The Power of Image Watermarks
Tue January 23, 2024

The Power of Image Watermarks

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This post was written and edited by Ben Gillbanks. Ben is a Web Developer with over 20 years experience of building things online.

In today’s digital landscape, protecting our creative works is paramount. Image theft is rampant, but image watermarks offer a vital defense. Let’s explore their significance and strategies for safeguarding our artistry.

How can content creators protect their images from unauthorized use, especially by AI?

Implementing image watermarks serves as a primary defense, although recent advancements like Glaze and Nightshade offer additional protection by disrupting AI training processes, ensuring creative integrity is maintained.

As content creators, we pour our heart and soul into our work. Whether it’s stunning photographs, captivating illustrations, or informative infographics, our creations are a reflection of our creativity and dedication. But unfortunately, in this digital age, the risk of image theft and unauthorized use is ever-present - in particular with AI images often using content without permission. This is where image watermarks can help.

Importance of Image Protection

Image theft is an issue that affects countless artists and content creators. It’s disheartening to see our hard work being used without permission or credit. Not only does it undermine our efforts, but it also robs us of potential opportunities and income.

Take the case of renowned photographer Jane Doe. She captured breathtaking images of wildlife in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, her work was stolen by an unscrupulous website that used her photographs for their own profit. Jane lost out on licensing fees and had her reputation tarnished by association with low-quality reproductions.

Watermarks play a crucial role in deterring unauthorized use. By adding a visible mark to our images, we send a clear message that these creations are protected and should not be used without permission. This won’t stop people, but it might make them think twice.

To truly understand the impact of watermarks, let’s compare two scenarios: one with watermarked images and one without. In the first scenario, Jane Doe adds her watermark to her photographs before sharing them online. In the second scenario, she chooses not to use watermarks.

In the first scenario, potential infringers are immediately deterred from using Jane’s images without permission. The watermark acts as a visual reminder that these images are copyrighted and protected. In contrast, in the second scenario where no watermark is present, infringers may feel more inclined to use the images without considering the consequences.

Branding and Promotional Benefits

Watermarks not only protect our images but also serve as powerful branding tools. They contribute to brand recognition and visibility, helping us establish a strong presence in the digital world.

Imagine you stumble upon an incredible photograph on social media. The image is striking and captures your attention. As you admire it, you notice a subtle watermark with the photographer’s name and logo. Instantly, you associate that image with the photographer’s brand. This association creates a lasting impression and increases the chances of people seeking out more of their work.

Types of Watermarks

There are two main types of watermarks: visible and invisible. Visible watermarks are typically logos, graphics, or text overlaid directly onto the image. They are easily recognizable and serve as a clear indication of ownership.

On the other hand, invisible watermarks are embedded within the image data itself. These watermarks are not visible to the naked eye but can be detected by specialized software or tools. Invisible watermarks allow artists to get proof that their content is theirs and has been used without permission.

Each type has its pros and cons. Visible watermarks provide immediate recognition and act as a deterrent to unauthorized use. However, they can sometimes distract from the main content of the image. Invisible watermarks, on the other hand, offer a more seamless visual experience but may be less effective in deterring misuse.

Deterrent not solution

It’s important to note that watermarks are not a foolproof solution. They can be removed or altered by skilled infringers using software like Photoshop. However, they do serve as a deterrent and can help protect our work from casual misuse.

Preventing AI misuse

AI is becoming increasingly sophisticated and capable of creating realistic images. AI work is trained on existing images often without consent, and it’s possible that some of these images may be copyrighted. This raises the question: how can we protect our work from being used by AI?

Watermarks definitely help - there is evidence of AI generated artworks reproducing watermark type elements in their output - but often watermarks will be ignored.

More recently researchers at the University of Chicago have published Glaze and Nightshade - 2 tools to help protect art work from being used to train AI art models. These tools need to process the artwork before it is shared online. Then, if an AI model trains on the artwork without permission, it will be taught incorrect data making the model less effective.


Glaze a defensive tool designed to protect images against “style theft”. That is, it stops AI from learning the style of an artist by training on the artists work. Many popular artists have found that their work has been used to train AI models and people try to mimic their styles when creating images with AI. This, in turn, means that their work is being used without permission. Glaze applies subtle disruptions that make it much harder for the AI training models to learn the style of the artist.


Nightshade works in a different way. Where Glaze is defensive, Nightshade is offensive. It is designed to disrupt the training of AI models by making them think they are seeing something they aren’t. An example given on the Nightshade website is that if an AI model mtrains on a picture of a cow, it might actually think it’s a picture of a handbag, so when someone tries to draw a handbag they will get the cow picture. These changes are not visible to the human eye but are enough to disrupt the AI training process.

Striking the Right Balance

When it comes to creating watermarks, it’s important to strike a balance between protection and aesthetics. We want our watermarks to be effective in deterring unauthorized use without overshadowing the beauty of our creations.

To achieve this balance, consider using subtle yet distinctive watermarks that do not overpower the main content. Placement is key - choose areas where the watermark does not obstruct crucial elements of the image. Experiment with different levels of transparency to find what works best for each individual piece.

Adding watermarks to images has become easier than ever thanks to a variety of tools and techniques. Popular software like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom offer built-in watermarking features that allow for customization and ease of use but these cost money, and there are plenty of free alternatives available.

Addressing Common Concerns

Some content creators may have concerns about the impact of watermarks on image quality. However, with modern techniques and tools, it’s possible to add watermarks that have minimal impact on the overall visual experience. Experimentation is key here - find the right balance between protection and image quality that suits your individual needs.

If you’re still hesitant about using visible watermarks, consider alternative methods for protecting your images. Adding copyright information in the metadata of your image files or using digital fingerprinting and AI masking technologies can help establish ownership and deter unauthorized use without altering the visual appearance of your creations.

Image watermarks serve as both a shield against unauthorized use and a promotional tool for brand recognition. By integrating watermarks into our content creation strategies, we can protect our hard work while establishing a strong presence in the digital world. So let’s embrace the power of image watermarks and safeguard our creative endeavors.