How to add a watermark

This is not WordPress, it’s Photoshop.

Why bother?

In business, many documents come with a watermark. often, this is to make sure that the reader knows its status: Word (etc.) lets you have the message (DRAFT, or CONFIDENTIAL, etc.) in large pale type, often diagonally across the whole page. The same applies to some images: a picture of a banknote will have SPECIMEN to obscure details.

However, the main reason to watermark artwork such as photographs and drawings is to protect the creator’s intellectual property. This is usually a copyright statement: some cameras can fix it onto the image at the time it is captured, usually placing it at the bottom of the image. This is all very well, but it is easy for someone to download the image and crop out the copyright statement to claim the remainder as their own. For a linescape, we need to be more subtle.

We want people to be able to see the image online without distraction, but to ensure that any download has the copyright statement, so that there is no excuse about not knowing it was your intellectual property.

Adding the watermark in Photoshop

First, open your image in Photoshop. let’s for the sake of argument assume that the image is called bankbarn.jpg — we shall be tacking on bits to the filename as we go, so short names are best. Immediately, Save as bankbarn_w.jpg. This makes sure our original image is preserved.

Now, look at the Photoshop screen.

  1. Click on T for Text.
  2. Set the text size.
    If the picture fills the width of the space at 100%, use around 20pt (I have taken 18pt here). If it fills half the width at 100%, use half the size and round up a little if necessary (10pt to 12pt). If it’s two-thirds the width at 100%, go for two-thirds size (14pt or so). Similarly, if it is wider than the screen, trade up by zooming out until it fits in the width, and use the zoom factor: at 50%, you’ll want double size, rounding down where necessary (36pt at 50%, etc.).
  3. Choose black and white for foreground/background colours for the moment. That’s the tiny double-square above and to the left of the main double-square icon.
  4. Check again (1.) that you are about to enter text.

Now, choose an area of the image where you can see what you are typing. Click in that area and type in your copyright statement — the © symbol is produced by Alt-0169.

Now, select the arrow icon at the top of the left-hand column of icons. Drag the text (find the cross icon by holding the mouse-click at the bottom of the text) into a place which is an integral part of the image, but where it is not obtrusive.

Choose the T icon to return to text, and click at one end of the text (you need the vertical line cursor, not the cross). Drag the mouse to highlight all of the text

Now go to the foreground colour — the top (black) one of the main double-square icon. Type the colour #808080 into the field at the bottom of the box, just to the right of the colour palette, and press Enter. The copyright statement is now in grey.

Select the arrow again (really to deselect the T) and look at the entire image. Unless you have full focus on the watermark, it will hardly be noticed. Sometimes, though, you will want the grey to be slightly darker or lighter: if so, go back to choosing the foreground colour (#666666 for darker, #999999 for lighter) and look again at the finished image.

When you are satisfied, save the image. If you are still unsure, save the image first as a Photoshop file (bankbarn_w.psd) before resaving as a normal jpg file. The psd file allows you to carry on where you left off, moving the watermark or changing its grey shade: the jpg file has fused the watermark into the image. A psd file is huge, so only keep it until you are satisfied with the jpg equivalent. At worst, you will just need to re-create the watermark from scratch.

The key thing is that you have your original bankbarn.jpg intact, and you have a watermarked version (bankbarn_w.jpg) to use on your site, safe in the knowledge that nobody can download your original and pass it off as their own. In some cases, you may need a different watermark: create it from scratch and call the file bankbarn_w2.jpg (it may be an “Out of stock” alert, in which case the watermark should be larger and darker.