How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop

March 16, 2011 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | 38 Comments | |
How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop Image

These days, no one seems to think twice about right-clicking on one of our photos and downloading them for their own purposes, whether as “pretty wallpaper” for their computer or the heading of their latest blog post.

The company I use to host my portfolio site, Smugmug, and a few others, have the options of right-click protection and you can watermark your photos directly from within Smugmug so that although one can’t right-click and steal your photo from the site, they could take a screenshot and steal it that way, but there will still be a watermark across the photo. 

Even if you aren’t like me and trying to make some money as a photographer by selling your photos, having your photo stolen is no fun. 

There are ways to protect your photos though, even if you don’t have a big website with the protections I mentioned, one of which, adding a copyright watermark, can be helpful in deterring all but the most determined thieves.  (Ultimately, even a watermark could be photoshopped out though.) 

This is a bit of a long tutorial, but at the end, I will be teaching you how to turn it into a Photoshop Action, so you can simply press one of the Function keys along the top of the keyboard in the future to add a custom watermark to your photos.  In fact, you can even add this watermark to an entire folder of your photos using a batch version of the action. 

1. Let’s start by opening a photo you’d like to put a copyright watermark on.  Make a layer via copy (see screen shot) or simply press Ctrl-J (for PC users) Command-J (for Mac users.)

How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop

2. Get the Custom Shape Tool from the Toolbox panel or click Shift-U which will make it active.  It looks a bit like an amoeba or a very stubby starfish.  (see screen shots)

How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop

3. Go to the Options Bar and click on the Fill Pixels icon (3rd from left), then click on the thumbnails to the right of the word “shape” to allow you to choose a shape.  When the menu opens, choose the copyright symbol (see screen shot)

How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop

4. Now make a new blank layer:  click on the create new layer icon at the bottom of the layers panel. (see screen shot)

How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop

5. Click on the foreground color swatch at the bottom of the toolbar and choose a light gray with the color picker.  Click Okay.  (see screen shot)

How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop

6. Then, press and hold the shift key and take your custom shape tool and click and drag just above the center of your photo to add as large of a copyright symbol as you would like.  (see screen shot)

How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop

7. Once it’s placed, click the Add a Layer Style icon at the layers panel bottom.  Choose Bevel and Emboss from the pop-up menu.  (see screen shot)

How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop

8. The Layer Style dialog box will appear.  You don’t have to change anything - just click ok to apply a beveled effect to your copyright symbol.  Click OK to apply it to your symbol.  (see screen shot above)

9. Click on the Type Tool in the toolbar, making sure your Text color swatch in the options bar is close to the foreground color you chose for the copyright symbol.  Type your full name or business name and position it next to the copyright symbol using the Move Tool at the top of the toolbar.  You could also optionally type in “copyright, your name/business” and the year if you wanted, but this is simply how I chose to do it.  (see screen shot)

How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop

10. Next, duplicate the Bevel and Emboss Layer Style and apply it to your new type layer.  To do that, just replicate what you did to get the effect in step 8.

How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop

11. In the Layers panel, press and hold the Control key (or Command for Macs) and click on the top two layers to select them.  Then, press Control-E (or Command-E for Macs) to merge these two layers into a single layer.  (see screen shot)

How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop

12. Change the layer blend mode of the merged layer from Normal to Hard Light, making it transparent.  You can then lower the opacity of this layer so that it is less obtrusive, but no one would be able to use your image easily.  You can have it set at any amount of opacity you prefer - I have set mine at 13% here.  (see screen shots)

How to Create a Watermark in Photoshop

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photos, images, photo, photoshop, image, action, technique, techniques, protect, watermark, tutorial, copyright, stolen, steal, theft

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38 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Portrait Photographers

Pretty easy to follow. well done and thanks!

11:56 pm - Wednesday, March 16, 2011

#2 mike

Why bother to destroy the image

when I see an image i dont want to see a “

Put that info in the metatext instead

11:01 pm - Thursday, March 17, 2011

#3 John H. Maw

While it is good to know how to watermark images I would encourage people to thing very carefully about doing it at all. I made a decision not to do so to images on my web site for a number of reasons.

The images that I put up aren’t that large. 800 pixels on the longest side looks OK on a monitor but it’s not really that useful for anything other than screen use.

My work is primarily commissioned photography, so I’m not selling images that are already on my site. They are an example to show clients the sort of work that I can do. If I watermark them they don’t look as good. It also looks as if I don’t trust my clients. It gives a negative (Oh, a pun) feel to the site.

The fact is that the people who might steal my photos are not ever going to be customers anyway. One extra commission pays me more than I would ever get from the people who might steal from me because they aren’t going to give me any money in the first place.

Everyone has to reach their own conclusion, but my images are simply on my site to allow me to make a living in the way I choose. I will not loose too much sleep over the loss of some income that, in reality, was never going to come my way.

6:04 pm - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

#4 Pixel Alchemist

I tend not to put watermarks on my web Images. As I do feel they destroy the feel and look of the image.
However I do make sure there is a copyright notice clearly stated in the “photo comments” or tag line.
With the Graphic tools/ programs available today, if people are going to steal then they are going to and be able to remove any Watermark off an image. It is very easy to do.
there are also other ways to help protect your images from download in the first place. either via flash elements or clever web coding.

1:21 am - Wednesday, March 23, 2011

#5 mitrovi

Mike you’re a real genius,
if you have your copyright just in the metadata I open your photo in Lightroom and with 1 single click change yours with mine. I can even change the date.
if you’re not interested, just dont do it then!

7:58 am - Sunday, March 27, 2011

#6 Bionic Beauty

Thank you for the excellent tutorial! I have also had my images thieved more times than I care to count.  I do tend to watermark in the “corners’ sometimes for my craft creations on Etsy, but on my blogs, I watermark over any nail polish swatches particularly… nefarious people on eBay are always lifting polish pictures.  Funny, right?

Anyhow as a newbie to Photoshop (I’ve always used Gimp), I truly appreciate your step-by-step walk-through.

3:36 am - Saturday, July 9, 2011

#7 Tony Lowe

Many Thanks, appreciate you taking the time to do this. As a newbie i need all the help i can get.

9:59 am - Wednesday, July 27, 2011

#8 gme

Watermarks don’t have to be ugly, and they don’t have to give a negative feel. I use watermarks to get my business out there. If someone sees that my name is on their friends photo on facebook, and they like it, maybe they’ll check out my site. I know plenty of photographers who do the same thing.

2:35 pm - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

#9 Susan


Thanks for the tutorial. Very simple and easy to follow. I could successfully make the watermark and copyright, but my Action (using F11) did not work for a new photo. It says that the photo is locked.
Can you help solving this problem?
Thanks a lot.

5:12 am - Sunday, February 19, 2012

#10 Henry Rivers

So often now they are edited out anyway. If you are going to use a watermark make you use a small one and tile it across the image ... this will make it much harder to remove.

So often now they are edited out anyway. If you are going to use a watermark make you use a small one and tile it across the image ... this will make it much harder to remove.

an example of a poorly watermarked image:

2:13 pm - Saturday, March 24, 2012

#11 jiovanni

I followed the steps here for the watermark and I get problems.
The ‘C’ has moved to a different spot when I apply the action.
It’s like 1cm above where it should be beside the text. I then created the watermark with text first then ‘C’ and that left me with the same problem. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. All the images I’m applying to are the same size etc. Can I do something differently to fix it?

11:57 am - Friday, March 30, 2012

#12 pati

Thanks so much for this easy-to-follow tutorial. Well done! Exactly what I was looking for.

2:27 pm - Wednesday, May 23, 2012

#13 James

I experienced the same problem as Jiovanni in comment #11, everytime I used the function key the copyright symbol would shift. I tried doing the steps over again several times and nothing helped. I’m curious if there is some way to solve this problem. As far as a watermark ruining your image/picture I totally disagree. If the watermark is made light enough it can almost appear that it isn’t even there. Plus I keep all my work backed up without the watermark so it isn’t damaged in any way and only protected in the copy that is available on the internet.

3:02 pm - Friday, June 8, 2012

#14 Valerie

Thank you so much! Your instructions were spot on and super easy to follow!

8:06 pm - Monday, August 6, 2012

#15 Barb

Loved the tutorial, but Step 18 has me stumped. F11 on my keyboard doesn’t do what you say it does. Any suggestions?

5:57 am - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

#16 Industrial Photographer

Thank you for the simple and useful tip. Will be implementing the same for all my photography work.

5:35 am - Sunday, September 9, 2012

#17 Smitha Thomas

Thanks you very much. Your tutorial was very easy to follow and helped a lot

6:19 pm - Tuesday, October 2, 2012

#18 ralph

I think you are wasting your Time and effort here.
There are automated and powerful tools like Mass Watermark that can do the job easily for you.It can watermark 100s of images with few clicks and within minutes.There are additional options like adding EXIF Info,Resizing,Optimizing and even direct upload of watermarked images diretly to your Picasa/Flickr web albums quickly and easily.Its completely a professional tool check it out

5:51 pm - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

#19 Barb

Actually, I do have EXIF info in my photos, but it gets stripped by Google Plus and Facebook, so it’s not much use. That’s the only reason I want the watermark on the photos. I normally display them using PhotoShelter, so the watermark is done automatically for their site. I will check out Mass Watermark. Thanks!

11:29 pm - Sunday, October 21, 2012

#20 Smart eDesigners

Many many thanks. Will try to use this.

6:04 am - Tuesday, October 30, 2012

#21 Greg

Thanks for the tutorial.
Excellent, and easy to follow instructions. All good but using F11 didn’t work for a new photo, it just nothing happening, I did try over & over again it just doesn’t work for me.
I use CS5 and wonder if I have to do something extra / different? 
Just wondering if you could help solving this problem?

Kind Regards

7:25 am - Monday, November 5, 2012

#22 vertika

thnks a lot!!
only one time effort required ..

7:24 pm - Monday, November 19, 2012

#23 Desiree

The only thing I changed and seemed to work better is instead of using the shape tool to make the copyright symbol, I used (on the mac) the alt(option) key held down while typing the letter g.  Then it seems to recognize all the letters as one unit.

5:01 am - Saturday, January 5, 2013

#24 fatimasheikhhai

All good but using F11 didn’t work for a new photo, it just nothing happening, I did try over & over again it just doesn’t work for me.

5:45 pm - Thursday, February 7, 2013

#25 lika

i wasn’t able you perform step 7 (add layer style) because when i click on Bevel and embossed as well as any other i get a message saying could not complete you request because of a program error. What should I do?

12:31 am - Sunday, March 10, 2013

#26 Lika

I have a problem with completing step 7 because when I try to click on Bevel and Emboss I get a message Could not complete a request because of a program error. Can anybody help me with that? Thanks
I have Photoshop 7.0

12:50 am - Sunday, March 10, 2013

#27 coreyb

Wow, this is by far the easiest tutorial I have ever read.  Typically I have to go back and reread at least a couple of sentences to “fill in the blank”.  Not this one.  Wow just wow.  Thank you so much for sharing this….off to see if you have any other tutorials!!!

8:09 am - Sunday, April 7, 2013

#28 Shikher Gupta

Great Thanks.
A little help needed, while saving in batch it asks me after each file about JPEG Options (Baseline, Progressive and Quality) is there a option to automate this also?

9:32 am - Tuesday, April 30, 2013

#29 ishita

I’m not able to blend the layers as you suggested.
help please?

6:36 pm - Sunday, June 9, 2013

#30 Flip Flop

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4:49 pm - Sunday, July 7, 2013

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4:00 am - Tuesday, September 10, 2013

#32 Logabex

Nice tutorial, hope this could help you, as well.

9:27 am - Monday, October 14, 2013

#33 carlo

what version of photoshop is this?

10:12 am - Thursday, February 13, 2014

#34 Ana

Incredibly helpful. Thank you so much!
I am a visual artist, this requires me to submit images of my works on a regular basis to a diverse range of clients/organizations, for a wide array of uses. I take most of my documentation photographs and I’m becoming increasingly worried about beginning to find them on t-shirts/mugs…  Only one question. At the very end, do I hit flatten image, or will that undo all the work?

Thank you,


9:10 pm - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

#35 Linda J. Prieto

Nice photoshop tutorial. I try it and success to create watermark in photoshop. Thanks a lot…

11:08 am - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

#36 Tresa

I have been dreading figuring out how to do this, but you made it so easy and it was actually fun following your terrific instructions! I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to do this. You are GREAT at giving instructions! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

1:26 am - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

#37 Eugen Fernea

Nice tutorial, but it seems Photoshop is not the best tool for the job.

It is probably better to use a specialized software like MiraFX STILL which lets you add text, vector or raster watermarks to hundreds of images at once in just a few minutes.

Check out this tutorial. It shows how to do it in three simple steps.

7:37 pm - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

#38 Clipping Path

Really good working hand work.I like it very much and thanks to you for posting such an informative article./

6:14 pm - Thursday, November 5, 2015