Did you know that watermarking is one of the earliest forms of document security?
Some of the first known examples are thought to trace back to paper makers in Fabriano, Italy, where in 1282 a Greek cross with circles was embossed on the paper. These early watermarks often had some kind of religious significance, but Renaissance paper houses soon recognized that they could act as a kind of trademark for their businesses.
Today, we still watermark our documents, whether they are physical or digital, in an effort to identify the document owner, classify the document or maintain some level of traceability. There are various ways of watermarking a document, ranging from a discreet mark to very obvious markings. These watermarks might be as simple as a single word, or include more detailed information such as the name and email address of the document recipient.
A common and effective use of watermarking is seen with images. If you were to browse a stock image site, or follow a photographer on social media, most of the photos displayed will have a watermark to identify who they belong to. In the case of stock images, you need to purchase the image in order to have the watermark removed.
There are multiple reasons why you might need watermarks for your own PDF files, documents or images, so let’s take a closer look:
Why watermark your PDF files?
Watermarking remains one of the most effective ways to protect PDF files and documents which might contain confidential, sensitive or proprietary information. Why is this considered to be protection? Well, even if the document were to be spread further than you intended, the watermark identifies you as the owner, or can identify where your “leak” is.
If you think about any proprietary information you have (such as photographs or documents), you can easily claim ownership if necessary when they are watermarked, as the watermark cannot be easily removed by anyone else.
On the most basic level, a watermark could be a way to classify your documents. It can be a reminder to others who have access to the document about how they should be storing or treating it. For example, people may be more conscious of leaving a document that says “confidential” open on their computer screen while they walk away from it.
A watermark can also act as a means to track the spread of your files, and as an effective deterrent for people who might disseminate that information if you watermark it with the name of the person and email address. If a sensitive document is leaked, it becomes easier to track the source of the leak using the watermark. The recipient may feel more uncomfortable in forwarding a file which is watermarked with their own name, email address or other identifier.
If a file has to be downloaded and sent to different people, and duplication of the file cannot be controlled or prevented, watermarking with the recipient’s information is often the most effective way of protecting the document. At the very least, it’s a way of communicating; “hey, this document needs to be handled with care.”
How to watermark a PDF file
If you were to undertake a quick Google search of “how to watermark a (file type)”, you will find a multitude of sites offering free watermarking for various types of files. There are a few pros and cons to be aware of when you’re looking at these software options, such as:
- Pro: The watermarking is free to use.
- Con: What or how you can watermark is usually limited. You might be able to type a word as your watermark, for example, but you can’t use watermarking to track the spread of your document, because the same watermark will be on everyone’s copy, unless you take the time to create a new document with a new watermark for everyone.
- Pro: The tools are usually easy to use.
- Con: While the tool might be easy to use, they often involve multiple steps to add the watermark
In some cases, the software isn’t actually entirely free, but the watermarking is a feature that goes with it. For example, this is the case with Word. You either pay for an Office 365 subscription or you use an older version of the software that you have paid for. Watermarks created in Word are also relatively easy to remove however - again, a quick search of Google shows up several tutorials!
Watermarking with Word
In most versions of Word, you will find watermarking by going to the “Design” tab, then selecting “Watermark.” You will then see preset options, an option to customize, and on 365, you will see the option to get “more watermarks from Office.com.” You simply select what you’d like, and in the custom options you can manage layout, font and whether the watermark is a picture or text. (You might like your company logo as a watermark, for example).
How Digify can help
Digify makes watermarking securely a much simpler task than other programs. Rather than going through multiple steps and running the risk that someone can still remove the watermark, all you have to do is turn watermarking on in your settings. When you do this, all files that you send through Digify will be watermarked automatically.
Whether you have a PDF file, an Office document or an image (PNG or JPG), Digify works the same way for each and will watermark them for you. The watermark toggle is available both for documents sent via Digify or uploaded to a Digify data room.
Let’s look at a few more features:
- Customization: Digify provides you with various ways to customize your watermark, changing the appearance of how it is shown:
- Center is the most classic and standard watermark.
- Tiled is a good balance of coverage and protection for images.
- Footer is discreet, good for sending documents to important people.
- Automation. Efficient, automated processes are important to us as far as possible. For this reason, we have a feature which will automatically watermark documents with the recipient’s email address. Not only is this a great way to deter people from inappropriately sharing information, but one client told us that this feature alone saved him 15 minutes per document, as he previously had to manually watermark each with the recipient’s email address.
- Patented movable watermark: Digify has a patented watermarking technology. This will cover part of the screen with a movable watermark element, which includes the recipient’s email address. It is meant to dissuade the recipient from taking a screenshot or taking a photo of the screen from an external device.
- Why was this created? Digify has a “secret mode” which would prevent screenshots on desktop and mobile devices. However, users remarked that someone can still use an external device to take a screenshot of the desktop. The movable watermark was developed so that part of the screen is blocked and the watermark will always be visible in the screenshot or recording. It becomes very much more difficult to reassemble the original document. You might use this type of watermark if you have set the document so that printing and download are restricted, and people are viewing the document from a screen only.
- Printable watermark. This is the classic use of a watermark, where it is integrated into the page of your PDF, Office document or photo and cannot be moved. You would use this anytime you have granted print or download permissions.
In today’s environment, a lot of our documentation and proprietary information is digitized to enable simple storage and transfer, but this means you need to be vigilant about document security online. Watermarking is a proven deterrent to improper copying or information transfer, and gives you the opportunity to trace any leaks.
You can try Digify out for yourself today. Click here to access a seven day free trial.