Formatting eLearning Documents: Picture This

Images are a great way to add a little life to your document. Microsoft Word makes it especially easy to insert images into a document. But, with great power comes great responsibility, and you should stick with some basic principles when inserting images. If not, they can be overwhelming, hard to see, and difficult for a reader to interpret the relationship of the image to the text.

So, in this post, we’ll explore the basics of inserting and formatting an image and some little extras, like adding alt text to improve the accessibility of your documents.

Inserting an Image

Inserting an image into Word is pretty simple. One quick way is to use the Insert tab and select Pictures. This button lets you pull a photo from your files.

You can also drag a photo from an open file folder on your computer into Word.

As you choose your images, you’ll want to remember some important things.


Even a simple logo can be very blurry if it has low resolution or the image clarity deteriorates as you change the size. So, it is important to understand image size and resolution for both print and onscreen, and make sure your image meets optimal size and resolution standards. Another good option is to create your graphics using a vector editing program like Affinity Designer so they are infinitely scalable.


Not every image found on the Internet is free to download and use. Although it may be easy to download photos online, they’re still protected by copyright laws. You can find lots of images that are free for commercial and noncommercial on sites like Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash.


Finally, too many images or images that seem irrelevant can be distracting. Although images are considered content and have a role to play, remember to ask yourself, “what is the purpose of this image?” Decorative images are fine, just be sure you make a conscious decision of when and where to use them.

Formatting an Image

Now that we added our image, let’s use some of Word’s formatting features.

Size / Crop

When you click on your image, Word automatically opens the Format tab. We’re going to explore just a few of the features in this tab. The first one is how to Crop and Size your image.

Click on your image.

Select the crop button.

You can pull in the side or corner of your image to cut it down to the desired portion. Then, either click on the Crop button again or click anywhere else in the document.

Resizing your image is similiar. Select the photo and grab and pull on any of the edges or coners.

Wrap Text

You can adjust the position of your image and its relationship with the text. A quick and easy way to move your image is to use the Position button. This button moves your image and automatically formats the text around it.

You can choose where you’d like your image to appear on the page.

If you want to do your own formatting, the Wrap Text button will help you do just that. It allows you to click and drag your image to anywhere on the page, and then tell the document how to format the text around the image.

The text is now neatly lined up to the left of the image.


Now that we have our image with our text, it could use just a little more style. Word has several built in Picture Styles to help give your image a professional look.

These Picture Styles all live under the Format tab. Using the Picture Styles, I blurred the edges to soften the picture.

Alt Text

We discussed Alternative Text (alt text) in our post about using tables. It is also important to add alt text to images, too. In this case, alt text is used to describe the image to a user with low vision or who is unable to see the image for any reason.

Here’s an example of an alternative text for our image:

Students in graduation caps and gowns tossing their academic hats in the air.
Students in graduation caps and gowns tossing their academic hats in the air

The alt text is important here because it describes the meaning and context of the image. If the last image said, “students graduating,” this would be an accurate description, but it would not be helpful to someone who cannot see the image. If your image is purely decorative, it’s not necessary to add alt text.

Let’s look at how to add alt text to your image.

Right-click (PC) or CMD + Click (Mac) on the image.

The formatting sidebar will pop up.

Now, this part always takes me a bit of searching. But, it’s in Layout & Properties. You can give your image a title, and then write out a description.

We’re all set! You cannot see the alt text, but it’s there behind the scene.

So, adding an image can be a simple way to add visual appeal to your documents. What tips do you have about using images in your eLearning documents? Let us know.


Bradley, H. (n.d.). Image size and resolution explained for print and onscreen.

Inkbot Design. (2018, February 14). The ultimate guide to resolution in logo design [Blog post].

Nielsen, J. (2010, November 1). Photos as web content.

Sherwin, K. (n.d.). Decorative images: Delightful or dreadful [Video file].  

Author: Wendy Moore

Wendy was the former Curriculum Editor with eLearning and has learned more than anyone needs to know about APA Style and Microsoft Word. Wendy lives with her husband and their three children on a few acres of country land in Spring Arbor, Michigan.

3 thoughts on “Formatting eLearning Documents: Picture This”

  1. Fantastic post! A lot of these things I learned from trial-and-error; but I plan to come back to this post and practice each step with a document I’m preparing. Thank you Wendy! And thank you modelelearning for sharing info that is so useful!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: