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How to Insert Watermarks in Microsoft Word

Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and a PhD in Higher Education Administration.

At times you may want to specify something important about a Word document you write - perhaps that it is a draft, or confidential. In this lesson, you'll learn how to insert a __watermark__ in Word that can do those things and more.

What is a Watermark?

A watermark is a graphic or word(s) displayed as the background to a written document. Typically, a watermark appears in a light gray, large font, so it can be easily seen by readers of the document, but not so dark that it makes the document difficult to read. Watermarks are typically used to make sure a certain attribute of the document is very clear to readers. Common watermarks include:

  • Draft
  • Confidential
  • Do not edit
  • Do not copy
  • Sample
  • Urgent
  • A graphic, such as an organization's seal or logo

How to Insert a Watermark in Microsoft Word

Before we go over the step-by-step instructions of how to insert, modify, or remove a watermark in Microsoft Word, there's an important note about the different versions of Microsoft Word we should make. The instructions below apply to Microsoft Word 2013 for Windows.

If you are using any version of Microsoft Word for Mac, Office365, or Microsoft Word for Windows 2010, 2007, 2003 or earlier, these instructions may be slightly different. Generally speaking, however, different versions of Word are fairly consistent and these instructions will get you to the right menus, even if you may need to experiment to get the watermark you are looking for.

When you open Microsoft Word, the 'Home' tab is the active tab on the task ribbon along the top of the option. After 'Home' is the 'Insert' tab, and then the tab we are looking for - the 'Design' tab. See the pictures below to see what you should see when Word opens, and once you click the 'Design' tab. On the design tab, on the far right, there is a watermark icon. Single clicking that button will pull up the common watermarks Word has programmed.

Watermark List in Word 2013
Watermark List

All you need to do, if any of those Word watermark templates meet your needs, is click on the appropriate option. But, you'll also see the option to (a) find more watermarks on Office.com, (b) create your own watermark, (c) remove a watermark, and (d) save selection to the Watermark gallery. Option D is only active if you already have a custom watermark in your document.

How to Make a Custom Watermark

If the Word templates for watermarks do not meet your needs, or if you would like to include a graphic - such as an organizational seal or logo - you can select 'Custom Watermark' from the watermark options. This will present you with a few choices.

The default selection is 'No watermark,' which is obviously isn't what we are looking for. The next two options, however, are where we can customize the watermark in our documents. The first option, Picture watermark requires you to select a picture from your computer, select a scale (or size) of the picture, and then decide if you want the picture to washout (made more transparent).

The 'Auto' selection for the size is usually a good option, since Word will automatically ensure it is within the margins and an appropriate size for the document. But, if you use a particularly small graphic, you may want to enlarge it. Graphics can be enlarged up to 500%, and even reduced down to 50%.

The next option is to make your own Text watermark. Maybe instead of just 'Confidential' from Word's templates, you want to include your boss's name. With a customized text watermark, you can enter whatever text you want. Simply select the option for 'Text watermark' and type the text you want in the 'Text' field. Adjust the other factors as you'd like, then click 'OK' or 'Apply.'

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