Watermarking Your Photos: Part 2 – Creating Watermark Files

Yesterday we looked at the why behind adding a watermark to your digital photos. Today we’re going to jump into the how. Before everybody gets too upset with me, I’m going to preface this post with this comment: I’m Dave, and I’m an Adobe-holic. There are so many great digital editing software packages out there on the market, but I choose to use Adobe products because I was trained on them, and I like them. I couldn’t possibly learn exactly how to use each and every post processing software suite, nor do I have a the resources or time. Therefore, for the purposes of the following tutorials I am going to be demonstrating watermarking techniques using Photoshop and Lightroom. While the processes I show you may need to be modified (depending on which software you are using), many of you who are proficient with your own choice of editing software will be able to follow along just fine and apply these techniques as they apply to your post processing software. Enough with the disclaimers, let’s get to the good stuff!

As we talked about yesterday, there are different ways to watermark your digital photos along with the different reasons for why you would want to. By now I’m hoping that many of you have considered how a watermark should (or should not) be used in your own photography. So, rather than doing a traditional step-by-step tutorial, I thought I would break this up into parts. These parts will be more like building blocks to allow you to come up with the best solution which is tailored to your own work. Doing it this way may also introduce you to techniques you can use outside of watermarking; wouldn’t that be cool?

Last thing before we get down to business here… The one of the upcoming tutorials in the watermarking series will be on automation. For now, we’re going to start with the basic foundation on how to create a watermark, and we’ll finish up the series with how to automate the process in Photoshop.

Create Watermark Image Files

The next step in this process is to create your watermark as a separate image file (or files) – with a transparent background. Doing this will ensure more consistency in your watermark’s position and size with respect to your digital photos for the web. Start by creating a new image document, with ridiculously large, square dimensions. You want to choose dimensions larger than any image file that your camera will output, and I’ll explain why in just a second. I created mine on a 6000 x 6000 pixel, 300dpi document, larger than any image my camera will produce.

The reason for doing this is so that we can use this watermark on images of any size in the future, including images sized for print if necessary. If you are strictly going to work with one image size for the rest of your life, then you can use smaller dimensions for your watermark image, but I prefer the flexibility of being able to choose later. Up-scaling a watermark can be difficult, but with a super-huge watermark file we’ll be able to easily scale it down and still retain full detail in the watermark while being able to use it on all of our digital photos, regardless of what size you choose to make them in the end.

Your watermark can be anything you choose, including a graphic, logo, or simply text. For the purposes of this tutorial I am going to stick with simple text, but feel free to create any type of watermark you would like. You can even style your text with a drop shadow, outline, or any other fancy effects you desire. On your super-huge watermark document, create the watermark size as if this document were one of your actual photos. So, if you want your watermark to stretch across the whole image, create it that way here. If you prefer it to be subtle and in the corner, do that now. For this example I am using just text as my watermark, and I am placing it in the lower right corner.

You may wish to create a few watermark files with the watermark in different positions. I encourage you to create several variations such as a lower left corner watermark and even centered along the bottom. If working with text, you may even wish to create versions with black text, and another with white text so that you have those options available if your image is dark or light (a black text watermark isn’t going to show up on a dark background image). It’s completely up to you, so create as many as you like. Just make sure when saving that you name them appropriately so you can easily identify them by name later. Also, we need to save these watermark files as transparent images; you don’t want an unsightly white background from your watermark file to cover up your nice photo that you are using it on. You can save them as a TIFF, PSD file, or even as a PNG. We’re doing all of this work now to help with the automation process later, but for now we’ll look at how to manually place this watermark file in your photo.

Work on a Duplicate Copy

First and foremost, make a duplicate copy of your photo so that you are not working directly with the original file. The critics will say this uses up too much disk space, but I say that it’s better to use up space (which I can free up later) than to inadvertently save over my original with something I may wish to change later. Besides, we’re talking about images intended for web use, so their file size is going to be negligible. Watermarking your photos is logically the last step before posting your photo on the web. Duplicate your original and do all of your regular post-processing first so that you have a finished image, then save it as a JPEG. Duplicate it (again) so you can work on a watermarked copy of the finished JPEG which we can shrink down to a decent size for use on the web.

Resizing for the Web

Since we are specifically looking at watermarking images for the web, it’s best to resize our photos at this point. Remember, you are no longer working on your original (out of the camera) or your finished (processed) JPEG; you are working on the duplicate (soon to be web version). There’s no point in putting your processing software through the motions of dealing with a large image file anymore since we’re now at the point to optimize for the web.

As for what dimensions you choose for your final product, that’s completely up to you depending on where you like to share your photos. Personally, I use a size of 900 pixels on the longest edge of the image. It is a widely accepted standard on many of the photo sharing sites which I use, some of which may even scale my images down to fit their specifications. Again, it’s personal preference what size you choose. Some people like them larger for sites like photo-sharing forums, and other people prefer them smaller to further prevent them from being attractive to image thieves. I think 900 pixels is a nice size for the viewer while keeping the file size small enough to load quickly on the web.

There are many ways to resize your digital photos, all of which are valid. I like to use one of the lesser known features in Photoshop called “Fit Image.” This feature constrains the image size to the pixel size of your choosing, and if you use it as I do here, it works for both landscape and portrait orientation images. This feature is under the Photoshop menu: File > Automate > Fit Image…

If you are using software besides Photoshop, you’ll may need to resize your images specifically based on landscape or portrait orientation, adjusting the maximum pixel length of the image for either the width (landscape) or height (portrait). If the options are available in your image editing software, ensure that “Resample Image” and “Constrain Proportions” are both selected.

Placing Your Watermark in Your Photo

Now that you have a photo that is edited and resized for the web (any size you choose!), we are ready to place the watermark in the image. You’re about to see why we went through all of the trouble in creating those large watermark image files now.

If you are working in Photoshop, here’s what you would do (for those of you not working in Photoshop, there are similar options in many editing programs). Go to the menu: File > Place… and when the dialog box pops up, choose the watermark image file you would like to use. In this example, I am using my lower-right text watermark image which I created above.

You’ll notice that Photoshop has kept the watermark image bound to fit within my photo. This is because we used the same dimensions to create the watermark image. Also, Photoshop has resized the 6000 x 6000 pixel watermark file down to fit inside the photo. This will be the case with any image size you are working with, as long as it is smaller than the dimensions you used to create your watermark file. This is ideal because now every time I add a watermark to my photos, regardless of their size, the watermark will appear to be the same size proportional to my photo.

But wait! I used my “lower right placed watermark image”, and it’s not showing up in the lower right corner of the screen. Photoshop automatically centers any file which has been “placed” into another document. Makes sense, but doesn’t help us here! Thankfully, we can easily use the Move tool to slide this watermark over to the side, or we can use the “Align layers – right edges” function to line them up. A word of caution though: When using the align layers function with a transparent image, it will align to the edge of the graphic/text, not the edge of the watermark image file. You may need to nudge your watermark a few pixels away from the edge of your photo manually if this is the case.

I think that leaves you with a lot to work with for today! Tomorrow we’ll come back and look at creating image templates which are useful when you wish to use watermark frames instead of adding text/graphics to your photos as we just did here. If any of you are using other post-processing tools besides Photoshop and Lightroom, feel free to comment on how certain steps would be done in that software. Until then I bid you happy watermarking!

4 Responses

    1. @Robert Absolutely! We did this one for the folks who don’t have Lightroom 3 yet, but I have a “Watermarking in Lightroom 3″ tutorial slated for next week. I love how easy Lightroom 3 makes it!

  1. Robert

    Great idea. Even cooler is how you Publish to your Flickr account and upon export, you can implant the watermark on all of your images. Neat!

  2. thanks dave, works like a charm, also maybe a future write up. making an action to resize for web. looking forward to more. specifically can you do the watermark in lightroom 2 if you don’t have any other photo editing software?


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