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Adding Images in Scrivener 3

Scrivener was conceived as drafting software—and that’s still where it truly excels—but along the way it’s become a one-stop shop for writing and publishing a book. That includes the ability to add images to your project.

Whether for scene breaks, chapter headings, illustrative figures within a section, book covers, or just a reference to a character or setting’s appearance, here’s a rundown of how to work with images in Scrivener 3.

Also—spoiler alert—my ultimate goal is to convert you to a user of image placeholder tags, but read on for all of your options.

Getting Images into a Project File

In most cases, it’ll be easier to work with an image if you import it to your project first. There are exceptions, which I’ll mention where appropriate.

You also might want to store an image file in your project even if you never plan to insert it into your manuscript. For example, character or location images. And an ebook cover image must be stored in the project in order to include it when you compile.

The supported file types are JPG/JPEG, PNG, and PDF.

NOTE: Importing an image makes a copy of it, so there is no link between the original and the one in your project. Later I’ll discuss how to use linked images.

Here are your options for importing an image:

Tech Tuesday: Inserting Images in Scrivener

[Using Scrivener 3? Check out the updated Images post.]

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about using images in Scrivener lately, especially from those interested in producing e-books. There are several ways to handle images in Scrivener, and I’ll provide a run down of the basics here. Note that this applies to inserting an image into the text, not importing images into the Scrivener project as files.

These options work in both Mac and Windows.

  • Copy the image from somewhere and paste it into the text.
  • Go to Edit—>Insert—>Image From File…
  • Import the image into the Binder (anywhere outside the Manuscript/Draft folder) and drag it into the desired document.
  • Go to Edit—>Insert—>Image Linked to File…

The last option is closest to using an image tag with an external file (UPDATE: was Mac only, but works in Scrivener 3 for Windows) because it doesn't insert the actual image into your project (thus keeping your project file size down). Instead, it shows a placeholder image (a cached version of the original) that is linked to the image file. When you compile, the linked file will be inserted into the compiled output. This is handy if you don't yet have print quality versions of artwork, but want to include a placeholder in your text. Just save the print-ready image to the same name/location as the original linked file and Scrivener will use your quality images.

Images in Scrivener are added inline, so they’re treated like a character as far as word-wrapping goes. Which means that text does not wrap around the image. To resize an image, right-click and choose Edit Image (Windows) or Scale Image (Mac).

NOTE: To avoid image display problems when compiling to EPUB or MOBI, make sure your image name doesn't contain special characters (e.g. # + @ * !).

Working with Image Tags (was Mac only, but works in Scrivener 3 for Windows)

Inserting an Image into the Text

If you have quite a few images you want to use within your manuscript, there’s no need to insert them into the text directly. Instead, you can use the IMG tag to refer to the desired image in the Binder or on a drive you have access to.

Also, because image tags are text based, they give you additional capabilities: the flexibility to insert images into places where they can't normally go, and the ability to search for images by image name or the image tag.

Here's how to insert an image with an image tag.

1. Import the desired image into your project (or see NOTE below for using external image files).

An easy way to import is to right-click (or control+click) the folder where you want to store the image (must be outside of the Manuscript/Draft folder) and choose Add—>Existing Files. Then choose the desired image file.

2. Select the desired document, and click within the editor in the exact location where you’d like to insert the image.

3. Type <$img:ImageName> (where ImageName is the name of the image as it appears in the Binder).

TIP: To designate the size of the image, you can enter either its height or width and the image will adjust the other measurement accordingly. You can also enter both dimensions, if desired. Do so in the following manner:

<$img:ImageName;w=100> to assign a width of 100 pixels

<$img:ImageName;h=80> to assign a height of 80 pixels

<$img:ImageName;w=100;h=80> to assign both measurements


4. I suggest adding a blank line above and below the image for spacing.

The image will appear in the text with the same indents and format as the text. To give it different formatting, such as centering or full left alignment, adjust the format, select the image, then go to Format—>Formatting—>Preserve Formatting. The image will have a blue tint and a dashed line around it. This will prevent the standard compile settings from being applied to the image.


NOTE: If you have a lot of images to include and don't want to bloat your project, you can also use the image tag to reference files that are not imported to your project. You just need to know the file path. For example, the following IMG tag points to a file on my hard drive and resizes it to 100 pixels in height. If you center it and preserve the formatting, the picture will be centered. Just make sure not to move the original image without modifying the file path in the IMG tag.

<$img:/Users/Evergreen/Pictures/BernSuisse1980.jpg; h=100>

For a good primer on how to copy a file's path on a Mac, check out:

Using an Image at the Start of Each Chapter

You can set up Compile to insert an image either before or after the title of each chapter. Below are the steps for inserting it below the chapter auto-number.

1. Import the image as outlined in Step 1 of the previous section.

2. Open the Compile window (File—>Compile), and make sure that the All Options button is selected at the top.

3. Select the Formatting tab on the left.

4. Select the folder Level 1+ row at the top of the table (this assumes a standard set up of chapter folders and text documents for scenes).

5. If you plan to use chapter auto-numbering instead of folder titles, be sure to deselect the Title checkbox.

Find more on this in the post on Compiling.

6. Click the Section Layout button at the top of the small Editor pane.

7. The Prefix text box is where the auto-numbering placeholder goes, as shown in the example. In the Suffix text box, type: <$img:ImageName>. (If you want more space after the image, you may insert one or more Return characters).

If desired, add a height or width dimension, as mentioned in Step 3 of the previous section.


8. Click OK. Then, when all other settings are as desired, click Compile.

To have the image appear before the title or auto-number, put the image tag in the Prefix text box, and the auto-number tag (if using) into the Suffix text box.


Using an Image as a Scene Separator

If you’d like an image to appear between each scene, you can add an image tag as a Custom separator in the Compile window.

1. Import the image as outlined in Step 1 of the Inserting an Image into the Text section above.

2. Open the Compile window (File—>Compile), and make sure that the All Options button is selected at the top.

3. Select the Separators tab on the left.

4. In the Text Separator drop-down menu, choose Custom.

5. In the Text Separator text box, type: <$img:ImageName>. Unless your image is already small, I suggest adding a height or width adjustment as outlined in Step 3 of the Inserting an Image into the Text section above.


6. When all other settings are as desired, click Compile.


Using an Image as an End-of-Text Marker

Want to mark the end of your manuscript with a special image? The process is similar to those outlined above. NOTE: This only works with Print, PDF, and text-type output, not e-books.

1. Import the image as outlined in Step 1 of the Inserting an Image into the Text section above.

2. Open the Compile window (File—>Compile), and make sure that the All Options button is selected at the top.

3. Select the Layout tab at the left.

4. Select Mark End of Text With checkbox.

5. In the Mark End of Text With text box, type <$img:ImageName>.


6. When all other settings are as desired, click Compile.


I’ve been asked about inserting images into headers and footers, but headers and footers in Scrivener do not support the IMG tag at this time.

Good luck!

Need more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session. If you don't already have it, you can download Scrivener here.

{Updated 13 April 2023}