How to create a Watermark with Action & Droplet in Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop

This is the last episode of the series about watermarks. We are now going to use all the things we previously learn to create a different kind of watermark. Here is what you may have missed from the previous episodes:


The common ways of creating a watermark

A watermark is usually created either from a transparent background image (PNG file) or a simple text. Adobe Lightroom can handle either very efficiently.

standard watermark using a transparent png file

standard watermark using a transparent png file

My dislike

I have never really liked the way my images looked once watermarked, especially when used on my blog where I usually post a succession of portrait and landscape oriented images. The reason is that while I use the Adobe Lightroom option to size the watermark (whether text or image) proportionally to the receiving image, the watermark always ends up looking small on portrait oriented images and well sized on the landscape oriented photos.

Compare watermarks on vertical and horizontal images

Compare watermarks on vertical and horizontal images


The alternative to standard watermarking

About six months ago I came up with the alternative watermark I am presenting in this episode. It consists of using an Action in Adobe Photoshop that creates a watermark specifically for a given image size which is then executed from within Adobe Lightroom when exporting my photos.

Example of a 2x3 image turned into a square with the logo on the side

Example of a 2×3 image turned into a square with the logo on the side

Step 1 – Create the Action in Adobe Photoshop

I need an Action that is going to transform a vertically oriented photo into a square by adding a white band on the right side. This is achieved by extending the canvas on the right size, making the width of the image equal to its height (here 2000px).

Transform the 2x3 image into a square by enlarging the canvas size in Adobe Photoshop

Transform the 2×3 image into a square by enlarging the canvas size in Adobe Photoshop

The next step would be to create the logo. In my case, I design the logo within the Action itself instead of using a PNG file for everything. However, my logo (behind the text) is a PNG file. In the case of this tutorial, I use a PNG file to simplify the explanation, which I import (Place Embedded) from the File menu.

Import the logo via the Place Embedded task in the File menu of Adobe Photoshop

Import the logo via the Place Embedded task in the File menu of Adobe Photoshop

Once the logo is in place, all I need to do is flatten the image (since I ultimately want a JPEG file).

Flatten the image in Adobe Photoshop

Flatten the image in Adobe Photoshop

 

Once flatten, I save the image, overwriting the original, and then close the image inside Photoshop before finally stop the Action recording. This way the next time I run the Action, it will not only do the changes I recorded but save the image and close it so my Photoshop is clear of any image. This is critical especially when I run the Action for multiple files which if left inside Adobe Photoshop, would unnecessarily consume my computer resources.

Step 2 – Create a Droplet in Adobe Photoshop

Now that I have my Action, I need a mean to trigger it from inside Adobe Lightroom. This is possible via a Droplet. A Droplet is a mini-program that can be triggered either by a 3rd party application of by some photo dropped onto it. I create a Droplet from inside Adobe Photoshop.

Create a Droplet from inside Adobe Photoshop

Create a Droplet from inside Adobe Photoshop

 

In the Droplet panel, I specify the location where I want to save the Droplet. For now, it can stay anywhere (ie. on the desktop). I then need to define the Action Set and the Action which I want the Droplet to trigger. In this particular scenario, the other properties can be left unticked. The destination needs to be set to “none” since it will be specified in Adobe Lightroom.

Specify the Action set of the action we wish the Droplet to call

Specify the Action set of the action we wish the Droplet to call

Specify the Action we wish the Droplet to call

Specify the Action we wish the Droplet to call

 

Step 3 – Add the Droplet to Adobe Lightroom

Now the Droplet has been created, I only need to add it to Adobe Lightroom. At the bottom of the export panel, in the Post-Processing subset, there is a drop-down list which let us open the Export Actions Folder.

Open the Actions Folder from the Adobe Lightroom Export Panel

Open the Actions Folder from the Adobe Lightroom Export Panel

Once the Export Action folder is open, all I need is to drag and drop the Droplet file from the location I specified during its creation.

Drag and drop the Droplet file to the Lightroom Export Actions folder

Drag and drop the Droplet file to the Lightroom Export Actions folder

Step 4 – Export the photos

Now the Droplet is installed in the Adobe Lightroom Actions folder, I can select any vertically oriented image that has a 2×3 ratio crop and export it from inside Lightroom. I select its destination, the height needs to match what I previously used when creating the Action (step 1), i.e. 2000px; the Post-Processing task is set to the appropriate droplet and I hit the export button.

In the defined destination folder I now find the image(s) I selected with the changes implemented by the Action I created in step 1. Here is a breakdown of what is now taking place when the exporting from Adobe Lightroom:

  1. Adobe Lightroom exports the selected image(s) to the designated destination folder
  2. Once each image is fully exported, Adobe Lightroom triggers the Droplet wich opens each exported photo into Adobe Photoshop (will open the application is not already running)
  3. The Droplet calls the Action
  4. The Action applies the changes as per implemented, including saving and closing each newly modified image
  5. Note: the Droplet does not close Photoshop afterwards (if it had opened it first)

Try it yourself

Click here to download a zip file containing both the logo (smiley.png) and the Action I created in the video.

Load the Action to your Adobe Photoshop

The first thing to do is to make sure the Actions panel is visible in the Photoshop interface. If you cannot see it, go to the Window menu and select it.

Activate the Actions panel in Adobe Photoshop

Activate the Actions panel in Adobe Photoshop

Then in the top right corner of the Actions panel, there is a 4 horizontal line icon in the top right corner.

The Actions Panel menu in the top right corner

The Actions Panel menu in the top right corner

When clicked, a long list of tasks can be found, including the Load Actions… which opens a window. You then need to find where the Action is on your computer and hit the Open button. This will load the Action and its Action Set inside your Actions panel.

Load an Action in Adobe Photoshop

Load an Action in Adobe Photoshop

Location, location, location

One thing to bear in mind is the location, on your computer, of the smiley.png file (logo) will most likely differ from the one on my machine. So you need to update the path recorded in the Action. To change it, you need to double click on the task “Place” of the Action but in order to make it work you need to have at least one document open in Adobe Photoshop (any image would do). If there is none, then you will end up with the following error message:

Error when attempting to change the path of the Place task in the Photoshop Action

Error when attempting to change the path of the Place task in the Photoshop Action

You can notice that when updating the path of the Place Action task, the recording red button of the Actions panel is on. Once the path is updated the recording stops and you should now be able to use the action.


Conclusion – Final thoughts on watermarking

Initial purpose

The initial idea of watermarking a document was to protect its authenticity. Following the natural evolution of things, anyone is now able to apply a watermark to any digital document. This also means that anyone can remove or bypass a watermark using similar tools such as Adobe Photoshop, GIMP etc. The exception would be for those watermarks that deeply affect a document (altering its tonality across a wide part) but usually, such a document does loose its interest because of the watermark itself. So maybe one could say the watermark plays its part after all.

For the photographer

Copyright

When it comes to photographs, why do we use watermarks? Some would think of it as a mean to protect their copyright. I would consider such mindset to be foolish since while being a right in most modern countries, there is very little one can do to enforce his/her copyright. The copyright laws are country specific and nowadays, if you photograph is “stolen” it will most likely be done on the web which means the culprits can be in a different country than you. Is your photograph worth the cost and hassle of an international lawsuit?Unless it creates a precedent like with the so-called “selfie of the monkey” My guess is not. This is not specific to photography, though. Look what happens with any big brands battling against China. It affects cars, clothes, jewellery, phones etc.

The artist’s signature

The other aspect would be the photograph’s wish to sign his/her piece as painters and other artists do. This makes perfect sense to me and needs to be done tastefully, ensuring the signature does not become the subject of the artwork. Hence I had done the episode on how to create a watermark using our own signature.

Marketing

One may find Social Medias revolting but there is one undeniable fact. No serious marketing strategy can afford to ignore them. This is nowadays a necessary evil. I personally do not like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others. However, I would be foolish not to use them to expose my brand to the huge market opportunity Social Medias represent. So in this case, I use watermarking as a call-out card. Hence I use my website address in it. I do make sure the watermark is visible without being overpowering. I know for a fact, my photos get pinned on Pinterest boards and this has sometimes lead to sales for me (Wedding contracts and Fine Art Prints sales).

Conclusion

Whatever your reason is to apply a watermark to your photographs, please make sure it is done as tastefully as your development should and that you fully assess the reason(s) you need one. Doing it just because you can or because many do it, cannot and should not be it.

Let me know in the comment what you think of watermarks. Do you share my view? Do you disagree with me? If you run into unexpected trouble while testing the sample Action I provided, or have any question about it, feel free to ask in the comment section below.

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