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Graphic Design Hacks: Using Microsoft Office to Create Images

Graphic DesignMultimedia & Design

This is a continuation of our Graphic Design for Nonprofits blog recap. Read part one to learn the design principles and techniques needed to fully utlize the tips and tricks covered in this post.

Creating professional event posters, annual reports and blog images are easy when you have the right talent and the right tools (ie. Adobe Photoshop), but what if your nonprofit is not equipped with them? No problem! 

This blog posts summarizes the 7 Microsoft Office tips and tricks covered in our event, Graphic Design Hacks for Nonprofits. You can view a copy of Joyce Hsu's presentation on SlideShare or watch the event recording on our YouTube channel. Now before we get started, remember that this post is on graphic design hacks, so many of the tips and tricks we cover will be shared in the context of using software that weren’t meant to be graphic editors (e.g., Microsoft Word).

Note: All the graphics you see in this blog has been made in Microsoft PowerPoint and Word.

1. Kerning with Character Spacing

Good kerning can breathe new life into standard, default fonts. Practice kerning fonts in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint using the functions below:

Microsoft Word: Highlight and right-click on the text you want to adjust, then go to Font > Advanced

Microsoft PowerPoint: Highlight and right-click on the text you want to adjust, then go to Font > Character Spacing

2. Line Spacing: Multiple

When adjusting line spacing, choose Multiple so you can get more precision and can select certain lines for spacing and not necessarily for the whole document.

Microsoft Word: Highlight and right-click on the paragraph you want to adjust, then go to Paragraph > Indents and Spacing

PowerPoint: Highlight and right-click on the paragraph you want to adjust, then go to Paragraph

It can really bring together an invite to make it look cleaner as you can see in the example below. The right has been fixed using line spacing (multiple).

3. Transparent text boxes

Unanchored text boxes with no outline and no background colour can be used to slant text and adjust spacing, giving you far more flexibility in positioning of text anywhere in your document. For example, the image on the left uses a standard paragraph with an image in the background. The image on the right, however, uses a textbox to slant the "Thank you!" text, which imitates a hand-written note, making it feel more casual.

4. Combining Shapes, Textboxes, and Photos

Don’t be afraid to combine simple elements to make a more complex design! You can hack the concept of “layers” by using shapes, textboxes and photos and adjusting where they sit on the plane (“send to back”, “behind text” etc.). For example, the picture below was put together in PowerPoint using the following elements:

  • A photo (straight from
  • Three shapes (ane gradient square and two yellow rectangles)
  • Five textboxes (one with an outline, four without outlines)

5. Excel Tip: Creating Modern Graphs

Reduce and simplify Excel graph elements to create a flat, modern look for your data. You can change font sizes, line colour, and remove elements to simplify for high level audience (ex. Annual report or board report).

6. Word Tip: Capitalize on your Header and Footer areas

Want a background image in your document without disrupting your text? Insert images in the Header and Footer area and adjust it to Text-wrap > Behind text.

This effectively makes your image a “watermark”, so when collaborators add content to the document, the background image won’t be affected or moved, and will appear with each new page.  If you’re looking to create a letterhead, a branded annual report or case for support, try this tip!

7. PowerPoint Tip: Make Report Templates with Slide Master

Slide Master is used by many nonprofits to create branded slide decks, but it can also be used to create templates for other resources, such as annual reports, event posters, and more. In PowerPoint, go to Design > Slide Size > Custom (or pick an option in the drop down menu).

Then go to View > Slide Master to edit and adjust your template accordingly. Example templates can include a new report section or a standardized donor listing.

Once you’re done editing your template, exit Slide Master and save your document. To use this document to create branded materials, simply create a new slide, right-click on Layout and choose from the many templates you’ve made available (see below for an example of how TechSoup Canada uses Slide Master).

More Resources

Image editors:

  • Canva (web-based)
  • Pixlr (web-based)
  • GIMP (download and installation required)

Resources for public domain (CC0) photos and images:

Other free resources

  • FontSquirrel for customized font
  • If you have Photoshop, Freebiesbug provides free PSD templates and images
  • If you have Illustrator, Pixel77 provides free AI templates and images

Event Recording

Graphic Design Hacks Presentation slides