Creating PDF for Digital Letterheads

Law firms often have corporate letterhead designed to reflect the professionalism of the firm.

It’s only natural, then, that firms want to create digital letterhead that retains the firms branding when creating PDF files.

I recently received an email from a law firm that complained about “fuzzy text” when they attempted to create their PDF letterhead. After a bit of digging, I determined that the firm had scanned their existing letterhead, placed it as an image in Word, then PDFd the file. The result, was poor quality, fuzzy text.

Bitmaps vs Vectors

In order to create good digital letterhead, you need to use the right kind of graphic format.

A bitmap image is composed of pixels, the small individual dots that make up an image. Bitmaps are resolution dependent meaning that their appearance varies depending on the type and resolution of the device on which they are displayed. Typical bitmap file formats are TIFF, JPEG, PNG, BMP and GIF. Because bitmap images do not scale well, they make a poor choice for your digital letterhead.

A vector image is mathematically defined and scales correctly to the device on which it is displayed such as a monitor or printer. Typical vector formats are EPS, WMF, and EMF. Vector graphics are a good choice for your digital letterhead.

Creating your Digital Letterhead Graphic

The best way to create your digital letterhead graphic is in a vector illustration program such as Adobe Illustrator.

However, since most legal professionals don’t have a copy of Illustrator laying around, I’ll show you how to create the letterhead graphic in PowerPoint.

The instructions below are for Office 2007 and 2010, but earlier versions will work just fine.

  1. Launch PowerPoint. A new, blank slide show should appear. If not, choose New and create one.
  2. You’ll insert a Text Box to type into:
    A) Click the Insert tab
    B) Click the Text Box tool
  3. Click and drag to draw a text box in a blank area of the slide.
  4. Type in your text and format it as you like. You can add borders, fills, and other text boxes if necessary.
    Getting the right Look for the Text Box
    Here are some links from the Microsoft website with some tutorials on using Text Boxes in PowerPoint:

    Change or remove a border from a text box or shape
    Add or delete a shape fill or shape effect


  5. Select the text box(es) on the slide (you might want to group them first), then right-click and choose Save As Picture

  6. From the Save As Type menu, choose Windows Metafile and save the file to a location of your choice.
    You might also want to save the PowerPoint file in case you want to make changes at a later time.

Using your Letterhead Graphic in Microsoft Word

It’s simple to use the WMF file you created above in Word.

You can use it in the body of the document or in the header or footer area.

To insert the image in Word:

  1. Open or create a new document in Word
  2. Click the Insert tab then click Picture (example here is inserting the picture in the header)
  3. Locate the letterhead graphic and insert it.

You’ll notice that the graphic looks nice on screen in Word.

Converting your Letterhead to PDF

Once your graphic is inserted, you can create a PDF by printing to the Adobe PDF Print Driver or by using the Adobe PDF Maker in Word.

The result looks great on-screen in Adobe Reader or Acrobat and also prints beautifully:

The Digital Letterhead as it looks in Acrobat.

10 Responses to Creating PDF for Digital Letterheads

  1. Jay Fresno says:

    I’m trying to create a letterhead that has a text-graphic at the top, as you described in your instructions, and that can easily go into the header. It also needs a narrow text-graphic on the left side; this graphic is a list of people and their titles.
    Letters are often 2 pages long, so I need a second sheet for the letterhead that uses a different text-graphic. The text-graphic on the second page is similar to the one on the first page, but it is simplified.
    There are a couple of challenges here. One is how to add the text-graphic on the left without it moving while typing letters into Word. The other is how to set up a second page for the letterhead with a different graphic at the top and on the left side of the second page, and still keep it all in one Word document. Is it possible to set up such a letterhead in Word using PDF graphics?

    • Rick Borstein says:

      That’s a function of Word. You’ll need to create two WMFs. You’ll need to create Sections in the Word document which allows you to have separate headers and footers for each page.

  2. Kelly Vaughn says:

    I’m often seen the same problem with pixelated logos, and I figured out a solution to obtain a vector logo using only Acrobat Professional (Illustrator not required). While normally, designers will open a PDF in Illustrator to extract the vector logo and reuse it, you can actually copy and paste a vector logo (in Acrobat) from one PDF into another, using the TouchUp Object Tool. Here is the complete article:

    • Rick Borstein says:

      That is a good tip for existing PDFs which need to be fixed with better logos.

  3. Brandon says:

    Is there a way to do this with a full page pdf letterhead?

  4. dean says:

    i have a letter head that was created by a designer for my company he sent it to me in a PDF file format it was created using adobe illustrator , how do i take this PDF file and make a digital letter head in word so i can type on it , print and save documents to be sent via email PS: the file has 4 different layers and the last layer is a faded color that covers the entire PDF file .

    can you help you sound like you know your stuff

    • Rick Borstein says:

      That can be a little challenging in that Word doesn’t support Illustrator files directly and the file formats it does support (like WMF) can be many times larger. You can have your designer convert all of the fonts to outlines and save it as a WMF file. There will be some loss in quality compared to Illustrator. Or, you can have the designer give you an EPS file that is similar. This won’t look good on screen, but will convert well to PDF. Good luck!

  5. Zeddie says:

    I have a follow up question to the one Dean asked. I, too, have a PDF letterhead that was created in Adobe Illustrator. I had asked the graphic designer to put it in a format that I could use with Word and she didn’t know how to do that as she doesn’t use Word so she made a PDF of the letterhead which, of course, I can’t use with Word. Once I have the EPS files from the designer, do I then proceed to PowerPoint and insert the EPS files in text boxes and then save the whole file in WMF and then type the document in Word and then covert to PDF? Brandon had asked you about a full page PDF and you had stated you could do this as a background. I’m confused as to the difference between Dean’s question and Brandon’s. I’m trying to figure out the simplest way to do this. If I have the graphic designer save the letterhead as a WMF file or an EPS file, it would be of the entire letterhead, would it not? Or should I just have the graphic elements i.e the top and the side saved as separate EPS files or separate WMF files? (Bascially, I would like to have a digital form of my printed letterhead so that I can e-mail Word docs or e-fax using my letterhead.)

    • Rick Borstein says:

      Word doesn’t handle rich file types like Adobe products do. If you have a simple logo, have the designer export the file as a WMF. Although Word can place EPS files, they have to AI8 level and they will appear very bitmapped in Word and will only look nice when printed to PDF or a PostScript printer.