What is a watermark? How can I add a watermark to my photos?

All About Watermarking Digital Photos

Watermark Copyright Protection
A photo with copyright protection watermark. © S. Chastain

Question: What is a watermark? How can I add a watermark to my photos?

Adding a visible watermark is a common way of identifying images and protecting them from unauthorized use online. Learn how to create an effective watermark and apply it to your digital photos or art work.

Answer: A watermark is a visible embedded overlay on a digital photo consisting of text, a logo, or a copyright notice. The purpose of a watermark is to identify the work and discourage its unauthorized use.

Though a visible watermark can't prevent unauthorized use, it makes it more difficult for those who may want to claim someone else's photo or art work as their own.

Another type of watermark is the digital watermark, pioneered by Digimarc Corporation. Digimarc offers a service for embedding digital code into photos and other media that is undetectable during normal use, but enables tracking and identification of the media.

But can't a visible watermark be removed?

Yes, a visible watermark can be removed with a lot of time and patience, but generally not easily and not without leaving tell-tale signs behind. The collective opinion is that the kind of people that would steal images to claim as their own are acting out of laziness and would be unlikely to bother with trying to remove a well-placed watermark. Many of the people who take images are simply clueless about copyrights and they think anything on the Internet is free for the taking.

More Info: How Can I Remove a Watermark from a Picture?

Tips for Effective Watermarking

If you are going to use a watermark, care should be taken to ensure that the watermark is effective, not only for proving that an image was modified, but also for educating the would-be pirates about copyright and ownership.

Ideally, the watermark should be a copyright symbol along with the name of the owner, and the URL of the owner's web site, if applicable. This not only conveys the message of copyright, but it gives others an opportunity to contact the original owner of the image.

Watermark placement can be a bit of a balancing act. The watermark should be placed carefully so as not to detract from the image too much, but you also don't want to place the watermark in a area of solid color or a textured area where removal would be easy to conceal. The example on this page was designed to show an extreme example of watermarking and would be is far too distracting for a portfolio photograph. In practice, the watermark should make up a smaller percentage of the overall image area compared to this example.

How to Watermark Your Photos

So now that we've discussed what a watermark is and how to make them effective, you may be wondering how to put a watermark in your images. There are many methods for watermarking photos individually or in batch mode for multiple images. Many image processing and Web gallery generating applications will have the watermarking capabilities built into them and there are also specialized tools designed for watermarking many images at once.

Alternative to Watermarking

if you can't be bothered creating a watermark and adding it to your photos, they can stilll be protected by using a Creative Commons license. You need to carefully consider which license best fits your needs. To get a sense of how a Creative Commons licence can be used, check out Flickr's page on Creative Commons usage on their site.

Tutorials for Adding a Watermark:
How To Add a Text Watermark to a Photo in Photoshop
Add a Text Watermark to a Photo in Photoshop Elements
Watermark Photos with Photoshop Elements (Any Version)
How To Add a Watermark to a Photo in Paint Shop Pro
Creating and Using a Watermark in Paint Shop Pro Photo
Add a Text Watermark to a Photo in PhotoPAINT
Add a Text Watermark to a Photo in PhotoImpact
Add a Text Watermark in GIMP
Add a Graphic Watermark in GIMP
Add a Text Watermark in Paint.NET
Add a Graphic Watermark in Paint.NET
Add a Watermark in Inkscape

Software for Batch Watermarking:
Batch Watermarking Software
Batch Processing and Conversion Software
Web Photo Gallery Software

From the forum: " Watermarks, in my honest opinion, should not be placed so as to destroy the artistic integrity of a picture. The raccoons sample was somewhat spoiled by that whacking big SAMPLE watermark, when I think that a simple text URL and copyright notice across the bottom would have done just as well." - Posted by Daniel

Questions? Comments? Post to the Forum!

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Your Citation
Chastain, Sue. "What is a watermark? How can I add a watermark to my photos?" ThoughtCo, Jan. 17, 2018, thoughtco.com/what-is-a-watermark-1701744. Chastain, Sue. (2018, January 17). What is a watermark? How can I add a watermark to my photos? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-watermark-1701744 Chastain, Sue. "What is a watermark? How can I add a watermark to my photos?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-watermark-1701744 (accessed February 24, 2018).