Watermarks are one of the best ways for artists and photographers to protect their work against unauthorized use. Creating your own watermark is easy, but you need to make sure it’s done right!
When creating a watermark, it must be on-brand with the business, present a professional look, and be properly placed. There are multiple programs and resources to use while creating a watermark, and the best choice depends on individual needs and preferences.
Below, we’ll highlight some of the best tools and resources for creating your own watermark, as well as some arguments to consider when deciding if you need one.
What Is the Purpose of a Watermark?
The primary purpose of a watermark is to prevent either counterfeiting or copyright infringement. It will typically take the form of a superimposed:
While most people are familiar with watermarks as they’re used by photographers and artists, certain government documents also feature watermarks in order to reduce the chances of counterfeit documents. Some government-issued documents that feature watermarks include:
- Driver’s Licenses and other forms of identification
- Official stationery from an elected official
In addition to preventing copyright infringement and counterfeit documents, watermarks may also be used as a way for artists to create brand recognition.
When a watermark contains the name of a business or contact information, such as a website, it’s easy for people who like their work to view more or contact them.
Who Should Use a Watermark?
Anyone who will be posting their copyrighted work online should use a watermark to prevent theft and unauthorized use or duplication. This might include:
- Artists (especially digital artists)
- Authors and writers
When in doubt, use a watermark on any work you’ll be posting online to protect yourself against unauthorized use!
What a Good Watermark Looks Like
It’s not enough for your images to just have a watermark – it has to be a good watermark! The right kind of watermark to use depends on how you do business and what’s recognizable for your brand. It should be:
- Easy to read
- Relatively simple
- On-brand with your business’s message
How to Know Which Type of Watermark to Use
What you incorporate into your watermark depends on your business needs and how well-recognized your brand is. Here’s when each type of watermark is appropriate:
- Use a logo if your brand already has an established, recognizable logo.
- Use your business’s or your own name if it’s well-known in your community. Make sure to keep the font and style consistent with other branding materials.
- Use your website’s URL if you do most or all of your business online. This is also a great way to increase traffic to your site!
The best watermarks tend to have some degree of transparency, as professional watermarks aren’t typically 100% opaque. This is usually done to minimize the distraction, as well as to make them more discreet and difficult to find to prevent removal.
How to Create a Watermark
Creating a watermark for your brand is simple. You can use pretty much any free or paid drawing program to create your watermark, including:
You might also want to use an online graphic design program if that’s easier for you. Here are some of our favorites:
Here are the pros and cons of using each program to create your brand’s watermark.
If you have a Windows computer, Microsoft Paint is probably the easiest program to create a watermark.
Microsoft Paint comes standard on all Windows computers and is relatively easy to use, plus it includes all the tools you could ever need to create a basic logo or stamp.
It is, however, a pretty basic program that won’t let you get as creative as you can with other programs. If you value simplicity, Paint is a good option. If you want to really go wild with your design, however, look elsewhere.
Logo Maker for Mac
Logo Maker is an Apple application, available to download for free in the App Store, that is specifically designed for creating logos. While it does offer a few free templates, users have the option to upgrade to Logo Maker Pro to gain access to over 3,000 different templates for:
- Business cards
Along with the templates, subscribing to Pro will give you these additional benefits:
- Save custom shapes
- Sync your logos to your iCloud
- Save in high-resolution
- Make your logos more aesthetically pleasing with over 200 overlays and over 100 backgrounds
- Access to over 5,000 different logo icons made by professional designers
If you don’t mind spending a few dollars, this is an excellent choice for Mac users. Even if you opt for the free version, you’ll probably be able to create a pretty nice-looking watermark with this program!
GIMP, which stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program,” is a free option that’s compatible with both Windows and Mac computers. It offers a similar range of tools like Photoshop, making it a very high-quality free choice.
The downside here is that it is a bit more difficult to navigate than other options, but there are a good number of tutorials online that show you how to take full advantage of its features.
Placeit is a free and paid online design tool. They only require internet access, and no need to download any software. Placeit is known for their large library of templates, ranging from logos all the way to video templates.
You’ll be able to browse different categories of templates and find one that matches what you’re looking for. Then you can customize the colors, fonts, and every design features of the template, and instantly download it to your computer or smartphone.
Placeit is our favorite tool on this list because of it’s ease of use.
Canva offers you the choice to “Design Anything” and offers a variety of templates for each! It has a very user-friendly interface and step-by-step pop-up instructions for creating your logo.
You can instantly download your logo as soon as you’re done, and you even have the option to do so with a transparent background perfect for watermarking. You can sign up for a free account to create and save more than one logo for 100% free.
Brandmark is a paid service that automatically creates logos for you based on your preferences. The process is very quick and simple, and you can choose between a few different automatically generated options. Here’s what happens:
- When you first visit the website, click “Create my logo.”
- This brings you to a new page where you can enter your business’s name and slogan if you have one.
- On the next page, you can enter all the keywords that describe your brand. For instance, if you’re a photographer, you could type in “photography,” “camera,” or “nature.”
- You can even choose a color palette or color scheme you’d like to include in your logo’s design!
- Finally, it’ll generate logos for you to scroll through, save for later or purchase.
- If you’d like, you can even edit the pre-made options to fit them perfectly to your style.
The logos created by Brandmark aren’t free, but they’re pretty reasonably priced and look very professional.
Adobe Illustrator is a professional-grade program that offers a ton of options for creating a stamp or logo to use as your watermark. It’s also vector-based, meaning your image will never lose its quality from scaling the size up or down.
Adobe Illustrator is another paid option, available as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite. When you subscribe to Creative Cloud, you’ll gain access to Illustrator, as well as several other Adobe programs:
- Premiere Pro
- Acrobat DC
If you’re a photographer who already subscribes to Creative Cloud to use Photoshop, Adobe’s image editing program, you likely already have access to Illustrator! One of the benefits of Creative Cloud is that it offers a one-week free trial to let you decide how you like it before you subscribe.
If you’re creatively challenged when it comes to logo design, you might even want to try hiring a graphic designer to design a watermark for you!
Hire a Graphic Designer to Create Your Watermark
While it may seem gratuitous to hire someone to create your brand’s watermark, having a graphic designer on-hand can be beneficial in the long run. This is especially true if you don’t have a great handle on digital art or will have future graphic design needs.
If you want to hire a designer, the first thing you’ll need to decide is whether you’d like to bring one on as part of your permanent team or hire a freelancer to do the work. There are pros and cons to each approach, as noted here:
If your brand is big enough and already includes a team of employees, or if you’ll have a recurring need for a graphic designer, it might make the most sense to hire a permanent employee and make their first task to design your watermark.
On the plus side, this will mean you have someone who is always available when you need them and is very familiar with your brand. This will allow them to design the best possible graphics for your business.
However, it will also mean another employee to pay, even when you don’t have any graphic design needs. Because of this, hiring a permanent in-house graphic designer isn’t usually the best option for those just starting out or businesses that don’t have a constant stream of graphic design needs.
Hiring a Freelancer
If hiring an in-house digital artist or graphic designer doesn’t make sense for your business, or if you’d like your watermark design to be a one-off project, hiring a freelancer is probably the better option.
This is a more flexible option, as freelancers are typically paid from project-to-project and don’t require a traditional salary.
On the downside, you’ll have to spend time explaining your brand identity to them, and if you ever need to hire them for another project, there’s no guarantee they’ll be available to do the work in the timeframe you need it done in! Finding the best-quality freelancers can also take a great deal of time and effort, as you need to know:
- What they can do
- Where to look
- What to look for
- What to avoid
What to Expect from a Graphic Designer
The first thing to remember is that a graphic designer is there to create graphics for your business. You shouldn’t expect them to come up with an entire creative identity for your brand, and they’ll need a good amount of guidance to achieve the goals you set. You tell them your vision, and they’ll bring it to life. Some of the guidance they’ll need includes:
- What you need to be designed
- The color palette/fonts you’d like used
- The feel you’re going for
- Information on your target audience and established brand identity
Where to Find Freelance Designers
There are a few places you can look to find freelance designers available for hire. These include:
- Freelancing websites
- Local guides
- Artist portfolio websites
Some of the best freelancing websites to find graphic designers on are:
99designs is a hiring platform specifically meant for artists and designers. You can browse through the portfolios of various artists or create a “design contest” where designers compete to “win” your project!
With a design contest, you’ll browse through different designs submitted by artists and choose which you like the best. Then, you can work with the chosen winner to design your brand’s logo to use as a watermark.
Websites like Fiverr and Upwork, on the other hand, offer freelancers with a variety of specialties. It may be harder to find graphic designers on platforms like these, but they’re out there if you look hard enough!
These websites usually offer payment protection as well, meaning payment will be required upfront. However, the money you put in will be held by the website until you personally approve the project. Then, it’ll be released to the seller. This is a huge advantage of using freelancing websites, as it protects both parties from fraud.
Finding a freelancer through local guides or the recommendations of fellow business owners is probably the hardest way to hire a freelancer, but you might prefer to work with someone who already has a reputation in your community. Some ways to find a local designer include:
- Taking out an ad on a local website or in the local paper
- Asking for recommendations at your local Chamber of Commerce
- Browsing through websites like Yelp
- Asking others in the community if they’ve worked with local designers in the past
Art Portfolio Websites
There are a ton of websites out there that allow you to browse through different artists’ portfolios. If you’re able to find a graphic designer that you identify with on these sites, you can contact them to see if they’d be willing to create a watermark for your brand!
Some of the best websites for browsing art portfolios include:
Using these types of websites is different from the traditional options because they’re not hiring platforms and require you to reach out to artists yourself. As such, they also don’t offer the payment protection that other websites do. However, this may be your best option at finding the perfect graphic designer for your brand.
How to Choose the Right Designer for Your Watermark
The first step in choosing the right designer is always to view their portfolio and relevant samples. This gives you insight into their typical style, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
You might also want to look into what kind of companies they’ve worked with before. For example, if you typically do nature photography, it might be best to work with someone with experience in the field. They’ll usually understand more of what exactly you’re looking for.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when hiring graphic designers is cutting corners in terms of payment.
The last thing you want is a subpar, unprofessional looking watermark on your photos, as this will reflect negatively on your business. It’s always better to pay more for a better design.
Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Designer
As with everything, there are some definite red flags to avoid when choosing a graphic designer to create your watermark. These include:
- Large gaps in communication
- No availability of references or samples
- Requests for the entire payment upfront
While it is typical for a designer to request partial payment upfront as a deposit, you shouldn’t send the entire amount before approving the final product. This keeps your investment safe.
When working with a freelancer, always make sure you have a contract in place to avoid miscommunications and other problems down the line.
Some freelancing websites, including 99designs and Upwork, have a contract built-in as part of the hiring process. If no contract is drawn up by the platform, however, you’ll have to create one yourself. Make sure to include the following information in your contract:
- A timeline for the project
- All relevant deadlines
- Pricing terms and payment structure
- Copyright information
- Any confidentiality agreements you need
- How many revisions are included in the agreed-upon price
Adding Your Watermark to Your Work
Now that you or the graphic designer you’re working with has created your watermark, it’s time to actually add it to your photos, text, or artwork! Here, we’ll cover doing so in two different programs: Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.
How to Add a Watermark in Photoshop
Photoshop is one of the most popular editing applications for photographers. It’s relatively easy to add a watermark to your photos using it but does require quite a few steps before you’re able to do so. Here’s how to get started:
- Start by creating a custom brush of your watermark. To do this, you’ll first create a new document with a white background.
- If you need to scale your image, try to stick to scaling down rather than scaling up. Although some programs won’t cause images to lose quality as they’re scaled up, most will.
- Import the logo or stamp you’ll be using as your watermark onto the new document. If you’re just using a text watermark, simply type out the text you’d like for your watermark! Then, go to Edit > Define Brush Preset and name your custom brush.
- Now, the document will function just the same as any other brush! You can change the color, size, and opacity.
Use this custom brush to place your watermark wherever you’d like on your image. Make sure your placement is consistent across all of your work for a more professional feel.
How to Add a Watermark in Lightroom
Lightroom is another popular option for photographers and artists to edit and organize their work. It allows you to add a watermark to multiple images at once, so it’s typically a better option for photographers who edit in large batches. With Lightroom, you’ll need to create watermark “presets,” which can be either text or a graphic added to a:
- .JPG file
- .PSD file
- .TIFF file
Step-by-Step for Adding a Text Watermark
Here’s how to create and add a text watermark to your images:
- Once you’re done editing a photo or batch of photos, click “Export.” Then, click the “Watermark” checkbox near the bottom of the Export window.
- From the menu, choose “Edit Watermarks.” This will open a new window.
- In this new window, you’ll see a text box in the lower-left corner. Just enter the text you’d like to use as a watermark and choose the:
- Text color
- Then, click “Save” and name the preset. In the future, this preset will be added to the options in the “Watermark” drop-down menu.
Step-by-Step for Adding a Graphic Stamp or Logo
The process for adding a graphic stamp or logo watermark in Lightroom is similar. Here’s how to do it:
- You’ll still open the “Export” window and select “Edit Watermarks” from the drop-down menu. This time, however, you’ll select “Graphic” in the top right corner of the Editing menu.
- Locate the logo or stamp on your computer, and cycle through the options to customize the watermark’s:
- Once you’ve finished, click “Save” and name your preset! Again, it’ll now be available as an option in the drop-down menu.
Unlike Photoshop, Lightroom doesn’t let you choose the exact location on the image where your watermark will be placed. However, it is a better option if you need to export multiple images with watermarks at once. The placement, size, and opacity will be the same on each.
Pros and Cons of Watermarking Your Images
There are lots of arguments for using watermarks, but there are also quite a few against using them! Whether you’d like to use a watermark on your images or not is 100% up to you, but it helps to understand the advantages and disadvantages before making a final decision.
The Case for Using Watermarks
As previously noted, the main purpose of watermarking is to protect your work from unauthorized duplication and copyright infringement. Many times, photographers will send “proof” images to clients before accepting payment for prints, so they can decide which and how many prints they’d like to purchase. Here’s why a watermark helps:
- Prevent unauthorized or unpaid use of your work. Using a watermark on proof images prevents clients from declining to buy prints from you and keeping the proof images to print themselves without paying.
- Branding. A watermark can also be used as an excellent branding strategy. If people see your watermarked images online and like them, the addition of your personal or brand name makes it easy for them to contact you for prints or licensing.
- Legal protection. Watermarking can also offer you legal protection. If someone removes your watermark and unlawfully duplicates or uses your image, you potentially have a case for copyright infringement! With the proper litigation, you might even be awarded compensation from the guilty party.
The Case Against Watermarking
The main argument you’ll hear against watermarking is that if people want to steal your photos, they’ll do it whether it’s watermarked or not. There are many programs and websites that offer to remove watermarks from images, and unless it’s very large and obvious, they’ll usually succeed!
The solution to the above problem would be to use a larger watermark, but many people argue that this creates an eyesore and detracts from the image’s value.
People might find large, intrusive watermarks too distracting, which may take away from their incentive to look further into your work.
Typically, it’ll be individual people, not companies, who use your images without your authorization. This is incredibly common on websites like Tumblr and Pinterest, but anti-watermarking advocates argue that people usually link to your work on these websites anyway. You’ll usually still get credit for your work without ruining your photo’s appeal.
The Bottom Line
Using a watermark is one of the best ways to prevent any problems with the unauthorized use of your images online. If you do use a watermark, make sure it is:
- Properly branded
- Professional looking
- Placed in a way that’s not too easy to remove but also not too distracting
The decision of whether or not to use a watermark is up to you and what you’re most comfortable doing.