How to Add a Watermark in Word

Recently, I sent an article to a friend for review. Instead of discussing the document, he wanted to know about the “ghost text.” I was perplexed until I realized he wanted to learn how to insert a watermark in Microsoft Word that read Draft. And with a little more effort, you can create a custom text or picture watermark.

Why Use a Watermark

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 page 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.

However, there is a secondary list of text watermarks that are found in the drop-down Text box menu where you create a custom watermark. In addition to the list above, you also have:

  • Copy
  • Original
  • Personal
  • Top Secret

How to Add a Watermark to the Document

Time needed: 5 minutes.

You can either create the watermark first or add it later. I prefer writing my document first because I find the watermark can be distracting. For this tutorial, I am using Microsoft 365 for Windows, but the process is similar to earlier versions.

  1. Write your document.
  2. From the main menu, click View and select Print Layout.
  3. From the main menu, click the Design tab.
  4. To the far right is the Page Background group.
Page Background group with Watermark button.
Watermark button in Page Background group
  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 page layout and a horizontal page layout.
Word watermark drop-down panel and options.
Slanted and horizontal watermark examples
  1. Click the watermark version you prefer. Your selection will show underneath your text in light gray.
Microsoft Word document with diagonal DRAFT watermark.
Slanted DRAFT watermark

I Can’t See My Watermark

If you can’t see your watermark, you’re probably not in Print Layout mode. Your selected watermark is there, but won’t show until you change your page layout.

  1. From the main menu, click View.
  2. From the Views group, click Print Layout.

You should now see your watermark.

Forget Finding Watermarks on Office.com

If you look at the menu above, you’ll see a menu option labeled “More watermarks from Office.com. This leads you to believe that more are available. However, as you mouse over the option, it shows “No Online Content Available“. I don’t know why the item still exists as it’s been this way for a long time.

No online content message for office.com.
No Online Content Available?

The good news is that it is easy to create custom watermarks that can work with your Microsoft Word document.

Adding Custom 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 1-5 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.
Adding Proposal watermark
  1. Clear the value from the Text text box and enter your watermark text. Or, you can click the control to the right, and select a predefined option from the drop-down menu.
  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.

Adding an 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 to represent your brand. You can upload images from your computer, Bing Image Search, or Microsoft OneDrive.

The idea is not to select a picture that competes with your document or consumes your printer ink. Microsoft Word allows most image file formats except for SVG.

Also, a watermark is restricted to either one image or one text element. You can’t combine them.

  1. Find a suitable image. Simplest is preferred.
  2. Follow steps 1-3 from above.
  3. On the Printed Watermark dialog, click the radio button for the 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.
  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. In the example below, my original logo image was only 25 px.

Microsoft Word document with logo watermark.
Semi-transparent logo watermark

Can I Move a Watermark?

Yes, you can move a watermark, but the procedure is not intuitive.

  1. Scroll to the top of the document which has your watermark.
  2. Click in the header or blank area at the top. This will open the Header area.
Word document with Header area exposed.
  1. Scroll back down to your watermark.
  2. Your mouse cursor will turn into one with 4 arrows. You may have to move it around a little bit. This indicates you’re in Move mode.
Watermark with 4 arrow cursor ready to move.
  1. Click and drag the item to the new document location.
  2. Click Close Header and Footer from the top menu.

You probably noticed that Microsoft Word offers a menu option to save your mark to a gallery. Again, this step requires you to utilize the document header.

  1. Scroll to the top of your document and click in the Header area. If you didn’t define one, this is the top white section.
  2. Scroll down to your watermark.
  3. Click the Design tab from the main menu.
  4. Click the Watermark button.
  5. Select Save Selection to Watermark Gallery…
  6. The Create New Building Block dialog opens.
  7. Provide a name and optionally a description.
  8. Click OK.

Now, when you go to your watermarks, you’ll see a new entry. Simply, click the custom watermark.

Watermark dialog showing saved gallery item.

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.