How to Watermark a Photo

The digital age brings with it many problems for photographers who display their images online. Unfortunately, there are lots of individuals in the world who don’t understand, or care for, copyright law and will happily use other people’s images without permission.

Adding a watermark to a photograph is the most widely used technique in the battle to prevent online copyright infringement. It must be noted that this is purely a deterrent, and that ultimately if somebody wants to remove your watermark they will. I was once told “anything that is added in Photoshop can be removed in Photoshop“, and this is almost always true.

This article will show you how to do this in Photoshop, but don’t worry if you don’t have it – most editing software is similar and with some fiddling around you should be able to do the same.

Creating a Watermark

For a professional look, a watermark should be constant throughout all your images. Plastering your name all over a photo really does detract from it, so it is far better to do something subtle. For this guide we will create this small and sleek copyright notice.


Step 1: Create the Foundations

Create an image file of sufficient proportions for the size of images you display online. I’ve sized this file at 500px x 300px, which is more than enough and can be made smaller later. Create a new layer with the button shown in the image, leaving the background transparent. I’ve kept the original layer white so we can more easily see what we’re doing, but this will be deleted at the end.

Create New Layer

Step 2: The Rings

To achieve the double rings with a slice out of one side is fairly simple. Firstly, select the ellipse tool (it may be hidden under the rectangle shape tool, so right-click this to show more options). Ensure that there is no fill, a 3pt stroke and that the stroke colour is black. The image below shows you where all these options are.

To create the first ring, you need to hold down the shift key whilst clicking and dragging. This will create a perfect circle.

For the second ring, click the “Ellipse 1” layer and drag it onto the new layer button. This will create an identical second layer. Now, with the “Ellipse 1 copy” layer selected, navigate through to “Edit > Transform > Scale“.


Hold down the shift key once again, and click and drag from one of the corner tabs that will appear on the circle. Drag inwards, making the circle smaller. Be careful not to make it too small. Next, select the move tool (it is selected in the above image) and click and move the circle to the centre of the larger ring. It should “snap” into place. If not, spend some time aligning it properly. You can use the arrow keys on your keyboard for finer movements.

Because the layers are now “shapes”, we are limited to how we can edit them. To make them normal layers, they need to be rasterized. With “Ellipse 1 copy” layer selected, hold down shift and click on layer “Ellipse 1”. Then, right-click on either, and select rasterize layers from the menu. Once you’ve done that, right-click them again and select merge layers.


Now we want to create the gap in the rings for the text to go in. Choose the rectangle marquee tool and drag a rectangle across the middle of the two rings, like in the image below. After that, simply hit the backspace key on your keyboard to delete that portion of the rings.


Step 3: The Text

The next step is important as it provides you with a small advert at the bottom of each image. I tend to put my business name and website address here, so that if the image is used on other websites people can find their way back to my website. Select the type tool and drag a box in the centre of the gap. Give yourself plenty of horizontal space for this. I’m using the marker felt font at 8pt in size.

Type out your business name, in this case “Will Nicholls Photography”, and then your website underneath. Make sure you leave a blank line between your business name and address.


Now, to create the line we need to go back to the shape tool we used to draw ellipses. Right-click on the tool’s icon and select the “line tool”. Ensure that the line is set to both a black fill and stroke. Look further to the right, and change the height (“H”) of the line to 5px.

Drag a line a little more than the width of the text you inputted earlier. You can hold the shift key to ensure it stays completely horizontal.


Step 4: Final Preparation

So the design is finished, and now we just need to create an image file that we can use again and again. First, delete the original white background layer (if you haven’t already), so that the background is transparent. This is shown by a grid of white and grey squares underneath the image. Simply select the original layer that shows a white block, and click the delete icon (circled below).


Finally, let’s crop the image so that there is less empty space. Click the cropping tool and drag a box around your watermark. Fine-tune the selection using the black tabs. Leave a little bit of space around the watermark, don’t go right to the edge or you could accidentally chop some of the black rings off.


Now, all that’s left to do is save it. To do this, navigate to “File > Save As…” Ensure that you select a PNG format to keep the transparency, and hey presto! You have a watermark. If you want to save a smaller sized watermark, navigate to “Image > Image Size…” and decrease it there.

Applying a Watermark

You’ve got the watermark, and now you need to actually put it onto your images. This is really simple to do in Photoshop, although you can apply it to a group of photographs at the same time using Adobe Lightroom.

Open the image in Photoshop which you wish to put the watermark on. Next, open the watermark file. Now we want to select the watermark. Windows users, press Control + A on your keyboard. Mac users, press Command (apple) + A instead. Now respectively press either Control + C or Command + C to copy the selection.

Switch back to the image window, and press Control + V / Command + V to paste it onto the image. Select the move tool and position it in the bottom right or left corner (or wherever you wish, but keep it neat).

If you want to make it translucent, then select the watermark’s layer and change the opacity to 50%, or whichever value looks best.


And there you go! You’ve now learnt all you need to know to create and apply a watermark. Obviously, you can experiment and make any design you like. Good luck!



Will Nicholls is the founder of Nature TTL and a professional wildlife photographer and film-maker from England. Having been photographing since the age of 12, Will's images have won a string of awards, including the title of "Young British Wildlife Photographer of the Year" in 2009 from the British Wildlife Photography Awards. Will is also the author of the book On the Trail of Red Squirrels.

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