Make Your Own Sign Or Signature Into a Watermark in 10 Min (No Scanner Needed)

Lightroom March 19th 2014 12:00 PM 16 Comments

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The idea of claiming/protecting your imagery as intellectual property is no new pursuit; there are, in fact, newer countries. Painters and artists have been scribing their names on their works for centuries. If you’re planning on putting any of your images online, or in print, or anywhere at all, you’ve likely meandered down the alley of thought regarding watermarking or name stamping your work. Here I’m going to show you a quick and simple method of using your signature as a watermark. You won’t even need a scanner, a simple digital camera will do the trick, and make the workflow faster. Just a few words first.

The pendulum of opinion swings widely regarding the topic. Some believe in watermarking every image they have and entirely across the image, and some see it as not only distracting, but pointless. Here are a few things to consider regardless of what camp you’re in. If you just want to get to the process then just skim down.

Sharing and Protecting

To all those who believe watermarking will protect your photos from misuse, you’re generally mistaken. Armed with only Photoshop and a glass of burgundy, I can generally manipulate any watermarked image into something useable, especially for small online use – and I’m a Photoshop neophyte. So using a watermark to defend against theft is like fitting an alarm to your car to stop a thief – it won’t stop the good ones. It’s a bump in the road, at best.

There may be some argument that a bold enough watermark will make the time and effort required a big enough deterrent. This is possible. However, consider the effect it has on your imagery and your name. Your imagery is far less desirable and less time is spent viewing it, and there’s a feeling among some that obnoxious watermarks reflect the artist, or at least, one that’s not well informed.

If you really want to protect your images you’re probably best served by posting very low-res versions online that would make printing a non-issue and online sharing somewhat useless. That’s it. And if still you’re concerned, there are many easy and free ways to do Internet reverse image searches to see where else your images may be being used. Mind you, should you find anything, you likely have a battle ahead of you, if recent history is any indicator.

The Better Purpose Of a Watermark

Use it as a tool for promotion and reach. Your watermark, whether it be a name or logo, is likely best understood these days as a way to be positive, and viewed as a tool to inform viewers of the person who crafted this image they’re spending their time on.

Understand that on the Internet, most use of others’ images isn’t for the purpose of stealing, but simply sharing because the viewer has enjoyed some facet of the photo. A watermark then becomes a great way for people of like-minds to learn where to find you, the artisan. That’s great marketing. It would be my humble suggestion to view watermarks as such, and for that reason, have your watermark be a small feature, not the main one. Your name, signature, or even your website are all great watermarks.

Making Your Signature A Watermark

I used a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop to do this. Lightroom is, for me, the preferred tool to keep and organize photos and do most of my editing work. The easy preset system allows for a fast and effective workflow, and if I want something else, it’s easy to drop it into Photoshop. Initially I use LR to tidy up the image and make the subject bolder. If interested, we have a host of free Lightroom tutorials as well as our highly regarded Lightroom products such as our Lightroom Workshop Collection v5.

[REWIND: The Basics of Exporting]

Step 1

On a bright white piece of paper, scribble your signature as best you can. You may need to do it a few times to choose your favorite. I like to use a Sharpie since it provides a deep black, and defined edges. In this example, I used a fine point because my signature is wispy, but a medium size tends to work best.

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Step 2

Take a photograph in good, bright light, of the signature. Be close enough to retain detail, but not at an angle or so close as to have it be affected by distortion. Upload image.

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Step 3

Open the image in Photoshop and use Brightness/Contrast & Levels to blow out the background of any shadows and to really highlight the signature.

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Step 4

Zoom in on your chosen example, and use the crop tool to crop a box around the signature.

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Step 5 (Slightly Tricky)

Select the Magic Wand tool and use it to select the signature. If you have a break in the signature or it has many loops you may find it useful, or need, to hold the Shift key as you select all parts of the signature. Once this is done, make sure the whole crop is selected (usually just by using the wand an selecting outside the signature).

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Step 6

With your entire selection made, go to the menu and follow Select>Inverse. Then copy the signature.

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Step 7

Without Closing that file, open a new document and make the ‘Background Contents’ set to ‘Transparent’. Now past the signature from clipboard into/onto the new document.

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Step 8

Go to File>Save For Web and it’s essential the transparency box is checked and file is a PNG-8. Once done, so are you. You can now stick this onto any image you want, and arrange it in whatever orientation you desire.

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Thoughts

I generally don’t use watermarks as I tend to hate things that detract from the image, but a friend wanted to learn how to do this and I figured it would be helpful. I also truly feel if someone wants to steal the image to use as their own, the best defense is a small low-res photo, and to do periodic checks using some reverse image searched like Google Images. Then there are the others that lay it on so thick for advertisement purposes, it appears that’s what is wanted as the focus, and not the picture itself. When I use watermarks, it’s usually something like pictured above, or faint faded text with my name and or website on it.

What are your thoughts on watermarking images?

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About

Kishore is a photographer and writer based in Miami, though he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. With a passion for beauty and aviation photography his work is all at once focused and eclectic. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

16 Comments

  1. Francesco Meloni

    …or you could turn the acquired signature into a custom brush. But lately I prefer to use a .png and a custom watermark in Lightroom to batch add it to all my pictures when I need it (and I tend to avoid that as much as possible unless it is required), much faster than doing it in PS

  2. Kay

    But how do you vectorize the signature if you want to scale up to any image size?

    • Wes D

      Kay,

      After you have your selection of the text, you can go to the Path’s panel and click the “Make Work Path From Selection” option which will create a path based on the selection from the signature. After the path has been created, highlight it go to “Edit > Define Custom Shape”. Name your signature and it will then be saved as a custom Vector Shape that can be scaled without loss of quality.

      Usually the path that is generated is a little messy and may need cleaned up a bit, but should accomplish what you are wanting to do!

    • Kishore Sawh

      hi there Kay and Wes D. Thanks for joining us here. Wes D, thanks for that explanation as I’m sure i couldn’t have said it any better. Also, depending on the version, if you drag the PNG onto another image in Photoshop, it will let you alter it right there. Cheers you two!

    • Abel

      Well guys, while this method is pretty good, I think it’s a bit complicated.

      What I generally do is, scan the image and then open it up in Adobe Illustrator
      (Use Inkscape for those of you who don’t wanna buy a brand new software)

      Both these softwares have an option called “Live Trace” which allow you to turn any Raster Image into a vector one.
      It fits to paths and you can get it to automatically ignore white.
      From my experience, it’s a lot more accurate than doing it manually via photoshop.

      After you finish Live Tracing it, you can just save the file as a EPS/PDF/AI File and place it anytime as a smart object on to photoshop as a different layer.

      It just seems easier than doing all this work.

  3. ERIC

    Very cool tutorial. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Caleb

    very cool…. been doing this for the past few years.

  5. popsss

    Hello,
    What do you mean by the best defence is a low res photo ?

    • ERIC

      I think he means that the best defense against online thieves stealing your pictures is a low-resolution photo.

    • Kishore Sawh

      Hi there POPSSS and Eric, thanks for joining. Eric you are correct, and POPSSS, perhaps I could’ve explained a bit further so please allow me to do so here. My personal thoughts on the matter is that a watermark isn’t the best deterrent of image theft. Consider how someone may want to use your photo and likely it would either be to pass off as their own and displayed on their site, or use it somehow in print for advertising purpose or some manner thereabout.

      I feel that simply posting low resolution photos is probably the best defense because low resolution will not allow for any significant printing or display, and therefore would likely render the image unfit for commercial use, or even personal promotion. Hope this helps. Cheers, and thanks Eric.

  6. Ian

    Thanks for sharing your signature. Now it’s much easier to commit fraud against you…

    Watermark is useful. Reverse image search is not rocket science and doesn’t work that well. If people want to share your photos they will regardless of them having watermark or not

    • Siggy

      That was my first thought as well. Putting your signature along with your identity out there for all the world to see seems like asking for trouble. Besides that though, this could be a useful technique for those who are handier with a pen than with a mouse to make a custom watermark, I would avoid using your actual signature though.

    • Adam

      You have signed your name thousand of times in your life. Your signiture is already all over the Internet so, no it won’t help anyone who wouldn’t already no how to commit fraud against you. Using personal signatures has been normal for business logos for decades.

  7. Pye

    Wonderful article Kish! I am sure a lot of people have wanted to know how to do this. Love it.

  8. crazyball

    With a mac and the “Preview” application, you can directly take a shot with your webcam of a sign on a paper and transform it into what you want : pdf, jpeg, png … and more like in this capture ;) http://www.blogcdn.com//media/2011/08/signature-capture-cjr.jpg

  9. mc

    Interesting..I can’t help but notice the similarities between this article and one on photofocus, which was posted a month and a half before this one.

    http://photofocus.com/2014/02/09/creating-your-own-signature-watermark/

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