Create Visible Watermarks In Photoshop CS5

by Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen on August 12, 2010

To deter misuse of your images, it’s important to add a visible watermark to your online images. Create a graphical watermark with Adobe Photoshop using these step-by-step instructions. Then apply it using Photoshop, Lightroom 3, or your favorite image editor.

Our Objective

We want to be able to apply our finished watermark to batches of images automatically. So, our basic approach in creating the watermark file will be to open an image, add text, modify the text so it will work well on all of our images regardless of size, then export it as a .png file.

The watermark is going to look different – more or less obvious – depending on the image to which it is applied, so we’re looking for a happy medium.

Learn Photoshop CS5

To learn more about Photoshop CS5, I recommend these three books:

Best Photoshop CS5 Book
Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers: The Ultimate Workshop

by Martin Evening
Recommended Photoshop CS5 book The Adobe Photoshop CS5 Book for Digital Photographers (Voices That Matter)
by Scott Kelby
Recommended Adobe Photoshop CS5 Book Adobe Photoshop CS5 One-on-One
by Deke McClelland

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Photoshop Watermarks Step-By-Step

Open and re-size an image

A watermark that doesn't quite fit a veritcal image

    1. Open a vertical (portrait) image. Why a vertical? Our watermark needs to fit on both vertical and horizontal images. Since it will be placed horizontally across the image, a watermark that fits a vertical image will easily fit a horizontal image as well. If you create the watermark on a horizontal image, it could end up being too wide to fit your verticals. If you apply the watermark using Adobe Lightroom 3, the width of the watermark is not that important. Lightroom 3 allows you to automatically size the watermark to fit any size image.
    2. Re-size your image to fit on the web. I typically make my web-bound images 600 pixels on the longest side. So, a horizontal image would be 600 pixels wide by about 400 pixels tall. A vertical would be 400 pixels wide by 600 pixels tall.

Create the watermark

    1. Now we’ll start on the actual watermark. Using Photoshop’s text tool, insert a text box that stretches across the image from left to right with it’s bottom edge somewhere around 100 pixels up from the bottom. You want some space between the bottom of the text box and the bottom of the image.
    2. Type your desired text. I suggest using the copyright symbol followed by either your name or the name of your website. For my watermark, I’ll use “©” without the quotes. (Note: to make a copyright symbol on a Windows computer, hold the ALT key down while you type these numbers on the number pad: 0169. Use the number pad to the right of your keyboard, not the numbers above the letters. Make sure your Num Lock key is on. On the Mac, use the OPTION+g. Or you can use Photoshop’s Custom-Shape tool: one of the custom shapes available is “©”.)
Watermarking in Photoshop CS5

Adding the watermark text.

    1. Now, with the text box still selected (if not, click the text layer in the layers palette to select it), select all the text using CTRL+a (COMMAND+a on the Mac). Change the text size to fill up the box. I used Myriad Pro as my font at a size of 90 points. The size you use will depend on the font you’re using. Change the text color to white. If your background image has a lot of white in it, the text may temporarily disappear, but we’ll fix that in a moment.
    2. Now we’ll style our text. Make sure the text layer is selected in the layers palette and click the Add Layer Style button (the fx button) at the bottom of the palette to open the layer styles dialog. From the drop-down menu choose Drop Shadow.
Watermarking in Photoshop CS5: Drop Shadow

Add a drop shadow

    1. Adjust the drop shadow settings to your liking. For this watermark, I prefer setting the angle to 120, the distance and size to 1, spread to zero and leave everything else at its defaults. The object is to create a drop shadow so that the text is visible over any colored background including white.
    2. You can try applying some of the other styling options, although I usually prefer to stick with the drop shadow only. You might try Bevel and Emboss (especially Pillow Emboss with the direction set to Down). A one-pixel Stroke might look good too.
Watermarking in Photoshop: Adjust Opacity

Adjust the opacity.

    1. Once you’ve applied the layer styles, adjust the opacity of the text layer. Start at about 20%. You want enough opacity so that the watermark is visible, but enough transparency so that it doesn’t distract too much from the image. You might want to open a few more of your images to see what the adjusted watermark looks like when applied to them.
    2. Experiment with the blending modes if you’d like. Overlay or Soft Light work well, but Normal is probably going to be your best choice if you plan on applying this watermark to batches of images rather than one at a time.
Watermarking in Photoshop CS5: crop the watermark

Cropped watermark

    1. Once you’re happy with the watermark, it’s time to crop it. Turn off all layers except the watermark layer. It will be a bit difficult to see your semi-opaque watermark against the transparent background, so you might want to temporarily set the opacity back to 100%. Make sure you take note of the original opacity setting and reset it after you’re done cropping. Using the crop tool, crop the watermark layer to the size of the watermark eliminating everything but the watermark.  You can leave a small margin around it if you’d like.
Watermarking for the web

Save the watermark file

    1. Click on Save for Web and Devices in the File menu and choose  PNG-24 as the format.  Make sure there is a check mark in the Transparency box. It is very important to have transparency in the watermark file. The transparency is what allows the image to show through making the watermark less obtrusive.
    2. Save the file to your desktop or another convenient spot with a descriptive name. I like to add the file dimensions to the file name. You can find the dimensions in the Save for Web and Devices box under Image size. I’ll name my file, watermark_338x57.png.

Applying the Watermark

  1. To apply the watermark, you have a few choices. If you’re working with a small number of images, you can hand-apply it to each image one-at-a-time in Photoshop. This way you can fine-tune the placement and opacity to suit each image.
  2. Otherwise, you can apply the watermark to a batch of images using either Photoshop’s batch processor (File | Automate | Batch), an action or a droplet.

I’ll show you how to apply the watermark using all of these methods in my next article.


Watermarking is an important way to protect your images on the web. If you don’t own Photoshop, you can use any image editing program which allows you to add text and adjust its opacity. For example, ACDSee Pro 4 Photo Manager has a powerful watermarking feature.

If you own Adobe Lightroom 3, you don’t need Photoshop. Lightroom 3’s watermarking tools are powerful and easy to use.

Simple text watermarks – like the one we created in this article – can be created entirely in Lightroom 3. Read my article, “How to Create Text Watermarks in Adobe Lightroom 3,” to learn how.

Professional Image Editing Software

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3

Adobe Photoshop CS5
Adobe Lightroom 3 Adobe Photoshop CS5

What do you think about watermarks? Do you use them? What software do you use to create and apply them? I’d like to hear from you. Type in the box below to leave a comment.

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