How to Watermark Photos in Photoshop Elements

Protect your creative efforts

a watermarked photo showing two puppies

Liz Masoner

Love them or hate them, watermarks are a quick and easy way to stamp your ownership on photos you share on the internet. They're certainly not foolproof, but watermarks make ownership of a photo apparent and theft easier to spot.

This tutorial explains how to watermark your photos using Photoshop Elements 10, but the method should work in any version or program that allows layers.

  1. Create a New Layer

    Create a New Layer
    Liz Masoner

    With a photo open in full editing mode, create a new blank layer through the Layer menu or with the shortcut Shift-Cmnd-N on Mac or Shift-Ctrl-N on a Windows computer. The actual watermark will live on this new layer so you can manipulate it easily without modifying the underlying image.

  2. Create the Text

    Create the Text
    Liz Masoner

    Your watermark can be plain text, or text plus the copyright symbol: Alt+0169 on a Windows computer or opt-G on a Mac. It can be a shape, a logo, or a combination of these. If you have a custom brush defined with your text, use it now. Otherwise, type in your text. The example uses a strong font with a name and the copyright symbol. Try a few different colors to see which works best with any given photo.

  3. Create the Emboss

    Creating the Emboss
    Liz Masoner

Although watermarks can be as simple as a logo on a photo, many people use an embossed effect that looks nearly transparent. This helps keep all areas of the photo visible without sacrificing protection.

To go this route, change the layer blend style to soft light. The amount of transparency will vary depending on the font style and the original color of the text; the most transparent is 50 percent gray.

Then, select a bevel style. This comes down to personal preference. A simple outer or inner bevel works well. Adjust the visibility of your watermark as desired by changing the opacity of the text layer.

Watermark Use and Placement

Watermarked Photo
Liz Masoner

A rather vocal movement on the internet decries the use of any watermark on images, claiming they ruin photos and don't stop theft. There are a few reasons not to listen to them.

  • Although watermarks don't prevent theft, they're like the VIN (vehicle identification number) on your car. They're identifying marks that help you prove that the photo is yours, and the thief knows it is yours. 
  • Watermarks can act as advertising. Your website address on your watermark can lead potential customers to your site.
  • Watermarks don't have to cross the main part of the image. Pick a corner for your logo where it would be difficult to simply crop the photo to remove it

In the end, the choice of where to place the watermark(s) or whether to use one at all is yours.