Working with SmartArt in Microsoft Word

How to create SmartArt in Microsoft Word

Get to grips with SmartArt in Microsoft Word, with our step-by-step guide to adding graphics to Microsoft Word with SmartArt.

Add professional-looking graphics to Microsoft Word documents, such as illustrations, charts and diagrams using Microsoft’s SmartArt graphics. SmartArt graphics are images such as diagrams that can be added to Word documents and easily changed. SmartArt graphics can save time, as they automatically update as you select colour and style options without the need for you to redraw them each time.

Here’s how to create professional-looking graphics in Microsoft Word:

Insert a SmartArt graphic

Open a Word document, the place and click the mouse cursor here you want the graphic to appear in the document. Next, click the Insert tab on the Ribbon and then click SmartArt in the ‘Illustration’ group.

The SmartArt Graphic gallery will appear, and it has three panes for creating SmartArt graphics.

Choose a SmartArt graphic

In the left-hand SmartArt pane are different graphic types such as Process, Hierarchy, Cycle or Relationship. Each type, when chosen, shows a number of different layout options available in the middle pane.

The style that you choose largely depends on the type of information you want the SmartArt graphic to convey.

Process shows steps in a process such as a timeline, while Pyramid shows proportional relationships such as food pyramids, and Hierarchy is useful for diagrams such as organisational charts. Try different types of SmartArt to find the best one for your information, as it’s quick to switch between them.

Select a category from the left pane such as Hierarchy (used in this example).  Next, click a layout in the centre pane to see a more detailed view appear in the right pane. When you’ve chosen a SmartArt graphic, click OK, and the SmartArt graphic will appear in the Word document.

Add text to a SmartArt graphic

You can add text to your SmartArt graphic by clicking on a shape with your and typing the text.

Add text to a SmartArt graphic

You might just find it simpler, however, to use the SmartArt Text pane. Click the SmartArt graphic to select it, and a border will appear around the graphic with directional arrows on the left side.


Next, click the arrows and the SmartArt Text pane appears. Here, you can type the text next to each bullet and the text will appear in the graphic, resizing automatically to fit inside the existing SmartArt shape. As you add or update text, your SmartArt graphic is updated automatically.

Move SmartArt shapes

Rearranging SmartArt shapes on the same level is easy. Chose the SmartArt graphic, and then select the shape that you want to move. Click on the Design tab with you cursor, and then click Move Up or Move Down in the ‘Create Graphic’ group. The selected shape will move to a new location on the same level, along with any shapes that are nested below.



You can promote or demote a shape so that you can move one shape above or below another in a hierarchical chart. Select the shape that you want to move. Click the Design tab, and then click Promote in the ‘Create Graphic’ group to move the shape to a higher level. To move it to a lower level, click Demote.

Add or delete SmartArt shapes

You can add or remove shapes from any SmartArt graphic, using either the Text pane or by using the Ribbon menu as shown here.

Step 1  Select the SmartArt graphic, and click an adjacent shape to where you want the new shape to appear.

Step 2  On the Design tab, click the arrow next to Add Shape in the ‘Create Graphic’ group. A drop-down menu appears.

Step 3  Select Add Shape Before or Add Shape After.


Step 4  If you want to add a superior shape or a subordinate shape, select either the Add Shape Above or Add Shape Below options. The new shape will appear.

Step 5  To delete a shape, click it, and then press the Delete key on your keyboard. To delete the entire SmartArt graphic, click the border of the graphic and then press Delete.

Customizing SmartArt graphics

Once you’ve started working with SmartArt graphics and shapes, you can take control of a SmartArt graphic’s layout, style or colours by using the Design and Format tabs that automatically appear on the right side of the Ribbon when you select the graphic. Here you can make changes that can be applied to the entire graphic or to individual shapes including: 

Colour - Click the graphic or shape and on the Design tab, click Change Colors. From the drop-down menu, move your cursor over a style to see a live preview. Click a colour to apply it.


Style - Select the graphic or shape and on the Design tab in the ‘SmartArt Styles’ group, click the More drop-down arrow to view all available styles. Move your cursor over a style to see a live preview. Click a style to apply it.

Effects - Select the graphic or shape and click the Format tab. Click the down arrow next to Shape Effects. Select an efforts category such as 3-D rotation from the drop down menu and then select an effect from the sub menu.


Layout - Changes the entire layout of the SmartArt graphic. Select the SmartArt graphic, then click the Design tab on the Ribbon. In the ‘Layouts’ group, click the More drop-down arrow. Choose a layout or click More Layouts… to see even more SmartArt options. The selected layout will appear.


Be careful with Layout. If the new SmartArt layout is very different, some of your text may not be visible in the new graphic.

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