Adobe Lightroom 3 makes it easy to use images and other graphics to watermark your photos. Add your logo, stylized text or any graphic file that’s been created in Photoshop, Illustrator or your favorite graphics software.
Watermarks are the best way to protect your web images. Since anything that can be viewed on a computer monitor can be copied, you can’t prevent the unauthorized use of your online photos. But with a watermark stamped onto each image, you’ll at least make your photos less desirable to image thieves – and get credit when they are misused.
The trick is to walk the fine line between theft protection and viewer annoyance: Your watermark needs to be just obvious enough to be visible without being overly distracting to legitimate viewers.
First Things First
I’m assuming that you already have the graphic file ready to go. It can be created in any program, but it must be saved as a 24-bit PNG file (with a file name ending in .png).
The PNG format allows for transparency – an essential part of a watermark. GIF files support limited transparency, so they may work, but if your file is a JPEG, TIF, or other format, you’ll need to convert it to PNG.
If you haven’t yet created the graphic, read my article, “Create Visible Watermarks in Photoshop CS5” to get started. Once you’ve created and saved the graphic file, return here to continue with Lightroom.
Before we get started, you’ll need a dozen or so sample images. Look through your images in Lighroom and choose a variety of images: dark and light ones; verticals and horizontals; black-and-white and color; narrow and panoramic.
Place these together in a Lightroom collection or a single folder so they’re easy to find. We’ll use these images to judge the appearance of our new watermark as we create it.
Because the watermark will be semi-transparent, it’s appearance will change depending on the image to which it is applied. Having a variety of sample images to work with while creating the watermark will help us determine when we’ve got it just right.
You’ll find more details about this process in my article, “How to Use Adobe Lightroom 3’s Watermark Editor to Protect Your Online Images.”
I already have a Lightroom collection called “Alan’s Watermarks,” so I’ll use some of those images.
Create And Save A Graphic Watermark
Now that you have your test images and your graphic file, let’s dive into using Lightroom 3’s Watermark Editor to create the perfect watermark. We’re going to adjust our graphic file and save it for future use as a preset.
Open Lightroom 3’s Watermark Editor
- Open your collection of sample images and select them all.
- The easiest way to access Lightroom’s Watermark Editor is via the Edit menu. Click on Edit and choose Edit Watermarks from drop-down menu.
- Now the Watermark Editor window opens. Initially, it will show the default text “copyright” watermark. In the upper right corner, click on the Choose button or the radio button next to the word Graphic.
Open Your Watermark Graphic File
- Clicking on either of those buttons will open a window allowing you to browse to the location of your previously created graphic watermark .png file. Find that file and click Open.
- I’ll use a logo that I had created in Photoshop specifically to be used as a watermark. It has some color and transparency built into it. Your graphic may be all one color and completely opaque. Either will work.
- Now the graphic watermark opens and is superimposed over your sample image in the default lower left corner.
Adjust the Watermark Settings
- I prefer my watermarks in the lower center, so let’s start by moving the watermark. At the bottom of the Watermark Effects panel, you’ll see nine dots next to the label Anchor. Click on the dot in the lower center and the watermark moves to the lower center.
- To add a little space between the watermark and the bottom of the image, move the Vertical slider (in the Inset section) to the right to its maximum value of 10. The watermark moves up a bit toward the center of the image.
- In the Size section of the Watermark Effects panel, you have three choices: Proportional, Fit and Fill. Fit and Fill work alright if all of your images are the same size and you’ve prepared a graphic watermark file specifically for that size image. But I prefer Proportional because it scales the watermark so it looks about the same size regardless of the size of the image.
- Now adjust the Proportional slider to fit the watermark to your liking. The effect of this slider will vary based on the size of your watermark file. I’ll set mine to 20.
- [HINT: The Inset sliders are limited as to how far the watermark can be pushed away from the edges. If you need more space than the sliders allow, your best bet is to create a new graphic file that’s more loosely cropped. The extra space around the graphic gives it built-in spacing.]
- Next, set the Opacity slider so that the watermark becomes more transparent. You want the finished watermark to be just visible enough to deter theft, but transparent enough so that it doesn’t overly distract the eye of the viewer.
- Finally, use the two black arrows at the top of the screen to move through your sample images to make sure your watermark fits nicely on each of them and that the opacity setting works well on all of them. Take note that if the Proportional slider is set too high (above 40 my case), the sides of the watermark will be cut off on very narrow images. Tweak your settings as necessary.
- [HINT: The controls in the Text Options panel are not available when Graphic is selected. You cannot combine text and a graphics in one Lightroom watermark. If you need both – as in the watermark I’ve use here – you’ll need to combine them in Photoshop when you create the graphic file. ]
Save A Watermark Preset
- You’ll want to save your work so that you can use the watermark without making all of these adjustments again. Click the Save button in the lower right of the Watermark Editor.
- The New Preset window will open. This is where you give your watermark a descriptive name so that you can remember its purpose. I’ll call mine “PhotoCitizen graphic” to distinguish it from the text watermark I made for a previous article.
- Click the Create button and the preset is saved.
Apply The Graphic Watermark To Your Images
Your new watermark can now be used in a variety of ways. It’s available in the Web, Print and Slideshow modules, Publish Services, and in the Export window. Let’s start by watermarking some images as we export them.
Export Watermarked Images
- First, choose the images you’d like to export and click the Export button.
- In the Watermarking section near the bottom right of the Export window, make sure there is a check mark next to the word Watermark and that you new watermark is chosen from the drop-down menu next to it.
- Set the rest of the controls in the Export window as desired. When you click the Export button, the images will be watermarked as they are exported.
Watermarking Images for the Web
- To apply the watermark to images bound for the web (that was what I promised you in the beginning, after all), go to the Web module and choose your preferred web template and Layout Style.
- In the right-hand panel, open the Output Settings palette near the bottom.
- Put a check mark next to Watermarking and choose your new watermark from the drop-down menu.
- Depending on the template you’ve chosen, you may not notice the watermark in the preview window. If the preview shows thumbnails, you may have to click on one to enlarge it and get a good view of the watermark.
- When you click the Export or Upload buttons, the images will be saved with your watermark applied.
- [HINT: Some web templates or layout styles do not allow watermarking. Airtight Simpleviewer is one of them. And, if you’ve installed any third-party templates, the watermarking feature may be located in a different palette or completely disabled.]
Adobe Lightoom 3’s Watermark Editor is a big improvement over the simple text watermark that was available in Lightroom 2. With Lightroom 3, watermarks can be attractive and useful. And it’s a lot easier to apply watermarks in Lightroom 3 than it is in Photoshop.
Still using Lightroom 2? You can download the Lightroom 3 upgrade (for about $99) directly from Adobe here: Adobe Lightroom 3.
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