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Using Images to Add Visual Interest and a Professional Finish to Any Spreadsheet

Jason Morrell

by Jason Morrell 
January 17, 2022

1. Why use images in a spreadsheet?

Pictures convey messages and ideas much quicker than text. Humans are visual. We can relate to and remember images much easier.

There are lots of places to source images. You can use one directly from your computer, from a cloud drive or from an online image search.

Pictures can also be downloaded from your smartphone or digital device, downloaded from the internet or scanned, then saved to your cloud or computer.

2. Using an image on your computer

To insert one of your own pictures into a document.

1.  Single-left-click the INSERT tab.

2.  Single-left-click PICTURES.

3.  Navigate to the appropriate folder then double-left-click the picture to insert it.

Using a image already on your computer

3. Finding an online image

Microsoft provide a Bing online image search within all their programs. This gives you access to a global image library.

To insert an online picture into a document.

1.  Single-left-click the INSERT tab.

2.  Single-left-click ONLINE PICTURES.

3.  Either single-left-click a category and then double-left-click a picture within that category …

Adding an online picture directly from Excel

Or, in the search box at the top. type a keyword phrase for the kind of image you require. The more words you use, the tighter the match. When the image results are displayed, double-left-click the image you want to use.

In the search box at the top. type a keyword phrase for the kind of image you require. The more words you use, the tighter the match

4. Respect the creative commons license

Be aware of the creative commons licence. There are certain limitations on where you can use an image. If you are not careful, you could inadvertently infringe on a copyright. Take the time to check that you are within your rights to use the image.

5. Enhancing your online search

The more specific the search, the more accurate the results. For example, instead of searching for CAR, you could search for RED CAR or RED SPORTS CAR or 1960s RED SPORTS CAR.

You can also narrow down the style of picture you are searching for.

  • SIZE: Choose whether you want larger pictures for better definition or smaller pictures to minimise the  file size of your publication.
  • TYPE: Choose what kind of picture you would like.

Avoid CLIPART altogether as this will make your publication look cheesy and dated.

To some degree the same is true with ANIMATED GIFS These are short animations up to 6 seconds long that loop continuously. People who use animated GIFs think they are funny. In reality these animated GIFs are just plain annoying! Plus, they don't work on printed publications unless you're at Hogwarts!

Pictures with TRANSPARENT backgrounds are useful if you want to place them on top of other images or objects.

  • LAYOUT: Choose Wide for landscape orientation images, Tall for portrait orientation images or Square if you like the Instagram and Facebook vibe.
  • COLOR: Choose a colour from the palette to find images of that specific colour. If one of your keywords is a colour it will be removed.
Enhance your online image search

6. Adding an image from your OneDrive

To insert a OneDrive picture into a document.

1.  Single-left-click the INSERT tab.

2.  Single-left-click ONLINE PICTURES.

3.  Click the OneDrive button in the bottom-left corner of the dialog.

Add a picture from your OneDrive
Add an image from your OneDrive

4.  Locate and select your picture(s).

5.  Click the Insert button. The number in brackets after Insert indicates the number of selected images to be inserted.

Click the Insert button to use the image

7. Where to find free stock photos

There are lots of places to find good quality stock photos that are free. These sites provide the opportunity for photographers to share their work and receive exposure. It's win-win. Most of the time there are no limitations on use but check the small print. It's also courteous, but not obligatory, to credit the image owner, Check out these sites.

Find free stock images at Unsplash
Find free stock images at Pixabay
Find free stock images or create designs easily using Canva
Find free stock images at Pexels
Find free stock images at Skittaphoto
Find free stock images at Kaboompics

8. Where to buy premium stock photos

For a small cost you can purchase high quality, high resolution (good definition) stock images. There are many stock image sites around. Some charge for images individually. Others offer subscriptions.

Check out these sites:

Purchase premium stock images at Shutterstock
Purchase premium stock images at iStockPhoto
Purchase premium stock images at DepositPhotos
Purchase premium stock images at Fotolia

9. Resizing an image

To resize an image:

1.  Single-left-click the image to select it.

2.  There are 8 sizing handles, one on each corner and one halfway along each side. Hover the mouse pointer over anyone.

3.  Click-and-drag the sizing handle away from the image to make it bigger and towards the centre of the image to make it smaller.

The corner handles are best because as you resize the image stays in proportion rather than stretching or squishing.

Resize images using the corner handles


1.  Select the image to select it.

2.  On the Picture Tools ribbon, locate the Height and Width measurements of the right-hand side. Then, either type a measurement directly into the boxes or single-left-click the spinner arrows up or down to adjust the size.

The width and height will stay in proportion. As you change one, the other will change automatically.

Resize an image directly by entering the height and width on the toolbar

10. Using images: Key takeaways

  • Insert images into your spreadsheet via the Insert ribbon.
  • Images can be inserted from a computer drive, a cloud drive or an online source.
  • You can find free online images or purchase premium online pictures. 

I hope you found plenty of value in this post. I'd love to hear your biggest takeaway in the comments below together with any questions you may have.

Have a fantastic day.

Jason Morrell blog signature
About Jason Morrell

About the author

Jason Morrell

Jason Morrell is a professional trainer, consultant and course creator who lives on the glorious Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

He helps people of all levels unleash and leverage the power contained within Microsoft Office by delivering training, troubleshooting services and taking on client projects. He loves to simplify tricky concepts and provide helpful, proven, actionable advice that can be implemented for quick results.

Purely for amusement he sometimes talks about himself in the third person.


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