Watermarks are an important security measure to mark a document without obscuring its contents. The use of watermarks dates back to the 13th century when paper was pressed with a metal stamp while it was still wet, leaving a permanent mark on the paper. Regardless of what was printed on the document, holding the paper up to the light would reveal the watermark. 

Because making paper – not to mention the metal stamps – was expensive and labor-intensive, a custom watermark reduced the risk of counterfeiting considerably. Throughout the centuries, watermarks were used on important papers, postage stamps, banknotes and stock certificates. 

Today, watermarks have evolved to provide the same type of security to digital documents as they did with their paper ancestors. But some are more effective than others — here’s what you need to know to protect your intellectual property and proprietary information.

Digital Watermarks Used Today

Most digital watermarks are static, meaning they are added to documents by the owner and do not change unless the document owner edits them. These have been used for a few decades now. They often provide important information about the document or its owner(s), like a draft version or the name of the company or its logo. They’re often used on photographs to protect the photographer’s copyright. 

Dynamic Watermarks

Dynamic watermarks can include the same information as a static watermark, but also include information about the person accessing the document, like the person’s name and IP address. As a result, if someone shares a file without authorization from the owner, the person’s identity is immediately recognizable – this reduces the likelihood of illegal sharing considerably. 

Adding Static Watermarks to Your PDF Files

Most of the tools you might use to create and edit PDF documents give you the option to add a static watermark. This is a fast and easy option if you want to watermark documents with your company logo, the name of your company, or words like “Draft” or “Confidential.” Of course, you can write a whole paragraph for the watermark if you wish. 

The only limitation is that the watermark you choose will be static and will remain the same for everyone who uses it. If you want to change the watermark for each user, or if you want to include the document’s date in the watermark, you’ll have to edit the watermark yourself.

Add watermark to Word documents

If you’re using Microsoft Word, you can insert quick watermarks into any document before you export it to a PDF. To add a watermark to a Word document, select the “Design” tab and then click the “Watermark” option. Enter the text you want to appear and then specify its font and appearance and insert a watermark. To use an image as a custom watermark, like your company logo, select the “Picture” option and then choose the image. 

To see what the MS Word watermark will look like when you print the document or export it to a PDF, select “Print Layout” from the “View” menu. 

Adding a Watermark in Adobe Acrobat

If you have Adobe Acrobat, you’ll find the “Watermark” option in the Tools menu. Select “Tools” and then click “Edit PDF.” To insert a text watermark, select “Text” and then type what you would like to appear and insert the watermark. 

If you want to use an image as a watermark, click the “File” button in the “Watermark” options and then select any image from your computer drive. 

Removing Static Watermarks from Documents

Removing static watermarks from text documents is generally as easy as putting them on in the first place. Text-based PDFs are those that are created from Microsoft Word or other text documents, keeping the text intact so that it can be searched or copied. To remove an MS Word watermark from one of these documents, you can simply import the PDF back into a Word document and then delete the watermark. Alternatively, you can copy all of the text (Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C) and paste it into a new, blank document.

The process can take a bit longer when the custom watermark is on an image-based PDF. This is often the case when you scan a paper document, or take a screenshot, which both take a picture of the text instead of keeping the text intact. In these situations, if you apply a watermark to the PDF, its image is incorporated into the image of the text. To remove the watermark you need to use an image editor or an online tool that can discern the watermark from the text image and erase it for you. 

While image-based PDFs offer better watermark security, the disadvantages are that you can no longer edit the text, or even search for text in the PDF. They also result in much larger file sizes and small fonts can be hard to read if the resolution and document quality isn’t high enough.

Using a Dynamic Watermark in Your VDR Workspace

Unlike the static watermarks on an MS Word document, you apply to a document when you create it, a dynamic watermark includes customized information, which is applied to the document each time it is opened or downloaded. This allows you to track each instance of a document after it’s been accessed by a user. Caplinked’s Watermark feature allows you to include the following:

  • The time and date the document was opened.
  • The name of the user opening the document.
  • The email address of the user. 
  • The user’s IP address when accessing the document. 

These options are all selected by default when you choose to watermark a document or a collection of documents accessible by your users. However, you can deselect any of them if you wish. 

How To Add a Watermark Using CapLinked’s VDR

Adding watermarks from your CapLinked VDR Workspace doesn’t require any technical skill beyond clicking a mouse. It’s an easy three-step process, as summarized below:

  1. Log into your Caplinked Workspace and click the “Permissions” tab.
  2. Select a group of users to receive watermarked documents.
  3. Select “Enable Watermarking” from the right sidebar.

To try out CapLinked’s dynamic watermarks for yourself, create a free trial account. Just upload a document in your Workspace and enable watermarking to it. 

David Weedmark is a published author and e-commerce consultant. He is an experienced JavaScript developer and a former network security consultant.