3 steps to create beautiful and engaging emails with Google Docs

May 10, 2021
3 steps to create beautiful and engaging emails with Google Docs
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

When your email really matters, there are certain things you want to get right. Formatting, phrasing, structure, content: all things that are hard to do in Gmail’s cramped compose window.

In this article I’ll show you how you can create emails in Google Docs that look better than anything you could have dreamed of making with Gmail. You’ll be able to add headers, content margins, and footers, all with the perfect alignment and style to engage your audience.

Leaving the Gmail compose window for Docs will also give you tools like comments and suggestions, so you can better collaborate with coworkers or review your work. Let’s get started 👏.

Learn how to build an email just like this in Google Docs

If you think you need a designer, HTML, CSS, or an expensive email marketing tool like Mailchimp to make a great email, you’re wrong. I’m going to show you how to create an email just like this, with nothing more than simple tables, alignment, and formatting.

Example email created in Google Docs
Learn to build this email in Google Docs

Things to keep in mind when creating emails with Google Docs

  • Beautiful doesn’t have to mean complicated. Adhere to simple design principles like proper alignment, white space, and color (all things we can do well in Google Docs).
  • Design in a way that is easy to achieve with tables by relying heavily on block layouts.
  • Maintain readability for all users by ensuring your content looks good on small screens. Advanced responsive design requires other tools.

Three steps to create your perfect email

Let’s go through the steps to creating your email. Build a header, create the body, and close with a footer.

For this process, it’s helpful to think of your email as a stack of tables, each fulfilling a key role in the email’s design. This email can look however you want it to but we’ll demonstrate using the following simple design.

An email outline, organized as a series of tables for the layout

Before you start, use page setup to optimize your document size and margin

It’s best to set the page margins to 0 and create a big canvas to work with. This isn’t a required step, but it will make it easier to create your email.

  1. Open the File menu and select ‘Page setup.’
  2. Set each margin to 0
  3. Set the paper size to Legal
The page setup screen in Google Docs with margins set to 0 and paper size set to legal

Step 1: Start your email with a header

We will use a table with one row and one column to serve as our email header. A couple of different design options will work well for this step. You could:

  • Use a solid block of color to frame the email.
  • Use some text combined with a small image (like your logo, for example).
  • Use a wide, well-cropped image (which is what we will demonstrate here).

If you don’t have a great selection of images to work with, try one of the many great resources online for free images like Unsplash.com.

An email being created in Google Docs with an image header
Here's how your email will look at the end of step 1

Follow these instructions to complete step 1:

  1. Add a table with one row and one column
  2. Right-click to open ‘Table properties’
  3. Set the Column width to 5 inches
  4. Set the table border to 0 pt
  5. Set the ‘Cell vertical alignment’ to ‘Middle’
  6. Set the ‘Table alignment’ to ‘Center’
  7. If using a text header, we recommend adding a Cell padding. Start with 0.15 but try different options to get the right look.
  8. Insert your image into the cell.
  9. If your image isn’t cropped correctly, or if it didn’t automatically resize, use ‘Image options’ to correct things.
The table properties screen of Google Docs showing the necessary settings

Sizing for different devices: As you progress, continue to test your content on both mobile and desktop to ensure it’s readable. An email designed for a desktop experience will not look the same on mobile. This demo uses a 5 inch width for it’s tables. For a primarily desktop audience, a 7 or even 8-inch width might be optimal. 5 inches is a middle ground that works well in both but your experience may vary depending on your content.

Step 2: Create your email body with content containers

The next step is to create centered content tables with white space on each side.

Two types of content work well with this design and they can be combined to fit your needs.

  1. A single column, which works best to display text.
  2. Two columns, which can be used to highlight important items one by one, each with an image. Column widths can vary, if you want each to be the same, or one slightly larger to fit different contents.
An email being created in Google Docs with an image header and body
Here's how your email will look at the end of step 2

Follow these instructions to complete step 2:

Single column table for text content

  1. Add a table with one row and one column
  2. Set the Column width to 4 inches
  3. For the remaining options, use the same table properties as before
  4. Optional: Set the cell padding to 0.15 for a more balanced look
  5. Add your text content

Multiple columns to display images alongside other content

  1. Add a table with two columns and a row for each pair of images and content. In our example, we are using 2 rows and 2 columns.
  2. Using table properties, set the first column width to 1.5 with cell padding of 0
  3. Set the second column width to 3.5 with cell padding of 0.15
  4. Add your images and text content.
  5. For images, using Image options, try resizing the images to get the right look. In this demo, our icons are set to 1’’ size. This will center them in the 1.5’’ column.
  6. For text, style appropriately with bolded headings and links.
  7. Remember to check the cell vertical alignment to ensure everything is set to middle.

Tip: During this step, it is helpful to leave the cell border on until you’ve finished. This makes it easier to ensure your column height and padding settings were done correctly.

A fully designed email created in Google Docs
Here's how your email will look at the end of step 3

Follow these instructions to complete step 3:

Start with a blocked footer

To visually block off the end of your email, a simple table with 1 cell and 1 column can be used with a solid color background. Alternatively, you can repeat the same steps from our header to include an image here.

Add necessary information to the end of your email

Continue to add any necessary text beneath the footer. To avoid distracting from your email, try small, centered text for details that go at the end of mailers like an unsubscribe link, your business address, and links to customer support.

Tip: Add icons to link out to your profile on other web properties or social media sites. Icons in all shapes, sizes, and colors can be found online at sites like Iconfinder.com.

Useful resources to improve your email content

Beautiful Free Images & Pictures | Unsplash
Beautiful, free images and photos that you can download and use for any project. Better than any royalty free or stock photos.
5,400,000+ free and premium vector icons - Iconfinder
Iconfinder is the world’s largest marketplace for vector and raster icons in SVG and PNG formats.
Photo editor online - graphic design Pixlr.com
Discover free and premium online photo editor and graphic design tools! Effects, filters, overlays, simple to expert tools.Open almost any image format like PSD (Photoshop), PXD, Jpeg, PNG (Transparent), webP, SVG and many more. You’ll find a Pixlr image editor just for you!

Other Styling Tips

Experiment with your fonts: Try different combinations of font size, typeface, and color- if you see something you like online or in another email, use the inspect element tool in your browser to learn what it is.

  • Plan for dark mode: A few simple tweaks to your email can ensure dark mode compatibility without too much work. Swap white images or icons for those with color or simply add an outer glow with a tool like Pixlr or Photoshop. If you haven’t heard of dark mode and the challenges that come along with it, you can read about it here.

Sending your email with Gmail

To send our email, we now need to simply copy and paste the contents of our Google Doc into Gmail. While this might feel “too easy,” in most circumstances, the email should transfer over exactly how you want it to.

If you run into issues with this step, try adjusting the width of your tables, padding, and content size to ensure nothing is cut off or misaligned.

Bonus: Edit your existing Word documents in Google Docs

Do you prefer drafting in Microsoft Word? Is your content already in Word? Try opening it with Google Docs before pasting into Gmail, which can greatly reduce formatting issues.

Follow these simple steps:

  1. Upload your document into Google drive and select ‘Open with Google Docs.’
A screenshot of the Google Drive interface opening a Word File
  1. Look for this .DOCX icon, which confirms you’re working with a Word file and not a Google Doc.
A .DOCX file open in Google Docs


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