Sooner or later we all enter the “watermark phase.” But the use of a watermark is a controversial subject in photography.
Half of the people are strongly against watermarks: they are ugly, distracting, and do not prevent people from stealing your images. It is often argued that one should develop their own style and that this should be enough to make you recognizable through your image.
On the other hand, the other half thinks watermarks are the way to go and they want their logo or name on their photos.
If you agree with using watermarks and want to put your name or brand out there, this article will guide you in creating a simple watermark and logo using Photoshop.
Do’s and Don’ts When Your Watermark
Before getting into the step-by-step part of this article, there are a few things you need to know.
When you are creating your watermark’s style, do not:
- Create over complex logos
- Include a lot of text
- Use many different styles, fonts, and colors
Instead, try to:
- Keep it simple and stylish
- Keep it readable (signatures are nice, but many can’t be read)
- Graphical logos should have a connection with your photography work
Finally, when you apply the watermark, keep it small yet readable. This is why you should use simple logos and use little text.
Large and complex watermarks are distracting, complicated to understand and, ultimately, will ruin your photograph.
How To Create A Classic Watermark With Photoshop
The simplest type of watermark is text. This is usually something like “ © Your Name” or your website address or whatever.
Adding text to an image in Photoshop is quite straightforward.
Step 1: Select the TypeText Tool and use the horizontal style.
Step 2: Click on the image to insert the text as a new layer and start typing your text. In my case, I’ll go with “ © Andrea Minoia” for this image of the Veil Nebula complex.
Step 3: Use the toolbar at the top to tweak the way your text looks like. Among the rest, you can:
- Pick your preferred font
- Select the font size
- The font style (bold, regular, thin, italic, …)
- The font color
Tip: You can modify your text at any time simply by double clicking on it.
Step 4: Now, position your watermark using the Move Tool. Make sure the layer containing your watermark is selected, then click and drag (or use the arrow keys) to move your text across the image.
Tip: If you want to be consistent with your watermark placement, select all (ctrl+a in Windows or cmd+a in Mac OS X) and use the alignment icons in the top menu to align the text with the edges (or the center) of your image. Next, deselect everything (ctrl+d or cmd+d) and move the layer using the keyboard.
Pretty simple, isn’t it?
When you export your images you can add to them a watermark (either text or graphic). By right-clicking on the preset name for the watermark you can fire up the Watermark Editor.
In there you can type your text or link to the image file of your logo, choose the alignment and the size with respect to the image and tweak the watermark opacity.
And, of course, you can save your watermark options as a template.
How To Create A Logo With Photoshop
Creating a logo is another way to watermark your images, particularly if you are trying to create a brand.
For this you will likely need to use the PenTool to draw free shapes, but also the Ellipse, Triangle, and Rectangle Tools.
Let’s suppose you are a travel photographer and your brand is “Compass Photography.”
The logo should be simple yet give enough info to the viewer to have a feeling about your brand and activity. Since a compass is often linked to the idea of traveling, I came out with this logo.
Let’s create it using Photoshop only.
Step 1. Designing a graphical logo is more complex than typing your name: take some time to sketch ideas on paper before turning to photoshop.
Step 2: Go to File->New and create a square canvas 3000px x3 000px with transparent background and 300 dpi. To help you draw and place the shapes, make sure you are displaying both the rules and the grid. To show (or hide) them, go to View->Rules and View->Show->Grid.
Step 3. Let’s use the Pen Tool to create a custom shape: this is the graphical element of the arrow. Once created, simply add to it a gradient or a filling color and set the style for the borders of the shape (thickness and colors).
Tip: You can always modify the colors and style of the shape by selecting the proper layer and clicking on the pen tool.
Step 4. To create the compass, we need 4 shapes. As a rule of thumb, you want to have each shape on a different layer. On a Mac, let’s hit cmd+j (ctrl+j in Windows) three times in order to create 3 new shapes.
Step 5. The Move Tool will cause all the shapes to move together. To arrange our shapes individually, we need to select the desired shape layer and use the Transform Tool (cmd+T or ctrl+T). Now we can move and rotate each shape to create the compass body.
Tip: look for pink lines appearing on screen while moving the shape around the canvas: they tell you when the shape aligns with respect to the others.
Step 6. I wanted to add a circle to complete the compass body. For this I will use the Ellipse Tool, and I choose to draw it using a thick red line to add some color to the logo.
Let’s now reorder the layers in the stack so that the arrow shapes alternate being in front and behind the circle to make the logo a bit more dynamic.
Tip: All layers in the stack that are below the one containing the circle will be in the background, while those above will be in the foreground with respect to the circle.
Step 7. Now let’s add some text to mark the cardinal points on the compass and to add our business name to let people find us online.
Adding text is done exactly as for the textual watermark we saw before, and here we take advantage of the Wrap Text Tool to create text in the shape of an arc. As per the font type, I chose one looking like you may expect to find in very old maps.
Tip: Since you never know what image you will watermark and on what color your watermark will be sitting on, I always create a black and a white version of my logos.
Once you have saved your black version (see below), select all the layers and right-click to choose “Rasterize layer “from the contextual menu. This allows us to invert each individual layer (but the circle) by simply using cmd+i (or ctrl+i) to turn what is black to white.
When done, save the project as a new one.
Saving Your Watermark
Once you are happy with your watermark, you can save it in Photoshop format and use this file as a master, should you go back and tweak your watermark.
Go to File->Save As and save the project in Photoshop PSD format.
For everyday use, save it in a high-resolution PNG image with a transparent background.
For this, simply go to File -> Export As and choose the PNG format and tick the transparent background box.
For a simple text, such as “Your Name | Photography” or “Your Website.com,” I would not bother to save it. I will simply note down the font I use the font size.
How to Use Your Logo to Watermark Your Image
Now that we have a graphical logo saved, to use it to watermark an image in Photoshop, simply drag the file of the logo on top of the open image.
Next, use the Move Tool to resize and place it, following the tips I mentioned to place a textual logo.
Should The Watermark Be Solid Or Transparent?
The watermark must have a transparent background, nothing to discuss here. Making the watermark transparent to a degree is, though, entirely up to you.
In Photoshop, this is simply done by controlling the opacity of the layer containing the watermark.
The more transparent a watermark is (low opacity), the less distracting it will be. But it will also be less readable, and colors may look different (white and black turning grey-ish).
Solid watermarks are more readable and have consistent colors, but they may be more distracting.
Which style should you use? That depends on the reasons why you want to add a watermark to your images, the style of the watermark itself (logo or text), and the type of image.
A minimalistic seascape can, for example, benefit more from using a discrete, transparent logo, while astrophotography images can take a solid watermark and usually a good deal of text (name of the target acquired and the gear used).
Reasons Why We Should Add A Watermark To Our Images
As I mentioned before, some people believe watermarks are useless, ugly, and distracting and should not be used.
Others argue there are several reasons for watermarking their images. Here are some of the most common reasons.
Protection from theft. Of all the reasons you may have to watermark your images, this is probably the wrong one. If you can make your watermark such that no one could steal your image, you have turned your photo into a mess of text and lines and totally ruined it.
If you are a beginner or an amateur, accept that what you post on the internet can be stolen and used without your consent and live with it. You can of course keep watermarking your image, but do so in a tasteful and discrete manner.
Here are some better strategies you can use:
- Post online-only images in low resolution;
- Post online a slightly cropped version of your photo;
The first strategy makes sure nobody will be able to take your image and use it in magazines or sell it as prints, even if upscaling algorithms are getting better and better.
The second strategy is useful should you need to demonstrate the paternity of your image, even if you posted your high res image and you lost the original RAWs.
Let people find you. This is a much more sound reason for watermarking an image. This could be a way to draw traffic to your website or to the original source of the image you are using and sharing.
In this case, the watermark could be as simple as a web address or your name. Once again, mind that using a handwritten signature as a watermark, although aesthetic and stylish, can be hard to read, thus defeating the purpose of letting people find more about yourself.
Branding. If you are trying to go pro and build your brand, you should probably create a graphical logo that is consistently used when watermarking your images and when setting up your social media network and your website.
This is my logo. It is not professional, and I admit it took a long time to arrive there. It is pretty simple, borderline boring, I admit. But it scales well, it is easy to read, is small, and links back to my blog. In short, it does what a logo should do.
Is Photoshop The Best Way To Create A Logo?
I don’t think so.
Photoshop is capable of creating basic graphics with not too much effort, good enough to watermark your image.
But if what you need is a brand, your logo will appear in many different places (website, business cards, etc.) and sizes, and it needs to scale without losing in quality. For this, you should consider using vector graphics and create your logo in software such as Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer, both available on iPad too.
When it comes to watermark or branding your images, you can turn to Photoshop, although there may be better choices.
The most important thing to remember is that a watermark that prevents people from stealing your images will destroy your work: nobody will like to see your image. Instead, use a simple, small, and tasteful watermark to help people liking your work find you.