Encyclopedia of the Watermark - school
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Encyclopedia of the Watermark

Alright, photographers. Since SmugMug started offering a non-destructive watermarking feature it's been a favorite of lots of you, and it certainly has been one of ours. But our Support Heroes get questions about the nitty-gritty details all the time, so let's dig deep and show those of you who haven't tried it yet how much it rocks.

What's a Watermark?

Watermarks are custom graphics or text that SmugMug Pros can apply to their photos. They appear on all the photos that appear in your SmugMug galleries. Your original uploaded files won't contain them, which means that all downloads, print or gift items that clients purchased from your galleries will remain clean and pristine.

Who Can Use Watermarks?

At SmugMug, Portfolio and Business account holders can use Watermarks. If you have a Basic or a Power User account you can use programs (like Lightroom) to apply watermarks to your photos before uploading to SmugMug, but if you do this just remember that this means your original photo file will be marked and anything purchased from your site will contain them.

Why Use Watermarks?

Watermarks are awesome for keeping your name and brand associated with the photos you take. Especially if you sell your photos for profit, using this feature ensures that people pay you for your images.

Plus, once you set them up in your Gallery Settings  we'll automatically apply them to new photos as you upload, so you don't even have to think about it.

TIP: When you Watermark, why not consider letting your fans use your display copies for free? They get to share the low-res files with their friends, which means free advertising for you.

You can add watermarks to your images prior to uploading to SmugMug (through Lightroom or other image editors) but that watermark becomes a part of the original file that we print from. If you do this we recommend that you disable printing in your galleries. By using the SmugMug Watermark tool, the custom watermark is applied to your display copies only after upload, leaving your originals in pristine condition.

Finally, you can have as many different Watermarks as you wish on file in your SmugMug account. We just recommend that you don't keep too many, or the list can start to get confusing.

Where to Find Your Watermarks:

Look in your Account Settings > Business tab. The first section there, Branding, will contain several important pro features, including Watermarks. This is your home base for managing, editing and deleting any Watermarks you've uploaded to your site.

Tip: To change or remove the watermarks on your photos, you'll go to your gallery's Tools button in the Organizer. We'll cover this in a minute.

How to Create and Apply Your Custom Watermark

First, you'll create a special file using your favorite image editing program, like Photoshop. We suggest starting with a transparent file about 1000 x 2000 pixels in size (you can always crop it down or change this later), adding in any text that you wish and/or using your logo. When in doubt, start with a large canvas so that your finished watermark looks good on our full range of display sizes.

Tip: Given that your Watermark will be sitting over colorful images, you may want to keep the font color a simple opaque white, but it's up to you.


Save your file as a transparent PNG file and upload it to an unlisted gallery on your site. Open the image within the gallery, click the tools (wrench) icon, and Select Use As > Watermark. We'll then let you set up the opacity, placement and other settings for that Watermark. Don't forget to give it a unique name!

Tip:  If you plan on using several watermarks, or if you're experimenting with different ones, you may want to be specific and call out placement and the font, like "Center Helvetica for portraits" or "Bottom right logo 2013." Being tidy is just a good idea, anyway.

We have a comprehensive step-by-step tutorial showing you how to make a sample Watermark file on our help pages. And we have a fabulous video tutorial, too, where you can see watermarks in action.

How to Change or Remove Your Watermarks

First, create and upload your new Watermark to your site, then set it up as aWatermark with a new, unique name. Once that's done, you can go to any gallery on your site from within the Organizer and open the Tools button  > Watermarking.

You'll see a new screen with thumbnails of every image in that gallery. Click to select one, a few, or all of them so that they're highlighted in red, pick the new Watermark name from the menu bar at the top and click "Watermark."

If you want to remove watermarks from your photos completely, it's the same deal. Only choose the "Remove" radio button at the top. Again, click the "Watermark" button to save your changes.

Note that it can take a few minutes before you see the changes on your photos, so it's a great time to put the kettle on or stretch your legs.

How to Fit Both Landscape and Portrait Images

We get this question from time to time, but it's a bit tricky. After all, your camera's sensor and how you crop your images can drastically affect the aspect ratio of your final image, which changes the placement of your Watermark.

If you want your Watermark to look good on both portrait and landscape-oriented images, here's a suggestion: Go square! This doesn't mean that the visible Watermark has to be square, only the image file that you're using. So try creating a square transparent PNG, center your watermark text and make sure you keep it centered when you set it up in SmugMug.

CORNER SQUARE. Photo by Schmootography. <a href="http://schmoo.smugmug.com">http://schmoo.smugmug.com</a>

CORNER SQUARE. Photo by Schmootography. http://schmoo.smugmug.com

Another alternative is to make a corner edge Watermark. Simply align your Watermark's text along the bottom and one side of your image file and when setting it up in SmugMug, choose one of the Bottom left or Bottom right placement options.

Option 3: You can always tile your Watermark so that your design is repeated uniformly across the image. (See below for example)

And finally, if you're really picky about perfect Watermarks on all your images, you may want to create and set up two versions of your design: one for landscape photos and one for portraits. Note that you can only set your Gallery Settings to automatically apply one Watermark, but you can manually apply the second one to only the photos you want to switch.

Watermarks vs Printmarks: What's the Diff?

These two features are cousins. The thing to remember is that Watermarks are applied to the photos displayed on your website. Printmarks are like watermarks for your prints, and only appear on products that you and your customers buy.

Set Printmarks up just like you set up your Watermarks! The only thing to keep in mind is that Printmarks, unlike Watermarks, are limited in the size and area of the photo so they stay unobtrusive. Check the preview if you're unsure.

Great ideas for Printmarks include the event date, your handwritten signature, team name, graduation year. What else can you dream up?

When They Work Great and When They Don't

Watermarks go a long way towards preventing image theft by right-clickers and screen-grabbers, plus they're great for spreading the word about you... but not everyone loves them. Some people find anything extra on the image distracting, and large Watermarks can sometimes cover up vital parts of the photo.

Unobtrusive Watermarks close to the edge or in corners can be cropped out, and of course there's always the chance (however slight) that someone with lots of time and Photoshop experience can remove it.

Finally, Watermarks can be applied to photos only, so they won't work on your video files. For security on your videos, and for better image protection all-around, we recommend using Right-Click Protection as well.

Let's Get You Started!

Are you ready to dive in? We've already pre-loaded a generic "PROOF" watermark into your website that you can use right away, but here's a few basic watermarks you can snag to change it up.

Grab PNG files for square, portrait, landscape and banner watermarks.

We hope that these questions hit all the points you may have been wondering about this powerful feature. If we missed one and you still need help, give our Heroes a shout!

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