF (rather than print) and do save as PDF.

    When I see the little preview come up I can see if there is going to be a white border or not. It has to do with which printer you have assigned. If the printer cannot handle bleeds you will probably see the white border. Choosing PDF or another driver that can handle bleeds will resolve your issue.

    I’ll try to do a screen shot or video, but it will probably take me a while.

  22. Cindy Guernsey | November 4, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Emily, this is SO helpful, thank you! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients ask me for jpeg header and footers, instead of, or in addition to, the printed letterhead — but then I have no way of knowing if they will use them correctly. If they don’t know to go to Format/picture and fix the size, most likely the jpegs will end up too small and in the wrong position. I think from now on, I will plan to provide the word doc itself set up and ready to go, to ensure quality control. I’m on Word 2011, and couldn’t double click the image, but was able to get to the picture formatting window via the format menu. Here’s a little tip back to you: you can leave the aspect ratio box checked and just type in 100% once. What I like about this, unlike so much of the frustration of working in Word, is that under ‘original size’ you can verify that the size of the jpeg is correct.
    For what it’s worth, in the past I’ve provided a Word file with a full page pdf set up as a watermark at 100% color. It works, but I was never sure if it was possible to have a blank second page. Too bad there’s no “export to Word letterhead” from Quark or Indesign!

  23. Tanya | December 16, 2014 at 3:04 pm


    I’ve read all this with great interest as I am having problems too with e-letterheads.

    My main problem is when doing a multiple page document. The header and footer come out on all pages, when what one wants is the header/footer only on page one and subsequent pages should be blank.

    I see that someone posed this question back in 2012 (Jenn Elliot) – and the answer was to choose the option “different first page”. However as Jenn says, this simply causes page one to be blank.

    Anyone have any other ideas on this?


  24. Devon Clough | December 16, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Hi Tanya,

    Thank you for your question. Choosing “different first page” would be the way to do it. However, when you check that option it does remove the header that was there, making the page blank. So before you enable “different first page,” select the current header art and right click ‘copy’. Then, check the “different first page” box, and right click ‘paste’ the artwork back into the header section on the first page. You can also re-insert the header art from a file, or copy and paste from another page. (If there is footer art, then do the same for that section.) After you have re-established the header and footer art for the first page with “different first page” checked, any new page created will not contain any header or footer art. If you created subsequent pages before checking “different first page,” then you can delete the original header on those pages by double clicking the header area and deleting its contents.

    It’s a little tricky, but definitely can be done. The way it’s set up makes it easiest for a brand new single-paged document, so some additional steps need to be taken with a document that’s already been created. Please let me know if you have any other questions!


  25. Peter Mareš | December 11, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Hallo Emily.

    BIG thank you ! :o)

    After years of fruitless peripatetic web searching and physical questioning on creating headed stationery in MS Word, I’ve just come across your inspired vid. Mystery revealed in just under 4½ mins ! You’ve no idea the crap instructions I’ve come across…

    So, once again, many, many thanks, you’re a star.

    Season’s greetings, Peter, 11 December 2015.


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