Creating a transparent watermark, in 4 easy steps

by on Jun.25, 2010, under General, Images

It’s quite simple, really. So simple I won’t even post pics. And I’m assuming you are slightly familiar with Photoshop or some other editing software that is capable to use layers so I’ll skip the part where others teach you how to create text and all that stuff you should already know. OK, let’s go. This is how I make all my watermarks, BTW.

Some remarks first:

The transparent watermark works much better if the original image (i.e. what will be used as the watermark, not the image you’re adding the watermark to) is in greyscale (50% grey is fine, the lighter the better). It doesn’t matter if it has a shading from grey to white, for example, but it works better with just plain grey (as the shading will appear anyway when you add the embossing, but adding a gradient effect is OK). Just don’t do it using colours, it might make things look a little weird if this is not what you want. Therefore, this method is good to use with just some plain text or with a simple logo that looks about the same if converted to greyscale.

1 – Start with the basics: set the size you would like your watermark “master” image to have (better to make it as big as you ever think you’ll use it, you can shrink it later or make smaller versions from that if needed), then add the text, using the type tool of your software (tip: ALT-0169 gives you the © sign). Best to have it like Photoshop, with the text layer being separated from the rest of the image as an individual layer. If your software can’t do it, as long as it keeps the background transparent, that’s OK I guess. Use a 50% grey colour for the text colour. If you want to use a logo, add it as a layer (with transparency!) and remember to change it to greyscale too.

2 – Add some effects to the layer to make it more visible as a watermark – I use the “Bevel and Emboss” in Photoshop, my settings are (but I guess some of these are defaults):

Style: Inner Bevel

Technique: Smooth

Depth: 100%

Directions: Up

Size: 5px (might vary according to the size of your text)

Soften: 0 px

Angle: 96º

Use Global Light checked

Altitude: 37º

Highlight mode and Shadow mode are default I think (Screen & Multiply)

Use a good reading font, avoid “busy” fonts (try some to see if works or not, most won’t), thin fonts also don’t work well, better use plain old bold fonts (serif fonts work though if they aren’t too thin). If needed, adjust the tracking (letter spacing) of the text. If you want to use a logo, add it to this image (convert it to a transparent, greyscale image first) and apply the same embossing effects to this layer with the logo. You can (should actually) merge this layer with the logo with your text layer to make things easier in step 3…

3 – It’s almost done. Really. Now you have an image in greyscale, with a line of text and embossed. In the layers tab of Photoshop (that place where you set the layer opacity, how it will be mixed with others, etc.) set the mixing mode to “Soft Light”, Opacity 100%. Save your file in PSD format – do NOT merge the layers with the text (or/and logo) with the background layer.

4 – Open the image you want to add a watermark to. Open your watermark image. Drag the text layer from your watermark image to the image to be watermarked, and place this new layer wherever you want your watermark to be located in the main image. That’s it.

More remarks: you can try different mixing layer modes (some others work well too), but some of these modes despite still showing the transparent watermark, change the aspect of the original image a bit (like the “Difference” mode for example, although this mode also have some interesting results). You can try other settings for the embossing effect as you wish as well, like the angles. The trick is just in the mixing mode and the greyscale, the embossing is just to make the text more visible, some like it less “fatter” or embossed. Using greyscale in the watermark is what makes the colours of the watermarked image stay more or less the same (slightly lighter though). If you use any colour in your watermark the image below the watermark will look solid, it will be red in some parts for example if you use the “Lighter Color” mix mode and if the watermark image is solid red. This will vary according to the mix mode you’ll be using. If this is what you think it works best with your image, go ahead. But the greyscale image is more “neutral” so to speak and a plain transparent watermark is more manageable and can be used in several images without ajustments.

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