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A traditional watermark is a variation in the thickness of paper that is visible under certain conditions. Watermarks have been used for security purposes for a long time. They have also been used by paper manufacturers as some indication of quality.
In the digital age, watermarks are defined in a different way. There are basically two types, used for different purposes.
Visible watermarks are simply pieces of text or images which are overlaid on the main image either for marketing purposes or to discourage unauthorised copies. Sometimes these watermarks are also used for censorship.
Many stock photograph sites use visible watermarks to prevent the theft of images, and butcher the images to the point where they are not worth attempting to purloin. Some sites show thumbnails without watermarks, and then surprise you with crosshairs in the larger versions.
A local one I sell images through in New Zealand, mychillybin for instance, does this. (A chillybin is a thing you take with you to the beach to keep your cold drinks in)
Some folks like to add either informational or annoying watermarks to images on photo sharing sites such as Flickr. Personally I find this as annoying as people tagging buildings in the city streets, but I can understand the motivation.
At first glance this seems patently absurd. What’s the point in a watermark you cannot see? But there is technology available which can insert information into an image which cannot be seen, but can be interrogated with the right software. You can’t prevent the theft of your images this way, but you can prove that the image that was stolen was yours, which is almost as good.
I’m going to stick with visible watermarks today.
Tagging your images
So how can you add watermarks to your images? Easy.
You can do this either online or using an application on your PC. The online options tend to be easier. The offline ones tend to be more comprehensive.
Online, one of the simplest options is PicMarkr.
Upload up to five of your images from your PC, or grab them from Flickr first. You can optionally resize the images as well, but if you have a way to do that before you upload them, the whole thing will be much faster.
PicMarkr can apply text, image or tiled watermarks.
Insert the required text, change the font colours and transparency if necessary, and choose which corner of the image you want the watermark in. I’d be ever so grateful if you didn’t put them in the centre. I’m sticking with the Kiwi spelling, by the way. I hope you can keep up. :-)
You can download the images again, or move them to Flickr.
Browse to the image you want to use for a watermark. Bold and simple is best.
Click the Upload button.
Decide on the location within the image for the watermark, and click Continue.
Download or transfer the results.
I’d be reluctant to use this one unless I was feeling awfully paranoid, or had a desire to get into marketing in a big way.
Tiled watermarks are repeated in a pattern all over the image. You again have the choice of text or image, and it all works the same way as the options above.
Alternative sites providing similar functionality include:
If you prefer to apply tiles to your images offline, there are a number of options. I usually fall back on my friend IrfanView, but there are many options, including a not-for-free pro version of PicMarkr just for Windows.
A word of warning. It’s very easy in Irfanview to accidentally watermark an entire folder of images, overwriting your original files. No, I haven’t done that. My sins are far greater. But I’ve seen it done. Copy your images to another folder, and only overwrite those ones. Do it now!
You can easily apply text watermarks this way, with a great deal more control over the font, placement, colour, alignment and transparency.
Just fire up Irfanview and browse to the images you want to deal with. Hit the ‘b’ key on the keyboard or choose File | Batch Conversion from the menu. Select the files to which you want to apply a watermark, and then click the advanced button. If you saw my post on adding borders to images a couple of weeks ago then you might have already been in here. This time we want to take a look in the “Add overlay text” option.
As you can see, there are a number of options that you can use to set the watermark up exactly as you want it. Let’s work through them quickly.
X-Coord and Y-Coord are the offset, in pixels, from the start corner. Margins, if you like. Width and Height are the size of the usually invisible box the text sits inside. Start Corner is the same as the alignment options we set in PicMarkr, except that there is, thankfully, no centre option.
Add your watermark text in the box, appending date, time and a copyright symbol if required.
Irfanview has one outstanding feature that might be of use to you here. It uses placeholders and can change the watermark for each image. As a simple example, you can put the text ‘$N’ in the text box, and each image will be watermarked with its own filename. Click the Help button for more info.
Adjust font size, colour and alignment as you please, then click OK to return to the advanced settings page. After checking that you haven’t inadvertently left any other options turned on, click OK again to return to the Batch Conversion page.
Take a moment to think through the options you’ve chosen, make sure you’re not overwriting anything you shouldn’t, and click Start Batch.
That’s it. You’re a star.
One more note. Another way to tag your images with your information is through the use of metadata. You can’t see that in the image itself, but many photo viewers can show you the information. I’ll cover that another day, I promise.
If someone has stolen your images, would you know? Take a look at TinEye to see. It’s not the most comprehensive tool out there, but for instance when I ask it to look for my most popular image on Flickr, it tells me that four other websites (none of which I authorised) are using the image.
What else do you use? And what sorts of watermarks do you add? What sorts of unauthorised adventures have your images been on?