Image theft…

Photographers have been dealing with it forever, but thanks to the Internet, it’s become easier than ever for thieves to take images. And it doesn’t just affect photographers anymore. Anyone who’s creating unique images knows the pain of unattributed image theft.

So what’s the best way to stop people from taking your images without your consent? Never upload them to the Internet and keep them locked in a safety deposit box.

Unfortunately, that’s not very practical.

So what’s the second best way? Add a watermark to your image so that, even if someone does take your image without your consent, people will at least know that it came from you.

Watermarks are semi-transparent overlays that sit on top of your image like this:

image-watermark3

Because they’re part of the image, most thieves have no choice but to display them.

Adding a watermark to your images in WordPress is incredibly easy. And that’s what I’m going to show you how to do. I’ll show you how to watermark images with two free plugins and then give you a few premium plugin options in case you need more functionality.

Let’s get started…

How to Watermark Images in WordPress with Easy Watermark

easy-watermark

Easy Watermark is a totally free plugin which makes it easy to manually and automatically add watermarks to your images.

It lets you:

  • Automatically add logo or text watermarks
  • Restrict watermark ability to certain user roles
  • Bulk watermark old images
  • Position where watermark appears
  • Set watermark opacity
  • And more…

To get started, install Easy Watermark and go to the plugin’s settings page:

watermark1

Choose if you want the plugin to automatically watermark images or not. If you uncheck that top box, you’ll have to manually select images to watermark. You can also choose which image types to watermark. And if you scroll down the page even further, you can choose which user roles have access.

Once you’ve gone through the settings on this page, go to the next tab to choose your watermark image:

watermark2

I’ll choose the WPLift logo and upload that. Once you’ve uploaded an image, you can choose where you want that watermark image to appear and the opacity for the image. The opacity essentially defines how “faded” you want your watermark to be. 50% opacity is a good start point:

watermark3

Now if I, say, upload the featured image from Ahmad’s .blog post, a watermark of the WPLift logo will automatically appear (I didn’t choose the best placement!):

watermark4

If you ever want to go back and watermark old images, you can do that with the included bulk watermark tool:

watermark5

That’s all you have to do to use Easy Watermark! You can also choose to set a text based watermark if that’s more your speed.

It’s simple, yet surprisingly powerful.

How to Watermark Images in WordPress with Image Watermark

image-watermark

Image Watermark is another 100% free plugin to help add watermarks to your images.

Image Watermark lets you:

  • Automatically add image watermarks
  • Change positions for the watermark
  • Set watermark opacity
  • Scale watermarks with image size
  • Restrict watermarks to certain post types
  • And more…

Like Easy Watermark, get started by first installing the plugin and then navigating to the plugin’s settings.

On the settings page, you can choose to enable automatic watermarking and/or a manual “watermark” button for your media library:

image-watermark1

You can also choose which image sizes to watermark and the alignment for the watermark. Note – you need to manually check some image sizes, otherwise the watermark won’t appear (this confused me for a little).

Scrolling down further, you can upload your watermark image and choose whether or not to scale it in relation to the image size (e.g. make it always proportional to the image size). You can also set the opacity in this section:

image-watermark2

After enabling automatic watermarking, this is what I got when I uploaded the same image:

image-watermark3

It’s a pretty similar plugin to Easy Watermark. One thing I liked about it is that the default locations for the watermark seemed to work better than Easy Watermark. I had trouble positioning the watermark with Easy Watermark, whereas it was really easy to get a good placement with this plugin.

So if I had to choose, I would use Image Watermark. But both are good options for basic watermarking.

Other Good WordPress Watermark Plugins

I think the two plugins above give you more than enough to watermark your images. But if you want some more advanced features, here are some premium plugins which give you a little extra power.

Smart Content Protector

smart-content-protector-wordpress-plugin

Smart Content Protector isn’t just a watermark plugin – it’s designed to protect both your text and images. It tries to protect your text by disabling copy and paste functionality. This isn’t a foolproof strategy of course, but it will deter some people.

It also protects your images by adding watermarks and disabling image dragging.

If you’re really worried about people stealing your content, you may want to consider investing $19 into buying this plugin. But if you just care about watermarks, stick with one of the free plugins.

Premium Watermark for WordPress

premium-watermark-for-wordpress

As the name suggests, Premium Watermark for WordPress is a premium plugin with 347 sales (though only a 2.89 rating!).

When adding watermarks, it doesn’t affect the source image. You can add a watermark image or text, choose the opacity, and choose the image quality.

One unique feature is that you can choose to only activate the watermark for certain IP addresses. If that IP address feature catches your eye, you may want to pay $16 for Premium Watermark.

Fast Watermark Plugin for WordPress

fast-watermark-plugin

Fast Watermark Plugin is a premium plugin with 172 sales and a 4.12 rating.

It lets you have unlimited watermarks. They can be text or images and scale with the size of the image.

One potentially useful feature is being able to use different watermarks for different post authors. If you need this functionality, I think the plugin is definitely worth it. None of the other plugins on this list offer anything close to that.

It’s definitely a niche feature, but if you have a site with multiple authors I can see it being really helpful.

Fast Watermark Plugin costs $23 at Code Canyon.

Wrapping Things Up

If you just want to add a standard watermark to your images, you should pick one of the two free plugins I provided guides for. If you need some more detailed functionality, consider one of the premium plugins. Also, be careful if you decide to go looking for more options in the wordpress.org plugin repository. A lot of the watermark plugins are woefully out-of-date.

You should also remember that if you’re not creating unique images, you probably don’t need to worry about watermarks at all! They’re only really necessary if you’re worried about your images getting stolen.

I would love to hear any success/failure watermark stories in the comments!


Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer and long-time Internet marketer. He specializes in digital marketing, WordPress and B2B writing. He lives a life of danger, riding a scooter through the chaos of Hanoi. You can also follow his travel blog.

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3 Comments

  1. Watermarking your images in an unobtrusive way is a good compromise for most people.

    While some web users may crop it out, the majority won’t bother with it.

    Yes, it is best to use a semi-transparent image to watermark over the whole photo. Preferably using a plugin to automate the process.

  2. Thanks for this guide, Colin!

    I think that it is also worth mentioning another purpose for which photo watermarks were made, and that is to be able to learn some details about the photographer who took the photo and maybe be able to contact them.
    That metadata can also be retrieved from the EXIF that’s included with most photo files, as well.

    • Good point, Kobe! Thanks for sharing. I never thought of it from that perspective. Especially helpful since so many image optimization programs strip metadata. I think imgur and other image uploader sites do as well.

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