What Is a Watermark in Excel? (Including How to Add One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 16 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Excel is a useful spreadsheet software with powerful features that assist an individual or a business in organising, calculating and analysing their data. A user may decide to use a watermark to protect the data in the sheet or add to the design of a sheet for branding purposes. Knowing how to add, resize and remove a watermark in an Excel spreadsheet can help you better design or protect a spreadsheet. In this article, we explore what a watermark is, describe the importance of a watermark and list the steps to add, resize and remove a watermark in Excel.

What is a watermark in Excel?

A watermark in Excel is an image that a user inserts into the background of a sheet. You may use a watermark where it rests behind the main assets or data in a spreadsheet. The watermark is typically a picture, text or an official logo of a brand and is a lighter shade so it doesn't hinder a viewer's ability to read the content. Excel has no feature to add a watermark in a spreadsheet directly, but there are other methods that you can consider using.

Why is adding a watermark important?

A watermark in a document can help prevent the copying of data for another individual or organisation's advantage. An organisation can also use a watermark to categorise a document to limit its distribution and indicate the status and sensitivity of its contents. For example, you can add the word Confidential as a watermark for a spreadsheet that contains sensitive information.

An analyst may consider using a watermark to claim and maintain ownership of the contents of a spreadsheet. Many service-based companies may use their brand image or logo as a watermark in documents produced for clients as a means of promotion to spread brand awareness.

Related: Computer Skills: Definitions and Examples

What can you use as a watermark?

Watermarks are typically images in popular digital image formats that you can upload into a document or spreadsheet. You may use a picture or words to create your watermark in a spreadsheet. If you decide to use specific words as a watermark, you can consider using WordArt, a text utility with many style options available in Office software, including Excel. You can customise a WordArt object and insert it as a watermark into your spreadsheet.

Related: How to List Microsoft Office Skills on a Resume (With Examples)

How to add a watermark in Excel

Adding a watermark in a spreadsheet requires you to follow certain steps as there's no direct feature in Excel to add one. Here are the steps you can take to add a watermark in a spreadsheet:

  1. Open a workbook and select the sheet: Open an Excel workbook and determine which spreadsheets you plan to add a watermark. After selecting the relevant spreadsheets, make sure you know where you've saved the image you want to use as a watermark.

  2. Click on the "Insert" tab: Click on the "Insert" tab found in Excel's toolbar. You can insert a text based watermark by selecting "Text".

  3. Select "Header & Footer": Selecting "Text" prompts a drop-down menu from where you can select "Header & Footer". This changes the view or layout of the sheet from the normal view to "Page Layout".

  4. Click on one of the three header boxes: In "Page Layout", three boxes comprise the headers at the top of the sheet and three boxes comprise the footers at the bottom of the sheet. Selecting the middle header box can align your watermark to the centre of the sheet.

  5. Click on "Picture": Under the "Header & Footer" tab, select "Picture" to add your image. This opens a dialogue box to choose the source of your image, then select "Insert" to use it.

  6. Click on any cell in the sheet: After choosing the picture, you may notice that the header box displays the text "&[Picture]". You can click anywhere on the sheet to exit the header and you can see the watermark immediately.

  7. Select the "View" tab: Once you can see the watermark, click the "View" tab and select "Normal" to return to the original spreadsheet view. The watermark isn't visible in the "Normal" view, but is visible when you print the document.

  8. Reposition the watermark: You can return to the "Page Layout" view to make adjustments to the watermark. Adding a space by pressing the "Enter" key or inserting a line break can change the vertical positioning of the watermark.

  9. Adjust size of watermark: If you want to adjust the size of the watermark, you can select "Format Picture" which opens a dialogue box presenting you with multiple parameters to adjust the watermark in the spreadsheet. The dialogue box presents you with the tabs "Size", "Picture" and "Alt Text" where you can adjust the size of the image under the "Size" tab or crop the image under the "Picture" tab.

This type of hidden watermark can be useful, as some people may know how to remove them. Hiding a watermark can help companies confirm that someone has intentionally used their data without permission. This can also deter people from printing out a document without permission.

Related: Excel Skills: Definition and Examples

How to use a text box as a watermark in Excel

You can use Excel's text box function to add a watermark to a spreadsheet. Follow the steps below to add a text box based watermark :

  1. Open a workbook and select the sheet: Open an Excel workbook and determine which spreadsheets you plan to add a watermark. After selecting the relevant spreadsheets, make sure you know where you've saved the image you want to use as a watermark.

  2. Click on the "Insert" tab: Click on the "Insert" tab found in Excel's toolbar.

  3. Insert text box: You can insert a text box by selecting "Text Box" in the "Text" section of the "Insert" tab and clicking anywhere on the spreadsheet. A box with four dots and a blinking text cursor appears.

  4. Insert text watermark: You can type the watermark text into the text box, such as Confidential. You can also consider changing the colour of the text to make it more visible.

  5. Insert picture watermark: You can also insert pictures into a text box by copying and pasting a picture into the text box. You can also click on the "Shape Format" tab in Excel's toolbar and click "Shape Fill" which opens a drop-down menu where you can click "Picture...".

  6. Position watermark: After inserting a watermark, you can freely move and reposition the text box anywhere in your spreadsheet by clicking and dragging the text box. You can also rotate the text box by clicking on the circle-shaped arrow and dragging the cursor in the direction you want it to rotate.

  7. Resize watermark: You can easily resize the watermark by clicking on any of the four corners of the text box and dragging the cursor outwards and then doing the same with the image inside the text box. If you used text, you can simply change the font size of the text.

How to remove a watermark from a spreadsheet

You may want to remove a watermark as it may not be appropriate for the spreadsheet or you may want to change the image. Follow these steps to remove a watermark from a spreadsheet:

  1. Click the "View" tab: If you want to remove the watermark, click on the "View" tab. Under the "View" tab, select the "Page Layout" view so that you can see the watermark and the headers in the spreadsheet.

  2. Delete "&[Picture]": Click on the header in which you inserted the image for the watermark. Delete the "&[Picture]" text in the header cell and then click on any cell in the spreadsheet.

  3. Confirm changes: After you click on any cell in the spreadsheet, you can observe that the watermark is no longer there. You can further confirm this by looking at the header and seeing the text "Add header" in the header cell.

  4. Remove text box: If you used a text box to add a watermark, you can just select the text box and click "Delete" on the keyboard.

Tips for adding watermarks in a spreadsheet

Consider the tips below when adding a watermark to a spreadsheet:

  • Design a watermark: When designing a watermark that contains a word, consider adjusting the word to tilt diagonally. This allows your watermark to fit better and spread over a wider area in the spreadsheet.

  • Use a light colour: Lighter colours can ensure that the watermark doesn't conflict with or obscure the data in the spreadsheet. If using watermarks of a darker colour, you can adjust its transparency to view the data.

  • Adjust the watermark: In the "Format Picture" dialogue box under the "Header & Footer" tab, select the "Picture" tab. You can adjust the transparency of the watermark or use the presets under "Image control" to blend your watermark more efficiently with the sheet.

  • Use print preview: The print preview can show you how your sheet looks with the watermark if you decide to print the sheet. Click the "File" tab and select "Print", which shows you an instant preview of your sheet with the watermark.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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