How to have a Word and PDF Document show off-white, ivory or light gray background on screen but automatically print on paper as white?

Motivation behind it: On screen its better and easier to read with lesser contrast with an ivory, off-white, light gray background, but have a normal print of the same on plain paper - whatever it may be.

I'd like to have this happen after the document is sent out to others and they may not play with the options but mostly see on screen and print sometimes.

I am trying to play with this and see..

  • If there was some way to do it
  • If Word/ Acrobat and printers would do some of it by default if the variation from white is not large
  • If there was some way to trick/ hack the document to make it happen.

It is quite possible that there is no real way to do this and I might have to just go with a very small variation from white to be suitable for both - screen and print.

I am just curious if an anyone has any thoughts, suggestions, ideas, experiences or hacks?

PS: I know that this can be done easily with HTML and CSS documents. I am wondering if there was some way or "work around" for DOC/ PDFs to do this.

I saw this thread also and I figure there is some other way out as the documents will be sent out and I'd like for the Screen vs Printing to be seaml - ??


To achieve this you need to change the Page Color option, available in the Page Layout tab on the Ribbon:

Page with different-coloured background.

As you can see, in my example I have chosen to use orange for demonstration purposes only.

By default, this will print normally - i.e. with no background colour; you can double-check that this is the case by viewing your MS Word Options (Office Button (MS Word 2007) or File tab (MS Word 2010)) and selecting Word Options then navigating to Display and ensuring that there is no check mark against Print background colors and images.

Print background colors and images screen.

However, if you wish to print images, then my advice would be to complete the document first, then uncheck this option, print your document, and then reapply the check mark / tick to this option to restore the functionality that you desire.

Furthermore, as few people rarely modify this particular option, then the default behaviour of MS Word will achieve the desired behaviour of this document without the user having to do anything more to it. However, as above, you should mention this option (or even refer to this answer) if anybody wishes to print the document.

  • SnookerFan - Thanks for the insight. I just tested it and by default Word does not print the background, so that should be good even on someone else who receives the document. Any thoughts on how the same could be done for a PDF? Thoughts / ideas? – Alex S Oct 24 '13 at 9:43
  • @AlexS You're welcome. My first thought (for PDFs) would be to add a non-printable background layer - basically, insert a layer, send it to the back and then set it not to print (I am suggesting this option on the assumption that you are the original author, of course). In Acrobat you can use the Background tool to achieve this. – SnookerFan Oct 24 '13 at 9:53

It can be done in Acrobat. In "Tools," then under "Pages," select "Background," then "Add Background." For "Source," you can select "From Color." There are other options to apply the color to all pages of the document.

Add background windowBe careful with graphics in the document. Some composition system add a white box under images (which is good for image display). We have a page stamping application that adds a white box under the bar code. This is not a big deal in black on white pages, but the white box will appear if the page has a color.

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