How do you create the best watermark for your images? It’s not difficult to get it right – but it’s certainly easy to get it very wrong too.

Your watermark should be clear enough to be seen without too much effort, or else it won’t deter thieves. It should also protect the image without getting in the way, and it should look professional.

If you do choose to place a watermark on your photos, here are five mistakes to avoid.

1. Watermark is too prominent

Watermarks should be visible enough to provide adequate protection against image theft, but if they’re too prominent they’ll obscure too much of the image for it to be appreciated at all.

Here, prominence is determined through a combination of frame coverage, opacity and style. The worst watermarks tend to be those that fail on all three fronts. 

So, a watermark may be large and cover a great proportion of the frame, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s too prominent if the opacity is very low. Similarly, you may choose to have a repeating style that stretches across the whole frame, but if you do this carefully it can still look good.

2. Watermark is too small or not clear enough

A watermark that’s too small can create a number of issues.

If it’s not that visible, for example, it may not prove to be an adequate deterrent against theft. And if it’s not clear, it won’t be obvious that it’s your image, which can create a problem when trying to prove ownership of copyright.

3. Watermark can be easily removed

Positioning is everything when it comes to watermarking. Sometimes, even when you have the right kind of design and size, you may place your watermark in a part of the image where it can easily be removed.

The image below should give you a better idea of appropriate – and inappropriate – positioning. Here, it’s easy to clone a portion of the sky around the watermark over the watermark itself as this area is relatively featureless. But if you place the watermark over the details in the image – which you can see when you click the arrow on the right-hand side of the image – it becomes far more difficult to remove.

This issue might be a problem if you want to have the watermark in the same part of every image for consistency. Photographers don’t tend to compose images with watermark placement in mind, so they end up having to choose between consistency and sufficient protection.

Even if the watermark is in an appropriate position, it may be removed or obscured if it’s not that clear to begin with. Once you’ve placed it where you feel it would work best, it pays to adjust opacity, size and style until you don’t think you can improve it any further.  

4. Watermark is placed on a border

Placing a watermark on a border is perfectly understandable. You want to show it’s your work and protect it from theft, but you don’t want it to compromise the view of the image itself. And this can look very professional. 

Unfortunately, placing a watermark here isn’t necessarily the best approach from the perspective of keeping your images safe. Such watermarks are easy to remove, either by cropping the image or by cloning a clean section of the border over it.

So, as a general rule, you should only place a watermark here if it’s for presentation purposes, and when you know you have your image secured by other means (such as SmartFrame’s download- and screenshot-protection tools).

5. Watermark doesn’t look professional

Some photographers choose to have a bespoke watermark created for them, and this can look great when applied to their images. It communicates that they care enough about their work to do this, and may boost the chances of being commissioned for jobs and projects.

There’s nothing wrong with having a simple text watermark, but it’s best to use a font and style that communicates the right message. Serif fonts can look elegant and work very well with natural subjects, such as landscapes or wildlife. Sans-serif fonts, meanwhile, can work well elsewhere, though you should avoid playful fonts like Comic Sans.

Another way to make your work appear more professional is to use a watermark whose appearance is consistent with the font, style and color palette of your website.