Creating Watermarks in Microsoft Word

Recently, I sent an article to a friend for review. Instead of discussing the article, he wanted to know about the “ghost text.” I was perplexed by that phrase until I realized he wanted to learn how to add a watermark in Word that read Draft. And with a little more effort, it’s just as easy to create a custom text or picture watermark. You can even add your company logo.

Why Use Watermarks?

Like many people, if I send a business document that is confidential or a draft, I include a watermark. These watermarks add context to the item and convey its status or importance. Moreover, they can also add an implied layer of protection. For example, few people would misinterpret your draft as your final document or forward a confidential document.

There is another group of users that create custom watermarks using an image. This is different than using a logo on a letterhead template because the image spans a larger portion of the page than the header area. These semitransparent items appear in the background, and your text sits on top. The document text is clearly readable, but you can see the watermark.

Default Text Watermarks

By default, Microsoft Word has six predefined watermarks. These simple text variations include:

  • Confidential
  • Do Not Copy
  • Draft
  • Sample
  • ASAP
  • Urgent

The above items are the easiest watermarks to insert into your document. And like all watermarks, you don’t have to worry about wrapping text around an image. Instead, the watermark sits on a different layer.

How to Add a Watermark in Word

Time needed: 5 minutes.

You can either create the watermark first or add later. I prefer writing my document first because I find the watermark can be distracting.

  1. Write your document. By default, your watermark will show on each page.
  2. From the main menu, click the Design tab.
  3. Locate the Page Background group. This section is to the far right.
Page Background group with Watermark button.Pin
Watermark button
  1. Click the Watermark button. If you see a small definition box, click the button again.
  2. A drop-down panel appears with default examples. Each example includes a slanted and horizontal layout.
Word watermark drop-down panel and options.Pin
Slanted and horizontal watermarks
  1. Click the watermark version you prefer. Your selection will show underneath your text in light gray.
word document with diagonal draft watermark.Pin
Slanted DRAFT watermark

Add Custom Watermark Text

The default items fit most uses. However, there are times when you need something different. Perhaps, a wording change or orientation. In either case, Microsoft Word can accommodate your needs.

  1. Follow Steps 1-4 in the previous section.
  2. Scan past the default thumbnails and choose Custom Watermark.
  3. The Printed Watermark dialog box opens.
Printed watermark dialog with draft text.Pin
Adding DRAFT watermark
  1. Clear the value from the Text text box and enter your watermark text.
  2. Adjust the Font, Size, Color, and Layout options to suit your style.
  3. Click Apply.
  4. Click Close.

Your customized version should show on every page. In my case, it overwrote my previous Draft watermark with My Custom Watermark. As you can see, you’re only allowed one watermark per page.

If you use watermarks a lot, you might want to create a custom Word keyboard shortcut. For example, you could assign Alt + W to open the Printed Watermark dialog box shown above. Or, you could use a custom building block assigned to DRAFT.

Making a Watermark Image

Perhaps, words aren’t enough. Sometimes you want to spruce things up with an image. This could be a simple picture or even a logo. The idea is not to select a picture that competes with your document or consumes your printer ink.

  1. Find a suitable image. Simplest is probably best.
  2. Follow steps 1-3 from above.
  3. On the Printed Watermark dialog, click the radio button for Picture watermark.
  4. Click the Select Picture button.
  5. The Insert Picture panel opens.
  6. Select an insert option and go to your picture location. Microsoft Word allows most image file formats except for SVG.
  7. Click Apply.
  8. Click Close.

As with the other examples, your inserted image will appear in the background. By default, Word will do auto-scaling for the best fit.

Word document with logo watermark.Pin
Sample document with logo watermark

How to Remove a Word Watermark

Just as it’s easy to insert a watermark in Word, it’s also easy to remove a watermark. The issue is there isn’t an object you can click or highlight to delete. You have to reverse your steps.

To remove a watermark,

  1. Open your Word document.
  2. Click the Design tab.
  3. In the Page Background group, double-click the Watermark button.
  4. Underneath the examples, click the entry Remove Watermark.

Whether your preference is text or images, Microsoft Office 365 and Word give you plenty of options without relying on WordArt. For example, watermarks can be a valuable enhancement to any Microsoft Word document. They help convey a document’s status, such as the “Draft” watermark or promote your branding with an image. And when you finally get out of “Draft” mode, there is a Remove Watermark option in the built-in menu.