Tutorial: A Simple Way to Add a Watermark to Your Images Without Ruining Them

Watermarks are a controversial topic. Many believe they ruin your images, and are so easily removed that there’s no point in adding one. Others see it as a necessary hurdle they would like to place in a potential photo stealer’s way.

If you happen to fall in the latter camp, Phlearn’s Aaron Nace would like to show you a simple way to create a custom brush that will take care of your watermarking needs for good, and offer a few tips on how to apply that watermark so that it doesn’t outright ruin your images.


Not much introduction needed beyond that, so check out the video above to see how it’s done and feel free to drop your comments on watermarks down below.

P.S. If you want to learn an even more subtle way to apply a watermark, check out this creative technique for blending it naturally into your photographs.

  • Tsiroto

    Cute technique, but I think it’s a couple of steps more than just placing the logo (i.e. smart object – resize & rotate as you like) and if needed, put opacity and/or color overlay.

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  • Mark Brown

    I haven’t bothered watermarking anything in a long time, but back when I did, I used to make a tiny mark with something like 1% or 2% opacity in the bottom corner. Though obviously easy to remove, my theory was that most photo stealers wouldn’t even notice it and thus keep it on, so if I ever needed to defend my ownership of the photo I could then point it out.

    But now I just don’t really care. :-)

  • Craig Oesterling

    I know this is specifically about watermarking in Photoshop, but there’s a super simple way to do this in Lightroom. And you can batch it. Just save an image of your logo in Photoshop (pull in your Illustrator file) with a transparent background and save it as a .png. Then you can set up your watermark in Lr. and apply it on export. You can vary size, location, and opacity all within the Lr. dialog. So then when you’re exporting a batch of images you can apply your mark to all of them identically and consistently without even thinking about it. Also, you can save various presets in case you have different ways you wish to apply your watermark.

    I figured I’d add this in here, as the article’s title doesn’t say it’s specifically about Ps.

  • Vin Weathermon

    This is one of my pet peeves; I am sure my grousing will spark a thread of conflicting viewpoints but I have to say I think that anything that detracts from the image is not to be allowed. You work hard to make an image “perfect” as your eye sees it, and to have something that draws your attention away is just wrong. The best photographers in the world have online portfolios…and look at how many are watermarked (not many.) Why? Because the experience is everything. Stealers will not profit really anyway…the reputation and work of the actual artist will make all the difference. Now maybe I can see doing this on social media stuff…but even then…meh.

  • Woon Tse Yuan

    Thanks alot! Nice tutorial!

  • Pickle

    Why go through all this when Lightroom 3 and above made it very easy to add a watermark to all your images at once in the time it would take to even read this sentence?

    As far as watermarks go, if you’re paying me for photos, I’ll give you high resolution images without any watermarks and you can blow it up and put it on a billboard for all I care. If I’m posting it online, it’s going to have a watermark, if for no other reason that to make someone stealing it spend an extra 30 seconds to clone it out and remove plausible deniability for a casual stealer who will eventually get caught. They can’t say “i didn’t know that was copyrighted!” when there is a copyright logo there. Will it ruin the picture? Not really. I still have the original.

  • Pickle

    The best photographers in the world have the luxury of their work being recognizable and having a copyright lawyer on retainer that can come down on a photo thief like a ton of bricks. The average Joe Canikon doesn’t have that luxury and if a small logo helps in doing that without being too distracting then there is nothing wrong with that. How is a logo in an extreme corner of the picture being such a distraction when the eyes tend to focus on the lightest areas and around the rule of thirds grid?

  • Banan Tarr

    I don’t watermark my images but I do digitally sign them with my signature converted into electronic format. Because the people who buy my prints expect them to be signed anyway. I guess people are going to tell me that signing a print “detracts from the image” eh? lol okay

  • OtterMatt

    This is precisely what I was thinking. All I do is make one button click and my photos are all watermarked with a little logo in the corner, with a set level of transparency. Doing it in photoshop might be necessary if you’re really trying to hide it, but a custom brush is just too much work for this.

  • Jan ‘Archee’ Bloch

    well, same principle works in PS.. you create small action with your tiny logo, text or image…. run the action in batch of images.. the watermark stays the same way, size wise relative to the output image size or orientation..and same goes for opacity.. though I do watermarking in LR when I export batches of photos.. it’s just so easy..

  • Jan ‘Archee’ Bloch

    even the best photographers.. or so called sometimes steal.. ideas.. images.. Peta just posted about it not so long time ago.. many photos aren’t intended to be the best..perfect etc.. they are meant to be average.. documenting or showcasing.. I shoot fashion shows.. and yes I need to watermark it as sometimes designers use the photos for print without my consent.. and they also use models faces for the same.. so again this might be eventually aimed against me.. no need to put huge watermark in the middle but if people can’t respect someone’s work by adding at least credits, leave them on.. would I want watermark on image that I paid for.. no.. but that’s why I paid for it!!!

  • Digi•Pixel•Pop

    Spoken like someone who’s never lost income from photo theft.

    The only people who are offended by watermarks are other photographers and honestly, who cares what they think? When was the last time you sold a print to a photographer or got commissioned by one?

    Art directors are the ones who hire photographers and I’ve never heard a single one complain about watermarks. In fact, they generally PREFER portfolio images to be watermarked so they can easily remember who they came from.

    If your final and only destination for your images is a web gallery like Flickr, wherein that is your whole end goal, and you have no ambition beyond getting likes and comments and no commercial aspirations for your work, then yes absolutely, a watermark may be inappropriate for a venue like that. Otherwise, it’s a judgement call for the individual photographer, but I will reiterate one last time, the people who buy photographs and hire photographers do not care if your web portfolio is watermarked. Period.

  • Digi•Pixel•Pop

    Not everyone uses Lightroom for cataloging and editing their images. A lot of photographers are quicker and more comfortable just using Bridge and Photoshop.

  • Marc Weisberg

    Obviously they haven’t tried Fundy Image Brander!

  • Bill Binns

    Well said. I find watermarks are used mostly by amateurs who believe themselves to be undiscovered pros. Their biggest fear is to wake up someday to find one of their images on the cover of People Magazine or National Geographic. The truth is, the vast majority of “Stolen” images are used for non-commercial purposes. Somebody put your photo of a cheeseburger on their food blog”? So what? They were never going to pay for an image anyway. You have not lost a penny.

    I wouldn’t mind so much if watermarks were actually a functional tool to prevent images from being “stolen” but they are worse than useless for that purpose. The only way to make a watermark effective is to make it huge and dead center on the image like iStock photo does. Even then, it can be beaten by a determined individual with a netbook and a copy of Picassa.

  • Bill Binns

    If you really must watermark, I think that’s a great idea.

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  • devtank

    Great! massive time saver!!

  • Jz Mora


  • Fernando Callo

    Just…DON’T WATERMARK! It’s horrible.

  • Celina Perry

    Thanks for the tutorial.

    Personally, I think
    watermark is more of an effective way to brand your works rather than
    protect your photos from being stolen. Cheaters will always find a way
    to steal no matter what, so it’s really not worth the effort.

    I’ve had people contact me for business from time to time through my watermark which has my contact info included. And it works great.

    tutorial is quite useful, although I find dedicated watermark software
    much easier to use (sudh as WatermarkSpell for my mac), and Lightroom
    works pretty well too.

  • imajez

    On a pro photographers only FB group I belong to, a regular thing is people talking about is work that has been stolen and how best to tackle the issue. As a result pros are increasingly using watermarks.

  • Max Bolotov

    This was fantastic. My world is now changed haha. Thank you for a great tutorial!