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How To Add (and Remove!) Watermarks, Text, or Logos To And From Images

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Today, we’ll take a look at how to quickly add complex watermarks to hundreds of images at once—and some devious ways to remove these watermarks from other people’s images. Is it wrong do this? Keep reading and decide for yourself.

Lots of professional artists and photographers use watermarks to make sample photographs unusable by casual downloaders. For you aspiring artists, you can create watermarks and logos either for protection or for promotion, and add them to hundreds (or even thousands) of images in seconds with these simple methods. While this can give you the feeling of some protection, it’s important to understand just how easy it can be to remove a watermark with Photoshop (or other graphics software). Keep reading for an easy article on how to do both!

Making A Big Job Much Easier With Automation

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When preparing a large dump of files that need watermarks, it can seem daunting to think about individually editing all those hundreds of photographs at once. Instead of wasting all of that time doing redundant tasks, we’ll spend a few minutes recording a simple action, then using the batch processor to convert the whole folder. There are lots of ways to do this (at least in some simple sense) but this automated method is the one we’ll be covering today. If you’re a pro and use a website or freeware program to watermark your images, feel free to share your experience with us in the comments—otherwise it’s time to dig into Photoshop.

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Our goal is to watermark a set of about 300 photographs with this logo. You’ll need a Photoshop PSD version of the file saved to your disk.

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You should size your image to fit perfectly to your batch of photographs before saving it. The logo, above left,  is sized to fit inside the high resolution photo as shown above right.

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Some watermark programs step and repeat logos to make the image more unusable. It’s not hard impossible to do this in Photoshop with clever scripting and some programming know-how, but it’s MUCH easier to start with an image like the one on the left that is already sized to fit the high-res photo, and has the repeat built into the saved file. If this is what you want to do, making your logo file as shown above left is by far your easiest solution.

Creating a Simple Photoshop Action

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We start the whole process by opening the first photo, and use it to build our action. No other files should be open. Navigate to Window > Actions to open the Actions panel.

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In the panel, click the sshot-48 to create a new action. If you have an existing set of actions, you can add it to them, otherwise, “Default Actions” is fine. Name it anything and hit “Record.”

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While recording, step one is to open your logo file we created earlier to be used for watermarking.

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Continue recording. Your next step is to copy your logo image to your clipboard using Edit > Copy or Edit > Copy Merged, then close the document and paste it into the photograph. Alternatively, you can use File > Place to insert the logo in a single step, although copy/paste works easily enough.

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In your new logo layer, press Ctrl + A to select all, then find select the “Move” tool in your toolbox by pressing the V key. This will give you the “Align” tools in your upper options panel. Click the sshot-54 and the sshot-55 to align your logo to the bottom right, or wherever you care to align it.

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Our image is set up properly. Still recording, we want to save a copy of the file without changing the filename and then close.

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Photoshop will remember the folder and filetype you use for your copy. Be sure you don’t overwrite your original, then close, and do not save when you are prompted. At this point, you can finally stop recording and test our your new watermarking action.

The Batch Automation Tool

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The Automate tool is simple to use. In this case, we’ll open it by navigating to File > Automate > Batch and tell it to use our “Add Watermark” action we just created. Then, we point it at the folder of photographs we want to process. Because we wrote our action the way we did, it will open each file, add the logo, then save a copy in the folder we used earlier. When all your options are in place, simply click OK to start the process.

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And, in no time, all images are watermarked with the logo in the prescribed corner.

Ethically Murky: To Remove or Not to Remove?

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A word to the wise before we briefly discuss how to remove watermarks from images. HTG in no way encourages you to steal from artists or photographers be removing the watermark information from their images. If you choose to do so in a malicious way (like removing a watermark and putting it on your own site, claiming it to be your own image) you’re doing a terrible thing. (Shame!)

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On the other hand, Photoshop (and other graphics programs) are more or less built to remove objects and image data just like watermarks. It’s ridiculous to pretend it can’t be done, when plenty of malicious people will find a way regardless. If you need to remove a watermark, be nice and respect the copyright of artists—don’t use these techniques for evil! With that out of the way, let’s very briefly discuss how to remove a watermark.

How To Remove Watermarks From Images

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Crop: One of the simplest ways to remove a watermark is to simply crop the image. This is not always ideal, but definitely gets the job done, and quickly.

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Content-Aware Healing Brush: In the toolbox, shaped like a band aid, is an excellent, powerful tool called the “Healing Brush” and “Spot Healing Brush.” These allow you to paint over parts of the image you wish to blot out, often giving convincing results.

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Rubber Stamp Tool: The rubber stamp works similar to a copy-paste, but allows you to select areas of your image and paint over undesirable areas similar to the brush tool.

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Content Aware Fill: One of Photoshop’s newer features, the content aware fill does a decent job of covering up areas like this, but usually requires some tweaking after the fact. Find it by going to Edit > Fill, and selecting “Content Aware.”

For a more in depth understanding and a video how-to for using these tools to remove things (including watermarks) check out our older article on how to remove people and objects from images.


Image Credits: Geisha Kyoto Gion by Todd Laracuenta via Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons. Moai Rano raraku by Aurbina, in Public Domain. Other images copyright Stephanie Pragnell/Eric Goodnight, all rights reserved.

Eric Z Goodnight is an Illustrator and Graphics Geek who hopes to make Photoshop more accessible to How-To Geek readers. When he’s not headbanging to heavy metal or geeking out over manga, he’s often off screen printing T-Shirts.

  • Published 01/2/12

Comments (3)

  1. Lady Fitzgerald

    Irfanview is a free very useful, easy to use mass photo editing program that is capable of adding watermarks. By using a partially transparrent layer on top, GIMP, a freebie almost as powerful as Photoshop (also as difficult to learn to use) also can add watermarks.

  2. JeRrYFaR

    I believe Faststone Image Viewer can also add watermarks. Probably Picasa as well.

    http://www.faststone.org
    http://picasa.google.com

  3. WhyMeLord

    I’ve made my living from IPR (Intellectual Property Rights). Removing water marks is trivial removing the hidden marks is not imposable but close. The reality is it’s cheaper to pay for a license than it is to steal the image.

    That said our work product, as does a lot of others’, has imbedded code that phones home. There is a cottage industry of companies and attorneys that send out demand letters. Good or bad example depending on your position in the food chain is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getty_Images

    Most infringement cases are granted on summery judgment. Basically the judge taps the bench and says the legal version of “Pay the man”.

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