Using Watermarks in Adobe Lightroom 4 (and 3, and probably 5...)

August 04, 2013  •  2 Comments

My first post to this blog discussed my reasoning behind using watermarks.  Truth be told, this was in response to a request I received about a post to a Photography Talk forum thread, wherein I stated that it was easier to manage watermarks in Lightroom (LR) than in PhotoShop (PS).  In this post I'll talk about how LR manages watermarks, and how to set up a text-based watermark.  Also, I do this as a write-up because I learn better by reading; others prefer videos, and to you I apologize for not using your preferred learning method.  I hope you still find this valuable.


Context: LR is a complex tool, with lots (and lots) of wonderful features.  I find that its easiest to figure out a feature when I need it, or perhaps when I run across a mention of some function that may be useful to my workflow.  My goal here is to explain one thing, start to finish, to get the newbie off and running.  It's then up to the user to expand on these learnings.


In LR watermarks aren't applied to an image until to export it, print it, or perhaps create a slideshow.  In other words, you can't see the watermark within LR; only in the images produced by LR.  This is certainly different from a PS paradigm, wherein you would be able to see the effect immediately.  The great thing about this approach, however, is that once you create a watermark template (I'll use this word to indicate the structure of a watermark) it can be applied to any image with almost no effort.  I haven't quite figured out a way in PS to get the same results with as little effort.


So the idea is to create a template that you like; this can be done at almost any time.  You will then use or apply the template (watermark) later on.   So let's create a simply, text only watermark that contains a copyright notice.  Edit / Edit Watermarks... Open up LR, and from within any module go to the Edit Menu, and choose "Edit Watermarks...".  The watermark dialog will appear.  Let's take a look at the elements on this dialog:

  1. The watermark identifier.  Label your watermarks with descriptive names to make them easy to find and use.  You can start with an existing mark, or create a new one from scratch by choosing "Custom," which is what we'll do here.
  2. Preview area.  This shows you what the mark will look like on the currently selected image.
  3. Style selector.  This post will address text watermarks, so we'll select "Text" here.
  4. Options for your text mark.  Details below; this is where most of the work will be done.
  5. The text that will appear in the watermark.

The "Edit Watermarks" dialog


Begin by choosing "Custom" from the drop-down menu.  You'll be asked to name the template when you save it.  Next, enter the text of your mark into the text area (5).  For this example I'll add a simple notice of the year of copyright.  To enter a copyright symbol on Windows hold down the Alt key while entering the numbers "0169".  The leading zero is important.  Alternatively you can find the symbol in the character map tool (applet? charm?) then select and copy the character and paste it here.  Add the rest of the text as "2013 Gary R Hook" (use your own name, of course).  The string should be displayed in the preview area immediately.


Once the text is entered you can modify the typeface, style, alignment and effects (6).  It isn't necessary to highlight the text; changes affect the entire mark.  Since I use the typeface "Mariah" in my logo, I will use it here, in bold, aligned left, in white.  The color you choose depends upon your business identiy as well as the colors in the image; I have adopted teal in my logo, but that doesn't work well for a watermark.  I am finding that white seems to fit more often then black, espcially since I will make the mark somewhat transparent.  Note that size of the mark is not set here.Watermark Editor: Text Options


You may or may not want a shadow (7).  Enable the shadow by selecting the checkbox.  I find that a shadow on a mostly transparent mark is almost undetectable, but works very well when the mark itself is at least 30% visible.  Experiment to find settings that are pleasing to your eye.


Next are the effects.  In this section the first option presented to you is the setting of the opacity.  The problem I have with the layout here is that I find opacity to be a function of size.  Larger marks can be more transparent (less opacity); smaller often requires more opacity to remain legible.  So let's skip this for now and move to Anchor (8).


Where do you want your mark to (more or less) sit?  You may choose a corner, a side, the top or bottom, or the center.  I reserve the center for large, obscuring marks that will prevent any realistic use of the image (for example, in a customer preview gallery).  Most of the time I use the bottom right corner, sometimes the bottom left if the image calls for it.  So I would select the anchor point in the bottom right corner.  If I want the mark to run along an edge I can rotate it here.  In this example, then, let's have the text run along the right edge, bottom to top, aligned in the bottom right corner.  (The image below shows all of the final selections.)

Watermark Editor: Watermark Effects

Next is the Size (9).  Fit will fit the text, using the selected orientation, into the image.  Fill makes the text as large as possible to fill the image in both directions.  This will usually cause the first 1 or 2 characters to be seen, and everything else to fall outside the image boundaries.  This option is more appropriate for graphic marks (next tutorial).  Proportional is the ideal choice for text; it allows the text size to be scaled to an appropriate size.  The result is a mark that is fairly consistent in appearance from image to image, no matter the size of the image.  Setting the proportion value to 20 gives me text that reaches approximately halfway up the image.  I like that.


Inset (10) is used to move the mark away from the edge of the image.  If the appearance of your mark requires some space around it, use these sliders to move it away from the edge.  A value of 1 or 2 for both horizontal and vertical, for text, seems to work well to my eye.


Finally, adjust the Opacity (11).  This is a style choice and dependent upon what you want to accomplish.  For a small mark that is there, but not obtrusive, you may find that 30% is adequate.  For a clear mark that can be seen through, try 50%.  To be really bold, anything above 70% is going to be in-your-face.  To emulate a signature, then, I might choose a proportion of 12 with an opacity of 30 or less.  Normally, however, I use 30% for text and a size of 16.  This image shows a preview with these settings.  Keep in mind that there really is no right or wrong here: decide what works for you and accomlishes your goals.Final settings for a text watermark


Once you've got your settings where you want them, you need to save them as a new watermark.  If the upper left drop-down menu (1) still reads "Custom" then just click the "Save" button.  If the drop-down shows the name of an existing mark with "(edited)" added to it, you have two choices: update that mark with the new settings, or create a new mark.  In either case use the drop-down menu and select "Save Current Settings as New Preset..." or "Update Preset".  The "Save" button presumes a new preset and prompts for a name. I find it easier to be intentional and select the specific operation I desire. I also like to name my marks based on their content, and add identifiers for size and opacity.  For example, I'll add "30%" for an opacity setting of 30, an indication of the proportional size (e.g. "16") and an abbreviation of the location and orientation. This example would be "LRB" for lower-right, vertical.  Enabling a watermark when exporting an image Since I usually only make text readable from the nearest outside edge, I don't worry about notating the text direction.


Next is using the watermark.  If you have used Lightroom for any length of time, you likely understand that you "export" images to create your files.  Or set up to print, or create a slideshow, or etc.  It is during this operation that the watermark will be applied to the selected images.  In the export dialog (right click on an image and select "Export / Export..."), about two thirds of the way down, is the watermark selector (12).  Enable a watermark by selecting the checkbox and choose a mark from the drop-down menu. Then export the image and your watermark will be embedded on it.



The end result:No Time


I hope you find this helpful; leave a comment below if you do. And don't be shy about asking questions!


The next post will be a variation on this, describing how to set up a graphic watermark.


GRHook Photo
I understand completely. I rely on 2 presets, in either lower corner, for most images. I also made myself a "proof" overlay that diagonally occupies a good portion of the image, without preventing a good look at the image. I guess we're expected to know that the end result will be.
Thx. I need to be able to quickly select between presets to see suitability for each photo. Pity there's no preview before export.
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