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Establish ownership of your photos by creating a simple visible watermark

With the ability to copy an image off the Web as easily as right-click and save, a simple and quick way to protect your images is to put a visible watermark on the image. When it comes to watermarks, you either love or hate them: Watermarks tend to look ugly and ruin an image, but it’s a necessary evil to protect your photos from being used by someone else for other purposes. It’s a controversial subject (we don’t really like them), but there are plenty of people who have no issues with using watermarks.

Watermarks, however, don’t have to look awful if you go about it in a subtle manner. And, placing a watermark can be a super-easy or elaborate process, depending on how involved and fancy you want to get – you could use a photo editor and slap some text over it, or overlay a faded, slightly visible specially designed logo on top. Here are a few basic ways to add a simple visible watermark to your photos.

Fast and easy

You can overlay some text over an image to create a watermark using Microsoft Paint, but we didn't say it'd be pretty.

You can overlay some text over an image to create a watermark using Microsoft Paint, but we didn’t say it’d be pretty.

The easiest way to add some form of copyright to your image is to use the text tool in any photo-editing program (heck, even Microsoft Paint will the do the job) and tag your name on it. You can do it discreetly by writing it in a corner, in small font size, or plastered it obnoxiously over the entire photo. Draw a box around it, color it, use a funky font, whatever, it’s all up to you. Naturally, this quick-and-dirty method is also not the prettiest, but it’s the fastest and easiest. For a cleaner approach, read on.

Online watermark tools

Another incredibly easy way to watermark a photo is to use a free online tool like PicMarkr. Upload up to five photos or pull them from Flickr, Facebook, or Google+/Picasa, and then pick from three watermarking options: text, image, or tiled. A text watermark is similar to the aforementioned method, while the image watermark layers another image you upload on top of the original (you’ll need to resize the secondary image beforehand). The issue with using PicMarkr to create an image watermark is that it doesn’t let you choose the opacity of the image on top, so you can’t blend it into the original photo. A tiled watermark simply layers a text or image watermark all over the picture.

watermarkws

As for online watermarking tools, Watermark.ws offers a lot of options and flexibility.

Again, this is fast and easy, but it’s not pretty. Another online watermarking tool, PicMark (not to be confused with PicMarker), takes a cleaner, modern approach by creating a watermark frame around an image. Unfortunately, while it looks nice, some can still easily copy your image and crop it out of the frame. And, you can’t choose the size of the watermarked image. Watermark.ws has the most flexibility in letting you drag a text or image watermark anywhere on the photo, and it lets you adjust font type and size, color, and image opacity. Of the three mentioned, Watermark.ws gives you the most professional-looking watermark.

Downloadable software

uMark

uMark is a useful downloadable watermark creation software, but you’ll have to pay for extra features (image via uMark).

There are watermarking software you can download, which will do the same things as the online tools. However, because you don’t need an Internet connection, you’ll find the process faster. There are plenty of software available that do the same thing – some for pay, many of them free – although each with different extras. Check out Alamoon Watermark, which also lets you crop and resize a photo, tweak the image quality, and use a variety of image formats. Another similar free software to look at is TSR Watermark. For a capable paid version there’s uMark, which lets you do batch watermarking and apply graphics such as QR codes; uMark has a free version with limited functionality.

Before you download new software, you may already have something installed on your computer that can create watermarks. IrfanView, a popular, oldie-but-goodie image viewer for Windows, has a watermarking feature built in. Google’s Picasa photo management software also has this feature in the Options menu, but it’s text only and for photos uploaded to Google+/Picasa. Photoshop Elements offers an easy way to create watermarks, too. Regardless, quickly check the image editing software you’re currently using to see if a watermarking feature is available.

Using a photo editor

Using Pixelmator to create watermarks.

Using Pixelmator to create watermarks.

If your photo editing/management software doesn’t offer a watermarking feature, you don’t want to download new software, or the online tools are too barebones or inflexible for your creative needs, you can always make your own using an image editing software like Photoshop, Gimp, or Pixelmator (check out some of the other  options). How fancy your watermark looks will depend on your graphic design comfort level, but, for most people, here’s the most basic way to get started.

As we’ve already mentioned, you can simply overlay some text on top of an image with your copyright info, and decrease the opacity of the text between 40-60 percent – it should be viewable but it shouldn’t overwhelm the image (lower the opacity even further if you want it to look nearly invisible); the opacity can be adjusted in the Layers section of Photoshop, but may be found elsewhere in other programs. The position, size, and color of the text will be up to you – get as creative as you want, like creating a pattern all over the image. If you have premade logo (for your business, for example), you can do the same thing as you would with text: import or paste an image, and adjust the opacity. You can experiment with other design features and get super complex, but that’s up to you – we don’t think you need to overcomplicate things, however. If you use a program like Photoshop that lets you record an action, we suggest using it as you’re creating your watermark, so you can automate the process for batch images.

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