Batch Watermarking in Photoshop using Actions and the Image Processor

by Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen on May 27, 2011

You’ve created the perfect watermark. Now, how do you use Photoshop to apply your watermark to a folder-full of images? A few of Photoshop’s lesser-known tools – and a little advance planning – make it automatic.

Batch watermarking with actions and Photoshop CS5's Image Processor - watermarked image

Watermarked Image

Watermarks help to reduce unauthorized use of your online photos. By adding a visible copyright notice or logo to your photos, you make your photos less attractive to image thieves. I always watermark my web images and I suggest that you do too.

Basic Batch Watermarking

There are three basic steps to watermarking batches of images in Photoshop:

  1. Create the watermark graphic file. I’ve explained how to do this in my previous article, “Create Visible Watermarks in Photoshop CS5.”
  2. Photoshop CS5 Batch Watermarks with the Image Processor - image size considerations

    Image Sizes

  3. Re-size your images. When applying a single watermark file to batches of images, the size and placement of the watermark on each image will be more consistent if the images are approximately the same size before the watermark is added.
  4. You may find that your watermarks look even better if you process your horizontal images in one batch and verticals in a separate batch.

  5. Apply the watermark. Use Photoshop’s secret weapons (explained below) to let your computer do all the work – including saving the newly watermarked image copies.

When you’re finished, upload the watermarked images to your website, blog or social media site. Now, even if someone decides to “borrow” one of your images, the watermark will give you credit. And, if your website address is part of the watermark, viewers can use it to find more of you work online.

Secret Watermarking Weapons

Recent versions of Photoshop include a few big guns to make quick work of our batch watermarking project. The secret weapons in this arsenal include:

  • Alignment Tools to align the edges of multiple layers for a nice, even look.
  • Actions palette to record our settings for later playback.
  • Image Processor to process and convert batches of images.

In this tutorial, we’ll create a Photoshop action to apply our watermark to our photos. Then we’ll use the Image Processor to open a folder of photos, run the action and save the watermarked images.

Lightroom 3 vs. Photoshop

Batch watermarking with actions and Photoshop CS5's Image Processor - Lightroom vs Photoshop

Lightroom 3 Watermarks

Before we get started, let me point out that Adobe Lightroom 3 makes batch watermarking very simple.

It also allows proportional sizing of the watermark to match the size of the image.

I strongly recommend that you skip the rest of this article and buy Lightroom 3 from Adorama – where it’s currently on sale for about $170.

Lightroom 3 is also available from Amazon. Click the links to check both: the prices change often as they compete to see who can offer the best deal.

If you’re in a hurry, you can download Lightroom 3 right now from Adobe’s website here: Download Adobe Lightroom 3.

Once you have the Lightroom 3 software, read my article, “How to Use Adobe Lightroom 3’s Watermark Editor to Protect Your Online Images.”

Photoshop CS5 and The Watermark Panel

If you’re determined to use Photoshop CS5, your best bet is to download and install the free plugin described in my article, “Easy Watermarks with Russell Brown’s Adobe Watermark Panel Plugin for Photoshop CS5.

Photoshop CS, CS2, CS3 & CS4

The Watermark Panel only works with Photoshop CS5. So, if you own Photoshop CS2, CS3 or CS4, this article is for you. All of these versions include the Image Processor.

If you own Photoshop CS, you can download the image processor and install it.

Some of the steps and commands mentioned may be different in versions other than CS5. Refer to your Photoshop documentation if you get stuck while using them. Or add your question as a comment at the end of this article.

Photoshop 7 and Earlier Versions

If you own Photoshop 7 or earlier, it’s time to visit Adobe’s website and upgrade to CS5 or buy Lightroom 3.

If you’re the patient type, you can save a few bucks by ordering the boxed software from one of the excellent online merchants below.

Right now, the full version of Lightroom 3 is cheaper than the Photoshop CS5 upgrade. Click the links to check current prices.

Photoshop CS5
Upgrade for Windows
Photoshop CS5
Upgrade for Mac
Lightroom 3
for Windows & Mac
Adorama (Windows) Adorama (Mac) Adorama
Amazon (Windows) Amazon (Mac) Amazon

When you make a purchase through any of the links on this page, you help to keep the information flowing here at PhotoCitizen. Thanks.

Batch Watermarks with Photoshop: Step-by-Step

Record an Action

Photoshop’s Actions panel allows you to record a series of tasks as you perform them. Just about anything that can be done in Photoshop can be recorded as part of an action. Later you can run the action to automatically perform the same series of tasks on a different image.

Batch watermarking with actions and Photoshop CS5's Image Processor - Create a new action

Create New Action

Our action will be a simple one: it will apply and position our watermark to an image that is already open in Photoshop. We don’t need to include the image Open command or the Save command as part of the action because the Image Processor performs those steps automatically.

You could include a command to resize your images in the watermark action, but in this exercise, I’ll assume that the images have already been properly sized.

  1. First, open one of your images. This image will not be part of the action, but we need it so we can see what we’re doing while recording the other steps.
  2. Open the Actions panel by selecting Actions from the Windows menu. Or press Alt+F9 on your keyboard. (Command+F9 on the Mac).
  3. Click on the Create New Action icon at the bottom of the Actions panel. It’s just to the left of the trash can icon.
    1. Give your action a name. I’ll call mine “alanhaynes watermark.”
    2. Batch watermarking with actions and Photoshop CS5's Image Processor - setting up a new action

      New Action Setup

    3. From the dropdown menu, choose the Set where you’d like to save your new action. If you’ve never used actions before, your only choice will be “Default Actions.” I’ve already created a set called “Watermarks,” so I’ll use that.
    4. Leave Function Key and Color set to “None.”
    5. Click Record.

    Batch watermarking with actions and Photoshop CS5's Image Processor - Red recording light

    Recording Light

  4. Now, Photoshop begins recording the action. You’ll notice the red record light icon at the bottom of the Actions palette.
  5. To add the watermark file, we’ll use the Place command.
    1. Under the File menu, choose Place.
    2. Browse to your watermark file and click the Place button. The watermark will open as a layer centered on top of your image.
    3. Accept this placement by pressing the Enter key (Return on the Mac).
  6. Now, we’ll use the alignment tool to adjust the watermark so that it rests against the bottom of our image.
    1. In the Layers palette, select both layers. (Control+Click/Shift+Click on each layer so that they are both highlighted.)
    2. Align the bottom edges of both layers by clicking the Align Bottom Edges button in the Move tool’s top toolbar. It’s the third button from the left. (Or from the Layers menu, choose Align and then Bottom Edges.)
    3. Batch Watermarking in Photoshop CS5 - Align bottom edges button

      Align Bottom Edges

    4. If you’d like some space between the bottom of the watermark and the bottom of the image, make sure only the watermark layer is selected and use your keyboard’s cursor arrow keys to nudge it up a few pixels.
    5. If necessary, you can resize the watermark by going to the Edit menu and choosing Transform and, then, Scale. My watermark is already the correct size, so I’ll skip this step.
  7. Stop recording of the action by clicking the Stop button. It’s the square icon at the extreme left of the Action panel.
  8. Test Your Action

  9. If you like, you can inspect your new action in the Actions palette. In mine, the first command recorded is “Place.”  That is followed by “Select layer ‘Background’,” “Align Current Layer,” “Select layer “Watermark-bar-300W” (that’s the name of my watermark file), and, finally, “Move current layer.” Yours may have an extra step or two depending on how closely you followed my lead.
  10. To make sure the action works, let’s test it now by manually playing back the action.
    1. Open a different image.
    2. Make sure the name of your new action is highlighted in the Actions panel and click the Play button at the bottom of the panel (third from the left).
    3. Try it on several other images with different aspect ratios (horizontal, vertical, square).
    4. If it doesn’t work properly, the easiest thing to do is to delete the action and start over. Just drag you action into the trash can at the bottom of the Actions panel. Actions can be edited, but I’m not going to cover editing here.
  11. Once the action is working properly, you’re done with the hard part.
  12. Set Up the Image Processor

  13. Open the Image Processor from Photoshop’s File menu. Choose Scripts, and then Image Processor.
  14. Photoshop CS5 Batch Watermarking - Image Processor windows

    Image Processor

  15. In Section 1, click the Select Folder button and browse to the folder containing the images you want to watermark.
    1. If the folder contains sub-folders, you can place a check-mark next to “Include All sub-folders” to process those as well.
    2. If you’re using raw images, select “Open first image to apply settings” so that you can adjust the Camera Raw settings. Keep in mind that this same setting will be applied to all images in the batch.
  16. In Section 2, click on the “Select Folder” button and choose the destination folder where you want to save the watermarked images.
    1. If you’re processing sub-folders and you want the watermarked images to be placed in sub-folders, place a check-mark next to “Keep folder structure.”
  17. In Section 3, we can convert the images into JPEG’s, PSD or TIFF files (or all three).
    1. We need JPEG files for the web, so make sure that “Save as JPEG” is selected and the other two (“Save as PSD” and “Save as TIFF”) are not selected.
    2. Select the image quality of the JPEG. Choose 1 for the lowest quality and smallest file size or 12 for the highest quality and largest file size. I’ll use 6.
    3. If you still need to resize your images, you can select “Resize to Fit” and choose the maximum size for the width and height. (NOTE: Drastically resizing the image here will degrade the quality of the watermark, so it’s better to resize the images before running the Image Processor.)
    4. Web images need to be saved in the sRBG color space, so place a check-mark next to “Convert Profile to sRGB.” If you’re images are already set to sRGB, the color profile won’t be altered.
  18. Section 4 is important. This is where we apply the watermark.
    1. Make sure there is a check-mark next to “Run Action.
    2. In the first dropdown menu, choose the Set where you saved your watermark action. I’ll choose the set called “Watermarks.”
    3. In the second dropdown, your actions are listed by name. I’ll choose “alanhaynes watermark.”
    4. In the “Copyright Info:” field, you can enter copyright information to store with your file. This becomes part of the images’ metadata and is not visible on the image itself. I’ll enter “© Alan Haynes.” (HINT: To make a copyright symbol, type COMMAND+g on the Mac or, in Windows, hold down the ALT key while you type “0169” – without the quotes – on the numeric keypad.)
    5. Many web browsers now recognize color profiles, so make sure “Include ICC Profile” is enabled.
  19. You can save all of these settings as a preset for later use by clicking the “Save” button and naming your preset. Save it to a folder where you’ll be able to find it later. (Use the “Load” button to load an already saved preset).
  20. Run the Image Processor

  21. Once all the settings are correct, click the “Run” button to process your images.
    1. There is no way to stop the Image Processor once it begins, so double-check Section 1 to make sure you haven’t included a folder with more images than you intended.
    2. The processed images will be saved in a subfolder named “JPEG” within the destination folder you specified earlier. (If you chose to create PSD or TIFF files as well, there will be separate subfolders for those file types.)
    3. Make sure your destination folder does not already contain any of the files you’re about to process. The Image Processor will not notify you of this duplication and will automatically rename the new file by adding “_1” to the end of the file name just before the “.jpg” suffix.
    4. As the Image Processor runs, you’ll be able to watch Photoshop work through the steps of the action. In turn, each image will be opened, processed and closed.
    5. The Image Processor does not notify you when it has finished. You’ll know that it’s done when you no longer see anything happening in Photoshop.
  22. Once the Image Processor has done its job, you’re finished. You can now browse to the destination folder, check the results and use your favorite software to upload the images to the web.

Image Processor in Bridge and Mini-Bridge

If you don’t want to process an entire folder full of images, but want to pick and choose your images, you can also access the Image Processor from Bridge or Mini Bridge.

In Bridge or Mini-Bridge, select the images you want to process and then go to the Tools menu. From there, choose Photoshop and then Image Processor. Section 1 of the Image Browser will automatically be set to “Process files from Bridge only.” Set the other sections and you’re ready to go.

More About Watermarks

 

Have questions about watermarking with Photoshop? Leave a comment below. And don’t forget to subscribe to PhotoCitizen so you don’t miss future articles. It’s free.

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{ 13 comments }

1 colin hare July 10, 2011 at 1:42 am

Fantastic article and easy to follow – this has helped me tremendously in understanding uploading photographs to the web and reducing the size as well as the importance of add a watermark ! Many thanks for you help I will keep my eyes peeled for some more of your knowledge

2 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen July 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Colin,

Glad to help. I try to make my tutorials as complete as possible. It’s good to know that I’m accomplishing that goal.

Alan

3 Vincent August 3, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Thank you SO MUCH!!! You have literally shaved hours off of my workflow. If you were standing in front of me, I’d give you a hug. Seriously, I’m so grateful for your tutorials.

4 Emily August 16, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Excellent step by step tutorial… thanks!!

5 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen August 17, 2011 at 9:02 am

Vincent and Emily,

Thanks for the kind words.

Alan

6 Ana September 21, 2011 at 9:08 am

“BIG” Thank you for your amazing step by step tutorials! They are excellent and I appreciate the time you spend in these tutorials to teach us photographers!

7 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen September 23, 2011 at 5:47 am

Hi Ana,

It does take some time to create these tutorial articles. Thanks for your support.

Alan

8 Michele October 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Just spent like 2 hours doing the batch process of watermarking and after 4 attempts it stillwon’t work!! It runs but nothing is showing up oon my photos! Help

9 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen October 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Hello Michele,

Could it be that you’ve set the opacity of the watermark layer too low? Maybe it’s there, but you just can’t see it.

Try processing a few photos where you’ve set the watermark layer to 100% opacity. Then, let me know what happens and I’ll try to help,

- Alan

10 Arend November 4, 2011 at 11:03 am

Thank you very much for this information!!!

11 Pat December 21, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Is there anyway to replace the files you are watermarking rather than creating a new file. I have a complex file structure that has to be maintained. Or is it possible to do a multiline watermark in the web photo gallery?

Thanks

12 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen December 26, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Hi Pat,

If the watermarked file has the same name as the original file – and it’s in the same folder – Windows will recognize the duplication and ask you what you want to do. One of the options is to replace the original file with the new one.

That would accomplish what you’re looking for. However, I don’t think it’s a good idea: what if you later want to use a non-watermarked copy? That original, unwatermarked copy will be gone. So, use this option carefully to avoid losing your original photos.

Alan

13 matteo January 19, 2012 at 6:32 am

thnx for this guide…I was totally freaking out with a folder full of images and a logo!
thank you very much!

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