Working With Watermarks In PDF Files

Using watermarks in PDF files is a way to secure or identify specific set of documents.  In many instances, it ensures that the wrong documents will not end up in the wrong hands.  A watermark is text or an image that appears either in front of or behind existing document content, like a stamp. For example, you could apply a “Confidential” watermark to pages with sensitive information. You can add multiple watermarks to one or more PDFs, but you must add each watermark separately. You can specify the page or range of pages on which each watermark appears.

I had an issue come up recently where our legal staff needed some guidance on how to work with watermarks in PDF files they were turning over in discovery.  They wanted a watermark that would not be recognized text or become a hit when searched.  They wanted the defendant’s name to be on the watermark but they did not want it to always show up as a hit when searched.

The first thing is to make the watermark an image file instead of a text file.

First, to create the image file:

  • Go to Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Type the name of the defendant (or whatever text you want to use on the watermark)
  • Save the PowerPoint slide as a JPEG file


Once the image file has been created, to use it as the watermark:

  • Open the PDF file in Adobe Acrobat
  • Select EDIT PDF option
  • Click on Watermark
  • Select ADD
  • For the SOURCE, click on the FILE option
  • Click on BROWSE and locate the image file you created
  • For Location:  Click on option to Appear Behind Page so the watermark will not be on top of the text.
  • Click OK button
  • Save the file

The next obstacle thrown at me was the question of NOT showing the watermark on the screen but only when it was printed out.

Easy fix.

  • Go back to the watermark section under EDIT PDF
  • Select UPDATE
  • Now click on the Appearance Options link
  • Check the option to Show when printing
  • Un-check the option to Show when displaying on screen
  • Click OK button
  • Click OK button again
  • Save the file

Once you have created a watermark, you aren’t stuck with it.  You can go in and edit it or change it.  There are also many ways you can work with watermarks.  For more information on how to work with watermarks in PDF files, a simple Google search will put you in touch with the information.


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