Dealing with Artwork in MS Word Files

August 31, 2004 - 2:00am ||| 1 Comment | Add new

So many clients love to use Word's clip art and drawing tools in their Word documents. Then they give us the files and expect the same artwork to be reproduced in high-resolution, process-color glory. Such a shame.

If you've tried it, you know what I'm talking about.

When you import a Word file containing Microsoft artwork into QuarkXPress, the artwork is ignored, only the text makes it through. When you place a similar file in InDesign, clip art makes it in as inline graphics, but not anything created with the drawing tools.

And even that clip art that survives the journey — what the heck is the format? InDesign hasn't a clue, according to the Info palette. The Links palette reveals it's an embedded graphic. You can select the link and choose Unembed from the palette menu, extracting it into its own file, but no program that I know of can open it, not Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Photoshop, not even OS X's Preview (which can open just about anything, even PostScript files). All report it's an "unrecognized format."

Luckily for your clients, you read DesignGeek, and you can deal with anything they throw at you.

The Web Page Method
Place or import the Word file into your layout just to get the text. Then open the document in Microsoft Word and choose File -> Save as Web Page (OS X) or File -> Save As -> Format: Web Page (OS X or Windows). Create and choose a folder to save the resulting HTML and image files into, and click OK. Quit Word.

Ignore the HTML file, what we're interested in is the artwork. Conveniently, when it converts a file to a web page, Word exports the art into subfolder. The art is converted to GIFs (for the illustration-type clip art and client-drawn artwork) and JPEGs (for the photo-type clip art).

Find the subfolder (it's at the same location as the new .html file), open the artwork in Photoshop and change the resolution, color mode and image format as necessary

For example, open a GIF, change the color mode to RGB, increase the pixel resolution (in Image -> Image Size), sharpen as necessary, change color mode to CMYK, and save it as a TIFF (for Quark or InDesign) or PSD (InDesign).

Place or import those press-ready files into your layout program.

The PDF Method
If you've got Acrobat for Mac or Windows as well as Illustrator or Freehand, this is the preferred method. The majority of Word clip art and all of its drawing tools are vector-based, and using PDF and PostScript, you can maintain the vector format — the files are much easier to edit and their edges are sharp at any resolution.

As above, place or import the Word file into your layout file to get the text. Next, open the document in Word and export it to PDF using any method available to you.

Open the PDF in Illustrator or Freehand, and you'll see the illustration-type artwork came through as fully editable vector graphics. Delete everything except for the artwork, edit the art as necessary (e.g., change the RGB colors to CMYK), and save it as an EPS or AI (InDesign only) file for placing into your layout document.


Comments (Subscribe to Comments RSS)

1 July 12, 2011 - 8:24am by lachie (not verified):

Nice info, saved me some time. I’d suggest writing the preferred vector based method above the less preferred web page method though

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