Debate | Should you Watermark Art you Are Posting Online?

I am frequently asked by artists whether they should watermark their artwork before sharing it online. There seems to be a pretty widespread concern that posting artwork images online could lead to unauthorized reproduction or theft of the artwork. I don’t dismiss this threat out of hand, the theft of intellectual property is a very real problem. I would argue, however, that a watermark is a pretty poor way to deal with the problem, and that watermarks defeat the purpose of sharing work online in the first place.

If you are sharing your artwork online, you are likely doing so in order to achieve broader exposure for your work, build recognition for yourself and your work, and generate sales. In order to achieve these aims you want to show your art in its best possible light. Having looked at thousands (probably tens of thousands) of artwork images online, I would argue that the appeal of artwork is considerably diminished by including a watermark. Think about what a watermark accomplishes – it mars the artwork to an extent that a would-be thief wouldn’t want to steal it to reproduce it. That marring of the image will just as certainly diminish the appeal of the piece to a potential promoter or buyer of your work.

I would also argue that the decrease in appeal outweighs any protection you receive from a watermark. An important benefit of posting your art online is the increased exposure your work gets when it is shared.  Viewers are less likely to share artwork that is watermarked.

The likelihood of theft is pretty low. While there is a lot of intellectual property theft occurring online, it’s good to remember that there is an overwhelming amount of art online. The chances of your work showing up on t-shirts made in China is extremely low.

Typically, the images you share online are pretty low resolution. These images would result in poor reproductions.

There are legitimate legal reasons to assert your copyright when you post your work online, but a general notice on your website or a caption below your artwork will provide the same benefit without diminishing the appearance of your actual artwork.

If you have questions or concerns about your copyright and how to protect it, you should discuss the issues with an attorney who has experience protecting intellectual property. Last year I interviewed Steve Schlachman, a prominent IP attorney – watch that interview here.

What do you Think – Should Online Artwork be Watermarked?

Do you watermark the art you post online? Why, or why not? Do you have counter-arguments that I’ve failed to consider? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

 Quick Poll

[poll id=”6″]

Edit: Examples of Watermarks Added

Thanks to everyone for posting your opinions on this matter in the comments – you’ve made excellent points. Some of you have been kind enough to send examples of your watermarking to give some ideas of your approach.

Jillian Chilson http://JillsFotoLuv.com
Jillian Chilson
http://JillsFotoLuv.com

 

Matt Suess http://www.mattsuess.com/
Matt Suess
http://www.mattsuess.com/
Karen Kyle Ericson
ren Kyle Ericson
John Haker
John Haker

Starving to Successful

StSBookSHave you always wondered what it takes to show your work in galleries? Is your work being seen by qualified collectors?

In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.

Learn more and order today.

2015-01-07 14_43_10-CSS Button Generator

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

151 Comments

  1. I do a monthly Google Image Search under my name and inevitably come up with a few of my photographs being used without my permission. I do watermark them religiously as a result. This does not stop the problem completely. I consider my watermark to be more than just a deterrent, but a business card of sorts. When people do share my work, there is my name and web address, since a lot of times credit isn’t given. Is it perfect? Far from it. People can still crop the photo or remove my watermark. So it’s a compromise at best.

    1. Great point Reid – it is a bit different with Photography when the image itself is the product. Still, I see some of the top fine art photographers foregoing watermarks.

      1. I have been using small watermarke on photos shared on Facebook mostley as a means of promotion.
        Will continue to follow this great discussion and see if it changes the thinking.

      2. There are invisible watermarking tools that allow you to find unauthorized instances of your images online, allowing for a nice presence without forgoing some form of protection. adptools is one vendor of this capability, though there are man others out there. I do not watermark, am happy if someone wants my work so much that they use it. The value for me is in a collector relationship who is looking for a physical, signed work. Beyond that, I do use copyright notice on my website.

      3. I agree with Reid. I impart a modest watermark with my name, usually in the lower left or right corner of the images. It is far too easy for an image to become orphaned from its creator online. Hundreds of my images have shown up on social media sites and blogs without a link back or attribution. Many of my paintings on Pinterest are posted without attribution, in spite of the rules they instituted a few years back requesting pinners do so. It’s not that I think millions of people could run off with my art and make money off of them ( though I would contend when a commercial site uses images on their blog without permission that’s pretty much what they are trying to do) , it’s getting credit where credit is due. Broader exposure only works if people know whose art is being exposed.

    2. Hi,
      I’m interested in how you watermark your images. Do you simply add a text layer in Photoshop with your name and website? Is that how you Google search by your name?
      thanks for your help,
      Laurel

      1. There are several watermarking programs out there but yes you can just add a text layer in Photoshop and then re-save it to a new ‘watermarked’ version under a new title.
        You could also use my technique. I’ hide’ my ownership information as say regular text at a specific spot or location in the piece ‘severely zoomed in’ so that the person stealing it won’t know its there and it won’t change the overall appearance of you piece but should you ever have to ‘prove’ you did the work and thus own the rights to it. It will be difficult for the other person to explain that he owns the work because he made it and then put your name and information in it deliberately.

    3. Photos are notoriously stolen. You might consider actual real digital watermarking from Digimarc. The service embeds the watermark into each pixel of an image, so crops are still watermarked.

      1. I have been using Digimarc for a bit over a year now. I DID find my work being sold under other people’s names on several large print-on-demand sites…. not sure if they made any money off of me, but I was VERY unhappy to see my art being sold on everything from prints, to teddy bears, to shower curtains. 🙁 I THINK mine (medium res photos of my paintings) were swiped from a wordpress blog. All of the work taken was from two posts. I got my work taken down from the three US online stores… but I still find some horse paintings on sites in Egypt and Turkey. A nice photographer from Australia notified me about the first incidence and ever since I have done google image searches on a regular basis… as well as digitally watermarking my images. I am not a big fan of visual watermarks either, but did not know about the Digimarc service until after the horses were out of the barn, so to speak.

        1. There is an ongoing debate about watermarking images. I have deliberately refused. However, like Mary Nash, I am having constant problems of theives stealing my work and selling on products. I am STILL despiting a major company that continues to use my image on one of their expensive products after agreeing to cease production. Now it’s in a lawyer hands and I’m likely to end up with a nice tidy sum for that arrogance on the part of the thieving company.

          So this discussion is really getting me to think about what can be done to stop the theives because sadly, some may think the likely hood of your art being stolen is remote, take it from me, IT IS NOT!
          My religious work as well as my equine art gets stolen regularly. I post on my print site, redbubble, and those images cannot be stolen in high resolution and I also post on my facebook page low resolution images. Still hasn’t stopped the art theft.
          I’m thinking Digimarc is probably going to be a must for me. I have hundreds and hundreds of artworks as I am a very hardworking, quick and prolific artist. At least starting with the paintings that get stolen the most and watermarking them may help stop the theives

    4. I think that with the ease of use of Photoshop, most people who may be out there stealing these images also will have the skills to use photoSLOP to eliminate your watermark that you went to so much trouble to put there. It’s a mute point IMHO !

    5. I appreciate your words as I’m trying to help a young designer protect her posted work. I believe watermarks run the spectrum from wonderful to rather rude and a host of full page softly opaque effective marks in between. Your idea of serveing as a business card is excellent, I’ll share (credit you) so she may include that in making a decision. Thank you very much and please keep sharing your points of view as this one is quite helpful.

  2. Personally, I don’t watermark my images. The reality is that a lot of my friends are really good with Photoshop. Any competent person can remove the watermark and you wouldn’t even know that it happens.

    When posting to the web, I never create an image larger than 500 pixels in either dimension. It’s too small to reproduce effectively but, in reality, there are a thousand artists out there much better than I and my work isn’t stolen for reproductions (it has been shown on other sites and I’ve requested that they give me credit but that is all).

    1. Agreed, Doug. Photoshop can trump the best watermarks available. Photographers have a far worse problem with theft of copyrighted images than painters.
      I use Pinterest to my advantage. Example; a real estate broker reposted one of my paintings that depicts a regional icon. I contacted the broker and thanked them and asked if they would quote my website on their board. They did. Pinterest has a setting that when a viewer clicks on your image the link goes to your website. Use it!
      After that, two other images gave me a reason to introduce my work to two more Pinterest posters. Any excuse for a personal contact is always a plus ….
      A classic example of the problem is G. Harvey, one of our most successful Texas artists. You can find his bootlegged giclee copies in every antique store in the state, obvious from the poor quality of the images. I know the photographer who does his reproductions and Mr. Harvey is very particular. He doesn’t get a dollar off those copies but really, at his level it isn’t worth his time or money to bother with them.
      If you have a lawyer friend a simple letter will inhibit copyright theft but otherwise, it is not worth it. Attorney fees may be higher than your original work. Internationally, ignore it and go paint.

      1. Reading all the responses a thought occurred to me. You web savvy folks might consider a new website showcasing the theft of copyright Internet images.
        You know, register and post your original piece with a link to your website and a caption noting “I painted/photographed this copyrighted work in 2015. John Smith won two awards, received $0000 for this work, and was further compensated by ….. I hold the exclusive copyright to this piece and any reproduction is theft and infringement.”
        Nothing is as powerful as shame. Threatening letters from an attorney may or mat not stop it but shame is priceless. If I was faced with theft I would definitely sign up … and pay a nominal fee.

  3. No I do not watermark my images. I use my website and other online venues to promote my work and to present it to galleries or other art professionals. I don’t see many well known artists who show in galleries watermarking their images either.

  4. I feel at the very least, one should have a small watermark in the lower corner that has one’s website on it. I watermark all my photos with a “©MattSuess.com” in the lower right. I look at the watermark as a form of advertising when the photo gets shared. So often, online images get shared and the link to the creator is lost. This way here, if someone shares my photo and doesn’t crop out the watermark (only people stealing it would) then someone can always find me if they like the photo. You wouldn’t send out business cards with no contact info, would you? Same should be applied to online photos, as these are calling cards to your artwork.

    1. Hello Matt,
      Although I do not watermark my images, I think I will follow your advice in the future. In the world of memes and blog threads, you don’t want one of your images showing up over and over again without your name!

    2. This. What Matt says. I put a small URL in the corner of my artwork, and make all graphics low resolution. I have seen people republish my artwork many times, not doing out of malice or in an attempt to “steal,” but because they like it or whatever. Having an unobtrusive URL in the corner allows people to find out where it came from.

    3. Good idea Matt, I was using low resolution as an alternative to watermarking, however in one case I was a bit lazy and sent a higher res image into an on-line seller who immediately offered it as prints. I was in shock when I saw my painting available on the site as a print and immediately pulled my work off the site. They told me that they had sent a notice out that any image they received over 300DPI they would offer as prints as well as the original. I of course, had not read the notice (if it was sent) as it perhaps came into my already burgeoned email address. A tough lesson I learned from that. Your watermark is subtle, and I will definitely add one like that to my images. With the sharing on Facebook and other sites, at least if someone uses my images as wallpaper, they may have to remember my name.

  5. Overall, I’m less anxious about theft and more concerned about retaining attribution once images get shared over and over. My main goal with sharing images is getting people to visit my website, so putting that address on the image is a good business card-like strategy, like Reid said. But also, Doug has a good point about security through controlling image sizes. I use wider images than that, but they are still too small to make much of a print from.

  6. You should always put your name on the front of your images. Files should never be bigger than 120k.
    I have received many slide shows from people all around the world that take photos off the web to create a show and use other peoples images all the time. When you have your name or website on the front you get free advertising .I have seen 100s of shows and only a few with the artist name is visible. People will steal your work but if you protect yourself live with it.
    One artist site that I came across had a great image of the Dali Museum in Saint Petersburg Florida. He did not do a very good job of protecting himself. He did not have his name anywhere and he mistakenly ( I hope) uploaded a 7 meg HDR file that I could have taken, registered with copyright office, printed, sold to Dali Museum and made a fortune. I called that artist to help him and teach him what to do with his file and he blew me off.
    According to a report I read in 2012 from a website magazine Over 2 millions images are uploaded to the web every 30 seconds. Subtract exaggeration and you still have nearly 1 billion images a day being uploaded to the web. If you think that your image will get noticed out of the billion a day that is something we should hope for.

    I would take the exposure of my work on the internet over living in an art studio unnoticed any day.
    Protect yourself, Share It, Show It, Get Noticed, and Live the artist life that masters of the past century only dreamed about.

  7. I had a design stolen in the mid 80’s. They just took it to a camera ready slikscreener and took off my copyright off and started a businss that is still on the net., Periodically I remind myself I had an idea worth stealing. Now I show on the internet and wonder when someone spends an inordinate time on my work and hope for the best. The watermark is put on by the site.

  8. Yes I watermark. It happens to often. In fact major retailers buy products from smaller overseas companies. So an artist can lose a lot of revenue. However I try to watermark with clear 3D one so it’s less obvious till you try and print.

  9. I agree that it is very distracting to view art with a watermark across the front of it. As was mentioned earlier, in today’s world a watermark will not prevent someone from stealing your image if they wish to. Sad but true….

  10. I ensure the resolution is web quality only at 72 dpi as my work is large anyway so if some one steals it’s low resolution at 10 x 10 inches low Rez. Do not post high resolution. All the best!

  11. Interesting, that this subject has come up, as I have dealing with this issue, particularly with social media sites. I do like digimarc, which embeds an invisible watermark that can be traced to sites online. However, they do not track social media sites.

  12. Good topic. No I don’t watermark. I thought about it but I think it looks tacky. I just don’t use high resolution jpgs so that they would not reproduce well. As a colorist I think someone trying to copy might have a hard time doing what I do in many layers of oil paint. Sadly I wish we could live in a world where people were creative enough to do their own work.

  13. Like others have said, without a name on the image, bottom right and unobtrusive, and unless the filename includes your name or website, years later no one will have a clue who made the art, unless you’re famous, or they’re extremely organized in their information gathering. Also if the image is lo-res , it can’t really be useful for thievery anyway. The Mona Lisa is the most reproduced painting in the world, and marketing is all about exposure, so I say: please share tons of images of my work!

  14. I use a watermark for these reasons:
    1). To get my name out there at a great opportunity
    2). To inform those who view it that I am serious regarding my works, and shows a logo or brand backing
    3). A watermark can say, ” I am backing this company, and not trying to sell them something”.
    4). It is unobtrusive, so what could be the rescan to discontent? Perhaps they may tell you, and you have communicated with someone new.
    5). If your work online is being used by someone for their personal use then your stamp will stay with it, and they can credit you with the idea or composition on their wall.
    It is not always necessary to use a watermark. I use y judgement and my artistic license on my art.

  15. Yes i watermark. It is quick and easy to do, and if you adjust the opacity and text style, it need not detract at all from appreciating the artwork. I use a watermarking program that allows for total control of the watermark’s style and appearance. I liked the suggestion by another reply to put it at lower right corner, but that could easily be cropped out, so that worries me. Good topic!

  16. As a photographer I always add a watermark to my photos on the web. I also limit the size to 500 pixels long dimension. The size of the embedded copyright is proportional to the likelihood of the image getting misused. Most are 18 point but my sports pictures are 46 point with some transparency so as not to be too intrusive. I had written a tutorial about this for Shutterbug Magazine over ten years ago. The 500 pixel long dimension image size with embedded copyright has never hurt print sales or licensing opportunities.

    Clearing up a misunderstanding. Image resolution (72PPI vs. 300PPI) has absolutely nothing to do with an image file size. In fact, as long as the height and width in pixels doesn’t change, you can change the resolution all day long without changing the image. What you do need is enough pixels in height and width so the image can be used for whatever you want to do with it. For printing, the recommended resolution is 300 pixels per inch, and for web, 72 pixels per inch. A quality 4×6 print requires (4 inches times 300 by 6 inches times 300) 1200×1800 pixels.

    For paintings I wouldn’t recommend adding an embedded copyright unless you’re paranoid. But I do recommend limiting the pixel dimensions to limit possible use. The only time I’ve heard of people complaining about their images being stolen, or used without permission, was when they put large pixel dimension images on their web site.

    There was an incident two years ago where a few jewelers had their images stolen and used by another jeweler for jurying. Some of those images came from art show web sites where they had uploaded the full 1920 square jury images, and some came from artist’s own web sites where the artist had uploaded images that were larger than they needed to.

  17. Interesting topic , I have been putting water marks on my art that i post on my Facebook and twitter pages but not my web page (www.artofjeffmusseau.com) All of my prints are limited edition and when i post the image on the web they are no higher the 72 dpi, so if some one do steal them they are going to be small, also I don’t think i am going to lose to many sales because someone downloaded one of my images ,they weren’t going to buy it anyway and if they did it was not signed by me . So now i don’t use it just Art by Jeff Musseau bottom right hand corner along with web page.

  18. There are watermarks, and then there are watermarks. Sometimes I put a watermark right in the center of an image (actual 1/3 from bottom), sometimes I put it on the lower right, and sometimes I omit it completely. Many of my images have a very limited market (usually the dancer or dance company portrayed), and even the low res on-line version may suffice for their use if I post it without watermark.

    I don’t find the watermark that much of an aesthetic handicap — especially if it’s just on the lower right.

  19. Personally, I do not watermark my images online. My web hosting company allows a copyright wording alongside my images and if someone tries to download or copy it, the image comes out blank. I think that is a great feature but understand it is not a fail safe. I understand the risks of having work stolen and have had colleagues find people trying to sell their images on sites like Etsy; however I believe if someone really wants to use your images they will find a way…regardless of what I do to protect it. As a painter, there are so many ways to copy work. I would rather spend my time making more artwork than worrying about what happens when I send it out into the online universe. I believe photography is much different with regards to copyright and watermarks. If I was a photographer I would likely watermark my images, because you are protecting a historical moment in lieu of an image. IMHO.

  20. Thank you, Larry Berman for clearing up the size thing. For those of you that don’t know, Larry is an absolute authority on photos. In the past, he has tried to explain size to me on the phone, but only now that I could read and re-read, did I GET it.

  21. Oh yeah you do need to watermark your images. My worst nightmare is Google images, Facebook and Pinterest sharing my work. Facebook claims ownership of your work. Any photograph (even your children) become the sole ownership of Facebook. Which means they will sell your work (if it’s decent) to make even more money with stock images. Pinterest has rules in their guidelines that users are not permitted to post other people’s artwork without the written permission of the Artist. No one enforces or protects. When I put out a photo (with my watermark on it) I also add a copyright notice in the exif data and beneath the image. It doesn’t help that much thieves are thieves. I recommend posting images online at 500 x 400 pixels max 100 ppi. A thief can’t make this size look good. Keep your images small.

    It’s flattering that they like my work but also very disheartening.

    1. I should add that I am an ex-programmer from it’s release into the public domain. It’s always bothered me that the code allowed others to just copy images. Zenfolio makes it impossible to copy. A screenshot looks terrible as a bitmap.

  22. I love the discussion – and some excellent points have been made here. For those of you who are watermarking your images, I would like to see how you are doing it and share those images with other members of the community. If you would like me to post your watermarked images in this post as examples, please email one watermarked image to me at jason@xanadugallery.com – please type “Watermarke Example” in the subject line.

    Thanks for all of the great comments everyone!

  23. I could not be more greatfull to have found you..and took your course. Starving to Successful. I need to read it again.a few more times…..Being that I am just really getting started in the art industry….To have all this wonderful information available to me, words can not express how I appreciate that..!! I admire you for helping and working so hard to give so much of yourself to help all those of us……You go through life and people do not want to share with others for fear of you taking their job, or insecurities..within them selves…just my experiences in life. I always do my best to share as much as I can, because it is truly rewarding to share information for the growth of others …that’s just how I feel and have always looked at it…I love the articles, and I am gonna listen and read them all…It is fantastic to be a small part of all the wonderfully talented people, and I now will always be here for more growth potential, and learning experiences, and fun times…Thanks very much …

  24. I do watermark my images in most cases. I have a couple exceptions where I don’t.

    For me, I don’t do it for the sole purpose to prevent stealing. It really does give the impression that I assume the worst of all my potential customers or clients and that I don’t trust them. It just starts stuff off the wrong foot in building relationships.

    However, I do see the watermark being useful as a online business card. I have a pretty watermark that includes my logo, name and web address. I place it in the part of the image that seems to the most balanced as opposed to over the main content of the image.

    It is so easy for work to get separated from my accounts for various reasons. I want people to know where they can find me if they are interested in the image.

  25. I don’t prefer to see watermarks on art and photography. I myself have made a thoughtful decision to not watermark my images. I also sell instant downloads of some of my ephemera type art. I am well aware that they could get abused and used.

    I also know personally several artists that have had their work reproduced in China. That stings!

    I show my work large also so it can be seen. I once heard an argument from a successful illustrator pointing out that he does not really know of any successful illustrators that have small images with watermarks online.

    Personally to allay fears of purchasing online I try to reveal as much as I can so the collector knows what they are collecting along with my guarantee that they can return it on their dime for a full refund (which is another subject altogether!)

    I try to look at these things from a consumers point of view and I look to my own online shopping habits.

    Look at the clothing industry and all the knock offs they endure! I’m glad I can see close ups of clothing I am purchasing online! 🙂

  26. Great discussion. I do not watermark when posting on social media nor on my web site. I am of the mindset that I need to offer the best image possible for my own website and for the galleries that represent me (they ask me to forward images) and that they then post on their site and on their social media pages to encourage sales. I even purchased a high quality camera to better capture detail and textures. Again, to encourage sales. Recently a number of my paintings have sold this way. So maybe I am being blind to online theft by being too focused on profit? That aside, I am reminded of a time when I was selling my parents house in another city. The owner of the large realty firm we were using, upon learning my mother was and I am a painter, wanted to show me two paintings by an local artist that he liked. He was SOO excited as we walked down the hallway as he shared how they met and how well this person was doing and as we entered his office and while he was still talking and pointed at them I instantly froze in my tracks. He said, “what’s wrong? don’t you like them?” THEY WERE 7x 10″ INK JET PRINTS on 8 1/2 x 11 paper he pulled off of his computer using his office printer and put in cheap “Michaels” frames and displayed them on a table in his very nice office!?! I just looked at him in shock and he said, “gee Fred [not his real name] , these are very nice paintings but what is wrong with you?! You can afford to buy an original – you own this company, live in this town and you should be supporting the arts! This just isn’t…ethical!” He immediately became squirmish and said he knew the artist and almost said he had permission and sent me on my way. P.S. And they weren’t even good prints!

  27. I never use watermarks. I am not paranoid about my work being stolen. I work a full time day job and create my paintings in the evenings. I also teach classes for wine and canvas North Chicago. Since I have a recognizable style, and plan on being famous one day, theft is not a concern at this time. I am more focused on following Jaon’s book’s guidelines and am currently developing anew “cohesive body of work”. Having only been doing fine art for a couple of years now, and just started putting it on POD sites for about a year and a half, the plan is to have enough finished work to start doing shows and approach galleries by next spring or summer. In the mean time if someone likes my work so much that they steal it instead of buying it I figure they would have never bought it anyways and once I’m famous it won’t matter anyways. That being said you probably won’t see any of my new work online until the entire body of it (at least 30 paintings) are completed. In the mean time I will continue to post my paintings that I produce for teaching classes and my other work that I do for myself and commissions. Keep creating. Keep sharing. Follow your dreams.

  28. My solution is not to watermark (I think watermarks do ruin the image) but to keep all the images I post online around 600 pixels. This is big enough to show the details of the work, but too small to make good reproductions from–it will give you the same protection from theft without the cost of using watermarks.

    I made a video about this for other artists, 4 years ago when I had much less experience as a professional artist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEZff-ObSLk

    And my opinions on this remain the same. It is worth SO much more to share your work openly with as wide an audience as possible than it is to live in fear of possible theft, while reducing your potential audience with ugly images–especially if you’re taking adequate precautions already, like posting your copyright as a caption every time. You can even register your copyrights for additional legal protection if you’re really concerned–it’s a personal judgement call.

  29. I use a watermark so my friends on social media know it is my work and am not copying another’s. Try to give credit to other’s work.
    I have “friends” that post work and has no credits. Looks like it is their work but I am suspicious.. If they used a watermark then we would know it was truly their work.

  30. Reading the discussion, this idea came to me: Is anyone putting their name, website, and/or contact information into the digital image file, as part of an added border around the artwork? What I’m thinking is to add a border frame around the artwork of a color and size that works with the art, and place the identifying information within that border. This way, if someone copies the online image, they will get the identifying information and the art together. Yet the art is not defaced or obscured. Thieves can crop this out slightly more easily than removing a watermark, but perhaps the difference in skill/effort is not enough to matter.

    1. I put my name, web site, and copyright info on my image data. I use Adobe Photoshop CS5, and Bridge. Again, it’s a matter of making sure I do everything possible to protect my work. Some photographers have actually won lawsuits because of the exif data in the file. I’m also a graduate of New York Institute of Photography and this was a very strong topic in the course. It is the professional way- like others have said it never hurts to advertise your work with your name on it.

  31. I post tons of photos on FB and on my blog. I used to watermark everything till I learned how easy it was for unscrupulous people to take them off. So then I stopped but felt very ambiguous about the whole thing. I never ever post my best photos online; I’ve got a few really amazing ones but wouldn’t post them except in a thumbnail in low resolution.

    Cedar Lee, I really appreciate what you said. I may do that.

  32. I’m putting my artwork out there for people to find. I want them to be able to contact me to purchase it. It is so easy for images to become separated from their source especially with Google Image Search, Facebook and Pinterest. It’s happened more than once that I’ve like an artist’s work and had to search to find out who the artist is because of lack of attribution. It’s not always easy. I’m not always successful.
    I watermark with my url near the bottom edge in the same space that a signature would occupy.

  33. I like to type a copyright symbol in the corner with my name. In the corner, not to intrude upon the image. I am not as concerned about anyone printing my artwork and making money off of it, as I am concerned about people mindlessly sharing it without crediting me as the artist. I see on social media all the time, people sharing photos and artwork with no information about the artist at all. It is not malicious, it is simply lazy. So if my name is on my image, then anyone who cares will be able to find me.

    1. Oh, I love that one. It fits sooo well. I copyright mine, usually lower right corner if there’s a blanker space, and also add copyright to the exif information along with contact email and keywords. I’ve had photos stolen, and hot linked to, and just made sure I contacted whoever or whatever website and told them to stop and that I was the copyright holder. Hey, I paid money to have that certificate, and the rules say you should put a notice on your stuff. How else are they to know anyone owns the rights to reproduce that particular artwork. It’s basically same as a no trespassing sign in your yard. Then you have a legal recourse in the even someone is actually making money off of it.

    2. Also, recently I read something in the F.A.Q. on a POD site that said: “copyright notices are frowned upon” Okay, they can frown all they want, but this is your perfect legal RIGHT to have a copyright notice on your creations. And anyone that tells you different doesn’t know what they are talking about.

  34. I have never done it, really because I have never thought of a negative reason why anyone would want to steal my work. if someone or any one steals my work I will see it as helping me promote my work more and also tells me “its a good one”.
    Its funny right? that’s just my sincere opinion on this topic.

  35. yes, I watermark my images. 2 times. One visible and the other hidden not be seen on an image I post online. I sell my images for not only fine art prints but also for desktop screensavers for digital devices and so I put the watermark on there to deter theft. Right now I am averaging over 400 likes a day on my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/darrenwhitephotography and I watermark every single image. I do not think that posting un watermarked images would result in an increase of activity on my page. Protect your work, make it harder for people to steal. Creating a unique watermark that is not degrading to the overall image can prevent theft and while you can remove watermarks with programs such as photoshop, there are ways to make it much harder and time consuming therefore detering the initial theft

  36. I was on a buying trip in Las Vegas and found a friend’s artwork for sale in one of the Artwork showrooms. Called her when I got home. She had not authorized it. the work even had her signature on it.

    We both keep our images at 500 dpi so they would be poor quality if duplicated.

  37. Shortly after I signed up on an art site, a veteran poster made a plea for anyone who may have copies of pages with her work on them to send them to her for her lawsuit against a hacker that stole her entire online gallery. I’ve also heard of photographers who find their images being sold by Italian stock agencies, depriving both the photographer and the agency they signed on with of licenses and royalties.

    I agree with many of the posters here that point out it depends on the watermark–too subtle, and it gets ignored, too “loud” (like the one that heads this article) and it turns people off. These examples that use the watermark very much as a signature aren’t just a Goldilocks solution, but do double duty by letting people find their way to the artists.

  38. Interesting discussion! I recently had a conversation with a collector who said he has been considering images from one body of work but had not made a decision because the watermark interfered with the images so much he could not tell if the work would really please. I have been making a diagonal watermark across the center of the image, using transparency to minimize the impact, but keeping if visible enough to make it hard to eradicate.

    After this comment from a potential collector, who was in my town visiting and able to visit the studio to see the work live, (and purchased two pieces), I started to rethink how I am handling watermark. If I am hoping to sometimes sell online from my own website, and the watermark makes it difficult for the viewer to feel confident they like the piece behind the veil, so to speak, I am not doing myself any service. I agree with the previous postings that it is a good idea to keep a watermark on the piece in order to advertise where the work came from – and lead potential clients back to one’s own site. But as deterrent against theft, I am inclined to think that it is more to my advantage to make a smaller, clearly legible watermark on the bottom than to deface the image in the way I have been doing for years. Thanks for another thought provoking discussion.

  39. I’ll add Digimarc info with my name and date of creation embedded in the file, but have stopped using a visible stamp because it mars the image too much. I’m not sure, however, whether including the Digimarc info in the file does me any good. The only time I’ve caught any infringers was using Google reverse image search, plugging in the JPEG of the image and finding where it was being used out on the Web.

  40. When I first started making the transition from film to digital photography I watermarked the images. After a year or so I dropped the watermarks. I don’t mind if people use my images for educational or editorial uses or even if they make small prints from them. But, I only offer low res images online.

    I keep a post bound book of photos I find online that I like to save. Much of the images are offered at very low res, so they only make a 5 x7 or 6 x 8 print. I appreciate if the source offers enough res to make a letter size print. That is what I offer with my images for free.

    I don’t do photography for money. I do it for love of freezing time. If it was my livelihood and I depended on the income I may think differently.

    These 2 quotes sum me up when it comes to photos and art…

    “Looking at photographs, like taking them, can be joyful, sensuous pleasure. Looking at photographs of quality can only increase that pleasure.” Pete Turner

    “A photograph that has not been shared or at least printed is almost an unexistent photograph, is almost an untaken picture.” Sergio Garibay

    Best Regards,

    Dan

  41. What a wealth of terrific information. Thank you all and especially Jason for creating the course and the discusion. I used to watermark my works and saw that it took away from the image, so I stopped. I post low res images on social media, and from my website, you cannot print any of the images. Additionally, I focus on creating and figure that if anyone steals my images, it is their bad karma. I have the proof that I made the art, in case anyone wants to profit from my creative muse. In my company, I never made anyone sign a non-compete for the same reason. In 28 years in business, only one person attempted to steal a client from my interior design firm and it ended horribly for both.

  42. I haven’t been watermarking my work, but I did add a strip along the bottom to a couple of posts with my contact info. It has also occurred to me to just ghost the info in there very small and discreetly. That said, I had an unexpected chat with an interested gallery owner this past Saturday who advised me to slow down with the online posts until I have a proper conversation with a lawyer. I was also advised ~ on a separate note ~ to close my Etsy shop (I haven’t sold any art yet) and not do art fairs; she said these turn galleries off(?) and I need to decide whether I want to be a gallery artist or a crafter. I only started developing a portfolio this year, so this is all new to me. Thank you for this awesome article, and for the very informative interview with Mr. Schlachman. I might have to watch it again later today just so it sinks in better. 🙂

  43. I used to not watermark my artwork. I’ve started over the past few years to do so however. I’ve had several companies in countries outside the US steal my artwork to use in logos and still have my attorneys working on what they can to help get these removed. I’ve had people steal my images and sell them as their own several times, sometimes making hundreds of dollars more than what I’m selling them for. I even saw an article with one person who got a gallery show, newspaper article, and internet article all with my stolen artwork and another artists! I’ve also dealt with college students stealing my artwork for their projects and claiming it as their own. Fortunately in these cases the professors were very understanding and failed each of the students at different universities, including Berkeley. It’s ridiculous how often this has happened to me over the past 10 years, and is the exact reason why I now watermark essentially all of my artwork posted online.

    1. Stan’s experience isn’t the only one. While most of the time, people who “swipe” my work aren’t doing it out of malice, there have been a few times where there was blatant theft. I even had a school teacher plagiarize a small tutorial I’d written, including steal the graphics I’d made, and post it on the school’s website. Never underestimate the shamelessness of some people!

      Watermarking is imperfect, and you’ll get criticized no matter what you do. If you don’t put some identifying mark, there will be those who will “steal” your work and then, if caught, claim they found it on some third party site, and they might say that “if you didn’t watermark it, I guess you didn’t care.” If you do watermark, there will be those who complain that it mars the image. I consider the signature/URL in the corner of the image (and keeping it low-res) as a worthy compromise.

  44. Low you say? If it’s so low why do I know plenty of artists who’ve had their work stolen and reproduced ? Some have ended up with their designs on shirts sold in major retailers, used in video games, on towels sold in surf shops, and that’s not even including how things roam about the internet (which isn’t a bad thing, always).

    Saying ‘don’t bother to water mark’ is like saying Hey. Don’t bother to lock your car.
    Things will wander yes. Once it’s on the net there’s no way to stop that. A water mark doesn’t have to be so obtrusive it completely kills the art. Honestly seeing a watermark has never bothered me. If I like something and it’s within my budget I’ll buy it. If anything a good watermark with a URL attached is how I’ve found plenty of awesome artists.

    Shame on you Jason Horejs . You aren’t helping the artists with this advise. Only the ones who’d abuse our rights. Most artists don’t have enough money to go after art thieves in the first place and telling them they might do even better, get more exposure for not protecting their work? Yeah. More exposure like loosing your pants.

  45. Hi this is a very interesting discussion as I have been wondering about this for a while now. I have a question though, isn’t signing a work enough? I am a painter and my initials are clear on all my paintings. If it is cropped to remove the signature surely a watermark will also be cropped.

  46. I watermark my images, but it has arisen out of need. I have questioned whether it detracts from my works or not, but this has become irrelevant to me as some of my artworks images have been used on websites without permission, and being a line art drawer amongst all the other genres I do, it has now lead me to watermarking all my artwork images now. On my drawings I have placed the (transparent) watermark over most of the work, on others its in the bottom corner. I have had people contact me from my watermarks and even made a sale from it. I too now look at it as an online business card, but after reading some of the advice here from Larry and Karen, will now ensure the images are no bigger then the 500 pixels, great advice here – thanks for the debate info Jason, this is something that I often get asked about, and I know I lamented over when I first started with my website. cheers Kylie

  47. I should add that it was actually pinterest starting up that made me really put effort into it, as when someone “pins” your work, they don’t need to add the link, so if its on the image, they know where to go to find the original!

  48. I don not watermark my images, but due to foreign companies stealing my art and selling prints and cards of my work, I now use low resolution images on line.

  49. The most important thing about the watermark issue is that folks will use pintrest to republish your work and many times I’ve wanted to find more about a work, but someone has stripped all of the old data attached to the pin, so I have no way to learn more about the work. So my website is currently suffering because I haven’t gotten around to watermarking much of the content that will go on there.

  50. I think a watermark looks fine if the font is visually appealing. It doesn’t matter to me but the photos I’ve seen so far that use a watermark make me take an extra look to see who’s it is. Art work without a watermark I easily pass amongst so many images.

  51. Not that I think watermarks look good either, but I started adding them about 2 yrs ago, due to a growing infringement problem. New infringements almost came to a stop. Sales kept going up! The one thing I did have to give up was income from reprints on a Print On Demand site, as the unmarked images for reprinting were infringed regularly. None of the site’s image protection options deterred it. My watermark is part of the image. It is possible to remove but most people don’t do it, and deterring most is pretty good. Like locking your door deters most burglars.

    Uploading only small images is not protection from much anymore, unfortunately. All my online images are and were no more than 800 pixels per side. They still looked just as good on infringers’ sites where they used them to make ads for companies, illustrate their articles, or promote their causes.

    Sharing of images online is only promotion if your image is identifiable as yours. Even a legible signature helps, but the “ugly” watermarks not only identify your work, they DO make it unattractive to infringers, and that’s the point.

    If artists do not want to watermark now, they might change their minds now that “orphan works” laws are being considered for the US like in some European countries. Just as people now wrongly assume google is a free clip art site, imagine what they will do when they hear that unidentifiable images can be used…a way oversimplification as in a half truth being more misleading than a lie. Nonetheless, identifying your images will become even more important as this law becomes commonplace.

    1. Very true – Cindy. The Orphan works act is pretty diabolical for artists. Another reason I digitally watermark and embed all my metadata in Lightroom. It is always better to link to social media sites from your own website as well rather than post directly… as most of the social media sites routinely strip out metadata from the image. Also Facebook makes images look awful anyway.

  52. There are several watermarking programs out there but yes you can just add a text layer in Photoshop and then re-save it to a new ‘watermarked’ version under a new title.
    You could also use my technique. I ’hide’ my ownership information as say regular text at a specific spot or location in the piece ‘severely zoomed in’ so that the person stealing it won’t know its there and it won’t change the overall appearance of your piece but should you ever have to ‘prove’ you did the work and thus own the rights to it. It will be difficult for the other person to explain that he owns the work because he made it and then put your name and information in it deliberately.
    Unfortunately if someone wants to steal your artwork they’re going to do it. Locks on doors only keep the honest people honest. The criminal who has decided he is going to break into your house doesn’t really care about a ‘locked door’ he is just going to break a window or kick in the door, gain entry and take what he wants

    I think embedding your information in the lower right or lower left whichever side impinges the image the least either corner would be fine. The corner of the image is also a good idea to advertise yourself and contact information as say an added business card type introduction to your work because once the image is stolen if you have your information embedded somewhere else in the image and your information has been deliberately cropped out then it would show obvious deliberate intent to steal.

  53. Rarely nowadays.

    If the viewers can recognize my work even if it’s been shared without watermarks then it means I’ve already created a recognizable identity. But yeah, I do sometimes get notified about people stealing and using my artwork for whatever purpose they use it for. Nothing monetary yet, though.

  54. Call it “marketing” and “publicity” rather than “watermarking” and there’s no question you should do it. Images are shared all around the web, removed from their original locations and captions. With the info on the image, people will be able to know who the creator is.

  55. I don’t watermark my images, I think it is really distracting, but I am thinking I should find a way to add my URL to images so when they end up on Pinterest, people can track them back to me. Also, a tool you may find useful: In Google Chrome, when you do an image search, you can drag any jpeg into the search window and anyplace that image is being used on the web will come up. So you can drag your own images in and see if they are being ysed anywhere online without your authorization. I have found others using my work this way. I test it regularly with the prominent images I have on my website.

  56. On my digital artwork I generally have my name bottom left if it is going on social network.For my canvas artwork I tend not to watermark but occasionally upload a cropped image.The website is free of all wtermarks Great article Jason Thank you

  57. I think that it is good to watermark art as it can help protect it. You’d be surprised how art is pirated. I have had people see me at art fairs and tell me they are certain my artwork is being sold overseas. I now try to put lower resolution images online, and I add html to try to protect it, effects, and watermarks. Essentially nothing can protect art that is high resolution HR from people that are very computer savvy….

    Photoshop is a great program that has a digimark feature built right in that it is possible to use, or you can purchase one also….if you want to track people that download your work….I really don’t mind the thought of anyone downloading my work, but I hate to think that people are selling my art without any benefit to me….in fact it could really hurt an artist…competition with your own art in the hands of digital thieves is a real bummer.

    Museums have art protected with all sorts of technology….a grid will print out on top of the art etc…..One artist programmed a virus into his images so that if anyone stole his art it would make little holes in the image….bad thing is it made little holes in all the other images stored on a computer…I’d call that a virus……

    So protecting art? Yes and No…….can and can’t be done.

  58. I like putting my name © with my website tastefully at the bottom of my online images, mostly so people who like the work can know who crated it and find me. I find that many people who use images in their blogs and FB posts, don’t include artist info, so putting it directly on the image serves both me, the person who posted it, and the viewers.

  59. Usually I watermark my images so if they are shared or found online viewers can find their way to me. I have seen so many images shared on social media, blogs etc where an image is shared and the person sharing does not know the source or the creator.
    That is a shame…. and does nothing to help promote and artist.

  60. I watermark for 2 reasons. I want my name on the image, but most importantly. Not only have I had some images “stolen”. I found one of my images in several places online with one of them leading to a porn site (it was a picture about basketball???). That sort of cinched the deal for me…so I continue to watermark.

    1. Even worse, somtimes they will HOT LINK to a picture, and that uses your bandwidth if you have a website. And if you don’t find that, you end up giving away what you spent money on. I had that happen. And I nipped that one in the bud with a very angry letter.

  61. Yes, I put a © symbol and my name on all artwork posted to my blog. I also fill out the copyright section under “File Info” in photoshop for each piece. I don’t know if it deters anyone, if someone really wants to copy your work they will find a way. A person skilled in Photoshop has powerful tools at their fingertips and can remove just about any mark from an image. All that being said, I still believe it is important for every artist to put their artwork out into the world!

  62. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts about protecting your art. I truly appreciate Jason for addressing this topic (as well as for promoting discussion on many other art related details), and I love you wonderful artists for commenting as well. You’ve given me yet another mind-opening opportunity to contemplate my artistic delivery! Thank you again.

  63. I’ve heard people say, bad publicity is still free publicity.

    If someone is going to “appropriate” my work, I say, “Have at it.” I do my art with the intention of communicating. If the message gets across through some other means, then my work is done. If the message is changed, that’s okay too. It’s the opportunity for rebuttal…

  64. I watermark all my images with a tastefully designed “stamp” that includes my name. I consider all imagery I share online to be an electronic business card. As imagery gets shared across multiple platforms, it’s source can be lost. The majority of people sharing imagery are not going to photoshop it first to remove a watermark (although it has happened!) With the watermark intact (which I believe is most of the time), there is never any doubt who created the piece or how to find them online. I often get commissioned requests from people who came across my imagery several steps removed from my own social media.

  65. After seeing others displaying low-resolution copies of my work as their own, I started to watermark at 20% to 25% opacity on my website. Apparently paying $0. for low-quality prints on their walls is better than paying me for the real thing.

    1. There’s a lot of people in this country whose art budget is $20 or less, frame included. And given the choice between paying $.01 for an image they really like vs. getting a so-so image for free, will take the so-so image every time.

  66. I do watermark my photos in the lower left corner with my blog url, using only low res images, max 600px. As a designer I am aware that anyone with decent skills can crop out or remove the attribution, but that’s the risk I take. Since they are so small, you can’t really do anything like print with them, but you can see them all right. Someone did use one of my flower images on their ebay sales page, and a friend alerted me to that. Ebay made them take it down right away. I thought it was interesting that the watermark was still showing. I am happy with my compromise and don’t feel that a small line of text in the corner destroys the enjoyment of the image. I do heartily hate the huge distracting watermarks some people put on images, right across the middle. Usually it’s an image no one would want anyway!

  67. Speaking as an old advertising guy, I wish someone would steal one of my images and plaster the walls of the internet with it. I can’t afford the kind of exposure that a theft like that would give me.

  68. TY Kimberly Santini!! To me this seems the aesthetic way to go. As I read your comments I immediately thought of the traditional Chinese ‘chop’. so, I looked at your FB page to see your ‘stamp’. Nice!
    Then I searched and discovered this page for anyone else who’s intrigued by this possibility – http://creativepro.com/illustrator-how-to-creating-your-own-chop/
    Thanks Jason for opening this discussion…….on my mind, as I’ve been considering using a new print-on-demand site.
    Thanks everyone for making the time to share insights, experience and expertise!
    In gratitude……

    1. Thank you RAL West!! 🙂 I appreciate the shout out! I’ve always felt that the watermark should compliment as much as possible – it’s not meant to detract, but only to identify, much like a signature. I’m off to check out creative pros’ link!

    2. I started using a print on demand site, but one that did not specify NO WATEMARKS OR COPYRIGHT NOTICES. Deviantart fits that category. If you want to see an example of my watermark on my pictures go here: https:/www.jewelant.deviantart.com/gallery) I fussed over all of those pictures for a week putting exif information in them, watermarking, making smaller, etc. It’s a test actually. I started with photos, instead of my artwork, to see where it would go if stolen, and and testing the validity of it.

  69. I watermark mine using Lightroom but i present the art with a white background and add my website discretely as the watermark in the whole area under the image. I do it not so that I am protected from theft of the image but to be helpful to people who want to find out who I am after seeing the image.

  70. I do not watermark. I resize my images for the web at a lower resolution (72 dpi) and if someone tried to print it – it would not be a very good copy.

      1. Well, on Devian Art, what happens is you upload the high resolution picture, and they only post a thumnail the size you specify. They never put the original size on there unless you say so. Now if you are giving free downloads of the original, you can specify that if you want.

  71. As photographers, we watermark everything. As a graphic designer, I am more than used to looking at stock images with a watermark and knowing that I have to purchase in order to get an image without watermark.

    We also subscribe to a service that searches the web for matches of our images used without permission. At this time, there are over 8,000 matches from all around the world. Some of these are blogs, many are in countries where it would be impossible to recover copyright infringement. But we vigorously pursue those who use the photos to promote their businesses without licensing.

    It is pretty appalling to us the lack of knowledge about copyright, even among people in the industry who definitely should know better. Some of the most egregious “takers” are real estate and law firms—go figure. And you can bet they have your stolen photo on their webpage with a warning that this material is “copyrighted!” at the bottom. You have to laugh…and then send them an invoice.

    1. Sue – agree! I think the most worrying thing is industry people who should know better – and don’t – and those who don’t know their legal rights and so fail to protect their intellectual property. I’ve had a few instances of my images being used (before I started physically watermarking) and almost always a polite email to them works, or I grant permission to use a linked file – or, if they don’t want to do that an invoice or DMCA.

  72. I watermark so that my name stays with the photo. Too often, photos end up on pinterest without any attribution – they’ve evidently just been snagged from a google search.

  73. I started using watermarks after I had several of my images stolen. I found them using Google image search. One person had an image of mine on a website selling decorative tile backsplashes. In fact, when searching images on his site, I found several other artist’s images being used without permission. Another person was using an older piece of mine as backdrops for photographers to buy on Etsy. I contacted him and he was very beligerent, saying that he “hadn’t done anything wrong because he hadn’t sold any of the backdrops that had my image on them” ! A few were pretty harmless and were being used on personal blogs etc., but if they had been watermarked, at least they would have been attribruted to me.
    Ever since I’ve been watermarking, not one of my images with a watermark has been “stolen”. I believe that these thieves are too lazy to photoshop them out of the image. They’d rather just find another image without a watermark.

  74. I don’t watermark. Looking at images with watermarks all over them just irritates me, and I don’t want to irritate potential customers. There’s a very easy way to protect your images from being printed out, and that is to reduce the size of your images and set the dpi to something like 72. This will still look fine on the screen, but will look like crap if someone tries to print out a copy.

  75. I had a solo show back in 2008, after 9 years of hibernating, not intentionally. A local public figure printed one of the works in the show (in a private collection) from my website. The print was in a huge 4×6 feet poster. After using it without my permission, he presented the poster as a gift to a council office. After a month or so he called me to tell me what he had done and that it was his pleasure “to help me.” The owner of the original work was furious. I lost a client/friend. So now i have to watermark the works to avoid things from happening again. Legal action was out of the question.

  76. Of course I watermark my online images! I have my portfolio site and galleries set up to watermark automatically. I also use Digimark and have done for years, reduce the resolution and pursue infringement if I think it’s worth doing. It’s my responsibility to do whatever I can to protect my work online – in particular on social media sites like Facebook et al. For one thing a visible watermark is an excellent way of branding my work – that’s the main reason for my doing the visible mark. For another if a copyright infringer attempts to remove the watermark it is indicates that, far from it being an innocent mistake the theft was deliberate should the artist decide to pursue the infringer. Looking at images online with watermarks doesn’t bother me at all, most photographers include them discretely and I like knowing who created the work.

    Besides, Getty, iStock, Shutterstock and any image stock ALL watermark their images – and you have to pay a tidy sum to buy that image with a large watermark slap bang in the middle.
    When I post to Facebook I link from my site rather than post directly. Some of worst infringers are companies (who know exactly what they are doing and are using images for commerical gain), obligingly helped by artists who don’t understand their own legal rights when it comes to copyright and their intellectual property.

  77. Watermarking is no deterrent to theft, only to viewing. Any good graphic artist with software (and there are free programs out there) can remove and clone over in a very short time. It may stop some people from stealing, but not pros looking to make an easy buck. The best thing to do is drop it down to 72 dpi and make the images not more than 3 inches at that. So all a thief will get is a good looking piece of art for a dollhouse.
    I know of one artist that encouraged people to steal 8×10 inch prints and if they send her the copy with return postage she will sign and mail it back to them and called it advertising.
    I personally would never buy something I could only half see and watermarks irritate me too Bite Me.

  78. I don’t watermark and never will. I think all watermarks, large or small, detract from the work. If someone wants to steal the work they will. Watermarks are not a major deterrent. I have had pieces of my work ‘stolen’ and used with out permission or acknowledgement a number of times. I was alerted to them by fellow artists and illustrators. These were taken from my website [when I had one]. One was used on a wine label in Ireland, one for a magazine illustration in India and two for book covers in China. The one that got me to laugh the most was the Korean guy who took every image from website to use as his online portfolio. I wonder what happened when he was asked to produce some work? They were terrible copies and looked awful! I sent him an email and posted a comment on his blog and exposed him. His website disappeared rather quickly. Most online art theft goes unnoticed and usually it is done badly.
    It is not something I worry about. I believe you should be showing your best work and in the best possible way you can. I tend to skip someones portfolio if I see watermarks. They spoil the viewing experience for me. The higher the quality of the work, the more of a distraction they become. That is why you rarely if ever see the very best of the best use watermarks.

  79. As a photographic artist who has worked digitally for nearly 20 years I realized long ago that a watermark is very easy to remove by anyone modestly skilled at digital editing. I could remove an watermark easily in a just few minutes if I wanted to. And no matter how it is used it does detract from the visual experience of the picture. Comments here indicate that some still believe it can deter the copying of one’s work but it is clear that it will not if someone really wants to grab your image for their own monetary benefit. The only real way to prevent copying of your work is just to not post it. However for those who really want to do something to protect their images then by all means use a watermark. At the very least it will make you feel better even if it does not really deter anyone.

  80. One more thing. It is important to remember that regarding copyright laws the US has its own and that other countries have their own or even none at all. You might be able to get someone stopped from using your image if they are US based but if they reside in a foreign country you most likely have no control at all.

  81. I’m on FASO and they offered it so I took advantage of it. I just feel it’s another layer of protection and a way to promote my work because my name is on the image. I don’t know if anyone is stealing my work or not. I really don’t believe anyone. If someone is interested in doing something with my images, I’m easy to work with and easy to find.

  82. I create a number of things besides my watercolors and find these comments helpful in all areas of my work. I have found my items plastered all over the net without due credit and without intent to steal. I did find one of my simpler paintings had been turned into a stitchery pattern. I wrote to this person and told her how disapointing it was that she would stoop to such means. She apologized and removed it. I am concentrating on my art career now and thanks to these comments and articles now know to reduce the pixels/resolution of my images and also add my businesss card info along the bottom of the image. So happy I found your site!

  83. If you’re against adding watermarks to your on-line posted artworks, then consider creating a sharp, well-designed logo that includes your name, small text copyright © logo, and a web or social media URL. If done correctly, a creatively designed logo can enhance the artwork’s visual appearance. Think of your watermark logo as a business card that’s marketing your art products and services 24/7.

  84. Posting low-res (un-watermarked) artworks to deter infringements is a fallacy; it still allows others to create derivatives. If your “small-sized” posted artwork image can fit the size of a smart phone screen, then it’s really not small enough; it can still be exploited without your permission.

  85. Under the US copyright statute, a watermark, copyright logo, name, and other contact information that’s affixed to or metadata-embedded is called Copyright Management Information (CMI). Any removal or alteration of CIM can violate 17 USC §§ 1202-1203, and money damages of $2,500 to $25,000 (plus your attorney fees, both at the court’s discretion) can be brought against the infringer. If social media sites are removing your metadata (via its terms & conditions that you agreed to when signing-up for a free account) and you don’t include a watermark logo, you’ve waived your rights to pursue CIM money damages against infringers. Think about that. Is that how you want to protect your intellectual property creative business assets?!

  86. Though the United States has yet to adopt any “Orphan Works” legislation (i.e., we can’t find the artist; the work is not marked with a name or metadata), we may see the US Copyright laws updated in the next few years or so to include an orphan works provision, allowing third-parties to reproduce (without your permission!) your un-identifiable artwork after performing a diligent search. If your artwork is being repeatedly shared through social media with and without links, make it super easy for third-parties to find you by including a logo watermark.

  87. Lets face it. The lock on our front door is really for the honest person. Right? You or I will not pick a lock and break in. Same with a watermark- they keep the honest people honest, plus if used correctly, they identify your art for potential interested parties.

    I place a modest watermark across the bottom of my work that is my email address because it is also my name and my URL – I do it to identify my work should it be “found” by someone on the internet. Especially with the use of pinterest, FB sharing and random searches that pull up images from every little corner on the net and leave no trace of where they came from – with my watermark, the “finder” will know who to ask if they may paint from the image or whatever – HA!.

    Anyway- with a watermark- there is no question that the pic is NOT LOST. – I do not kid myself though- people who go on the hunt for pics do not care about watermarks and many have their minds deluded to thinking they are changing the image enough to make it “their own” – Whoever started that one … grrrr. I am just assuming we all post our images too small to make viable prints even if the mark is removed. Although that still doesn’t stop some use!

    Still- I feel my watermark is good business practice- it keeps my art attributed to me no matter where it ends up on the net and it also gives the finder my business email to contact me – it is small enough and transparent to not destroy the look of the art- yet visible enough that you can’t just print it out and use it for a 5×7 or 8×10 without my name on it. So- I win, if only just a little.

    I work as moderator in several gallery type online communities where the artists are always looking for sources to paint from and copyright is on them. However, I require they state “source photo used by permission of ____” Many don’t want to say that- they want to say “thanks to so and so” or “photo by ___” and I won’t allow it. They tell me well- I found this great painting or photo but couldn’t find who’s it was by so they thought it was ok to use. umm hmm. I do a tin-eye search and find it… usually very simple.

    Just do a google search on a topic- see how many unidentified photos and artworks come up – that can’t be good for the owners? – Any image you put out there should have your business URL or your email visibly on it – people LOVE to find google images with no identifiers that fit their needs.

    Used to be.. before the internet- people would come through a gallery or a street art fair with a camera and sneak photos of the artwork. now they take one of your business cards and go to your website!

    The way I see it, the game has changed yet again, and we have to change with it.
    I think a modest well placed watermark that clearly identifies you or your business in some sensible way is needed these days. cj

  88. I do both art and photography. I put my copyright (in a small/light font) on everything. I also embed metadata into everything. Even with that, I’ve found unauthorized usage. I had created a CD cover for a record label. Not only was all the above on/in the piece, but my signature was prominently on it as well. Yet some bonehead downloaded the low-res JPEG from the label’s website and created a POSTER with it. He put himself into the image using Photoshop. It was horrible looking, but he did it. I sent a cease & desist to the Jazz Festival he made if for and chastised him severely. But – there you have it. People who steal will always steal, no matter what you do. On the other hand, I have been contacted by magazines, when they saw my metadata, for authorization to publish. Others have refused altogether to publish the images without my expressed written permission (as they should). So people who are professional and ethical will do the right thing if you give them the tools to do so.

    Personally, I think watermarks are dreadful. If you are trying to promote or sell your work, the watermark destroys the aesthetics of the image. I understand stock houses using them, though. They’d have to not only to protect their income stream, but also to protect the artists’ rights.

    That’s my two cents.

  89. I don’t watermark images because it’s ugly and degrades the image. Plus anyone with even a small amount of ability at Photoshopping can easily remove any watermarks or other symbols, images, or even signatures from any online image of a work of art.

    I’ve gone further and I do not sign my photographs, not even on the mats. When looking at older photographs that I’ve signed, even if it’s on the mat, for me it compromises the presentation of the photo.

    Over the years the integrity of the image has become so important to me that I’m even considering not signing my paintings, or reducing my signature to a small image of some type that’s not so intrusive.

  90. I guess I have to disagree. My sister-in-law was in a store recently and they are selling prints from a picture that she posted of one of her paintings. Her paintings usually sell for $600 to $1000 but this store is selling the print of her painting for $ 50. I have pushed her to seek legal advice but she doesn’t think there is anything she can do since she did not watermark the post. anyone know if she can take action or not?

  91. This is a great discussion, one that I am grateful to find. I am 65, a widow, eight grown children. I have been an artist all my life but, for family reasons, I put my career on hold until now.
    Now that the family has “taken wing,” as it were, I am free to pursue my other love…and watermarking my drawings is a constant debate in my head ~ I dread finding that anyone has copied or stolen my work, but watermarking is something that, until I found this blog, I was seriously thinking of doing.
    Now, I’m not so sure…..
    I do sign my work ~ always have ~ just a small initialed monogram in the lower right corner, not intrusive into the piece at all. As for posting my name across a major portion of any piece, that would be a completely different issue, eh?
    There are good points to both sides, I think, and maybe for now I’ll just follow this debate until I can make up my mind.
    One thing is for sure however ~ if I do decide to watermark, you can rest assured that it will be small, off-center, and include my name.

    1. I am in darned near the same situation that you are. Did a huge body of art during the 80’s and 90’s, had to quit because of work, and then started up again years later. Art has been in a closet for years. I have not yet had the courage to deal with all what is going on with stealing art online, so I’ve been opting to just post photography (with a watermark) I’ll always watermark, but as to posting the art, I’m not sure about that yet.

  92. I recently stumbled across a gallery website who watermarked their images. They didn’t watermark with the artist’s name, they watermarked with the gallery name. I’m wondering at the reason and if it’s even legal. It’s not just a small watermark, its a large logo in the middle of each image.

  93. I am just now researching the opportunities of showing and selling my son’s artwork – special, hand drawn, color enriched images created by a man from pictures in his mind and being when he wasn’t a prisoner of the state; yes he is an inmate at one of our state prisons. That’s his story. One of our concerns, while a copyright gives me the right to sell my son’s artwork, what comes with that is the legal loopholes by a thief to re-produce these pieces and what I’m imagining is the exorbitant costs to protect my son’s intellectual property. That may lead us to watermark some pieces in the online marketplace and maintain his copyright of other pieces in another arena. Or maybe the reverse logic of this observation? What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *