Thursday, May 4th, 2023

Should you add a watermark to your graphics?

Graphic showing a junk sailing in a sunset amongst mountains on an inland sea

There’s an eternal debate amongst creatives: should you include a watermark? These are the small graphics often overlaid on a photo or illustration that identify who the creator was.

Although this discussion is usually held amongst photographers, I think it applies equally to other creatives. For example, if you’re creating charts or diagrams for your blog posts, is some sort of watermark to identify it as yours sensible?

Those who dislike adding watermarks point to how it can distract from the image’s impact. They argue it can spoil the focus or composition, or make the design of a graphic somehow awkward.

On the other side of the debate, a watermark makes it easier to claim ownership of an image when it becomes detached and is shared on social media. Presenting a DMCA “takedown request”, or even going to the extreme of a lawsuit, is far easier when your original has a copyright notice or watermark attached.

Another benefit not often spoken about is it makes life simpler for people like me who see things they like getting shared and want to see more of the creator’s work. Let’s be honest, a lot of what we click “like” on isn’t being shared by the person who created it.

My photography often (not always) has a translucent watermark tucked away in the bottom left. Artwork is more likely to be found hidden in an unobtrusive way. My recent graphics have a more explicit one with a QR code embedded in to the design.

Photograph of rocks arranged to represent the Maya mountain range
A photograph with my watermark. It’s located in the bottom left corner.

If you’re on the fence and can’t decide whether to include one or not, here’s another way of thinking about it:

artists and painters sign their work.

Why shouldn’t you?

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.