Watermarks on Art

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Watermarks on Art

by Charly

Watermarks on Art found on the web are hotly debated: To use or not to use, that is the question. Personally I went through both stages; watermarking my work as a new photographer, to not using watermarks and back to using them. For each individual who puts images of their work up on the internet, it’s up to you whether to use them or not.

Some say watermarks deter buyers from purchasing Art, others say it doesn’t. What should one do then? Well as I said, ‘It’s up to you what you’re comfortable with doing’. If that is using watermarks, them by all means do so. I can attest to them not deterring sales, though I cannot say if watermarking my art stops sales.

One thing I do know is art, whether pictures of paintings or personal/pro photography or digital work and all others, always have a chance of being taken/used by anyone. The only sure way of not having any of your creations taken/stolen/used is to never put them up on the internet! Of course that is not an option for most artists so what to do?

There are a few options to help deter others from taking your work:

1. Watermark them

2. Put up low resolution images that are small – say 500 to 600px on the longest side

3. Have DMCA monitor your websites and work

3. Doing all the above


I do all the above; have DMCA, use watermarks (though not all the time) and put up low res., small images. Of course if you using a order fulfillment site, you have to put up high resolution, non-watermarked work, but be sure they or you: watermark and/or keep small low res. images for customers to view. When I open an image and see it’s huge, I just cringe and think, Why is anyone doing that today?


The answer is they simply are unaware of what to do. Most editing software on the market today has the ability to save your work as a jpeg at a small resolution (72ppi) and dictate what the longest side (edge) should be. Here’s an example of Lightroom:

Lr Export Example

With this example (click on to enlarge) we will pay attention to the File Settings, Image Sizing and Watermarking.


File Settings determines how your file will be saved to the location of your choice.

Image Format: In most cases you will use JPEG. I cannot remember a time where I used anything else

Color Space: In most cases you will use sRGB. This is the color space used on the internet and many that print for you will ask for it

Quality: This is often misinterpreted thus used incorrectly in many cases, because everyone wants a good quality image for people to see. When I ready an image for the net, I will use around 74.  I’ve used as low as 68 and still the image looked good. Only when someone tries to enlarge it will the image start to degrade in quality, which is what I want. Believe it or not, a small print produced from a file of 74 quality setting will print as good as one with a 100.

Editing JPEGs isn’t ideal and trying to edit a low resolution, low quality, small one is a down right pain in the butt! Oh sure it can be done, but I don’t know why anyone would bother. I remember in a Photoshop class at university, our Prof. giving us images that were low res. JPEGs to learn specific tools. I got so frustrated with one assignment, that I wound up taking a couple of images for upcoming students to use while they learned about the Clone Tool. A few found out I did this and thanked me, cuz it made their work easier. It’s murder editing a 72ppi that is small in size and it look great, trust me!


Image Sizing determines resolution and of course size of the saved file.

Resize to Fit: There are numerous options when you click on the drop down arrows: Width & Height, Dimensions, Long Edge, Short Edge and Metapixels. With any of these your options below the drop down will change. Today we are covering Long Edge and as you can see in the example, a box to enter size and another drop down to use pixels or inches. I normally use pixels and put in 500 up to 800px but never larger.

Resolution: You enter the resolution you want. 72 pixels per inch (ppi) is widely used on the internet and what you should use for anything you are putting up. Of course if your printer or order fulfillment center wants 300ppi (widely used for printing) or another resolution, you will enter it here.

Example: 72ppi x 500px = roughly 7 inches in length | 300ppi x 500px = roughly one and three quarters of an inch (1.75″)

Since using a high resolution with the same 500px long edge makes the image smaller, most opt to use 72ppi for the internet. Using 300ppi would require a 2100px long edge to be 7 inches long and be of a higher quality with having more pixels per square inch. Make sense?


Watermarking is exactly what it is. With Lr, you can add any watermark you want; text or graphic

Watermark: To use a text or graphic watermark you check the box. Then using the drop down arrows, either choose one you’ve already saved, Simple Copyright Watermark or Edit Watermarks… If you wish to create or edit a watermark, the image you have selected to Export will pop up in a new window. Though I won’t be going into this today, you have many options on how your text will look or use a graphic of your choice and where it is placed on the image, etc.


Does watermarking stop people from taking/using your work? Well again, the only way to ensure your work is never taken or used is to never put it anywhere on the internet. That said, yes people can edit out watermarks, but most won’t on a small low res. file and if they did the only thing that file would be good for is on the www. It won’t print to any decent size or look good and that is why I use low resolution, low quality and small files on the net.

I look at it this way, if my work is better than many out there, people will want my work even though it’s watermarked. They know their print, canvas, etc. will not have the watermark and it will look beautiful on their wall. Of course if one should decide not to order my work solely based on there being a watermark, well then I’d chalked that up to not a very serious customer. Watermarks would never deter me from buying what I want!

As I’ve said before, I’d love to have my images up large without a watermark! The reality is in today’s age too many take without asking permission and some of them make a lot of money off of other peoples work who get nothing for it. If one wants to use my work, they’ll have to work hard to do so and even then, won’t have anything worth using really.


But what if I use a specific site to keep all my high resolution images? Yanno like Flickr or the like or a Cloud? I plan on doing an article on this in the near future, so won’t go into it in great detail here. But…

My answer is don’t do it! Look you can do anything you want to, but external hard drives are dirt cheap. Pick you up a few and put all of your originals and edited work on them; keep one off site in case of a disaster. Then you have complete control over your work, where it is and how large the files are. Besides low res, small images will help keep your website running a lot faster than mega files will and they’ll look great. Rome Burning, at the beginning of this article, is at 72ppi and 504px long edge, so see not bad at all. ;)


By Charly

A freelance photographer that spent a month driving around Italy


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  2. All excellent info. I’m a watermarker myself … too many of my own orphaned works floating around online from my days of innocence. So I do what I can to prevent it.

    1. Thanks Lois!

      My intention was to give good info for all the new photographers out there, as well as seasoned. Being bullied into not using watermarks is nonsense. Yet I allowed the same thing to happen to me and have too many “orphaned” works floating around also. I’m hopeful the tides are changing on the use of watermarks and putting up low res, low quality, small files to protect everyone’s work. :)

  3. “Some say watermarks deter buyers from purchasing Art, others say it doesn’t.”

    I agree that it is true that there are many comments on line leaning one way or the other. What I tend to do is listen to those with the most experience in online marketing.

    1. One should do as they think best. :)

      I guess what has pushed me back to using watermarks the most is the Terms of Service Policies many are adapting today; such as fb, pinterest, etc. Many state free usage for company advertising purposes, perpetual licenses, ability to modify, creative derivative works and the like. Plus not all say they will credit the creator. I don’t agree with these terms and use watermarks or don’t sign up with them at all.

      As stated in my article, many won’t bother with my low res, watermarked images. ;)

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