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Should You Watermark Your Art?

by
Gift

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In Today's article we look at watermarking your artwork. We'll consider the opinions of those who use them in their work. Should you watermark your work to prevent misuse? Let's read on to find out.

Watermarking Your Artwork Online

In a perfect world, we could post our artwork online without people misusing it or even claiming it as their own. However we don't live in a perfect world and we have to take measures to prevent such activities from happening to the work we've spent hours, days and sometimes weeks and months creating. One of those measures is watermarking.

Watermarking is when you imprint your name onto a piece of work. This can be to assert your identity onto the piece and it can be there to help prevent it's misuse.

Watermarking and Vector Artists

So I wanted to gather the opinions of others for today's article to see what their views are on watermarking. Usually I'd ask for peoples work without watermarks because it distort the vector art shown; however, due to the nature of the article, I thought it would be appropriate to see some watermarked work. Specifically, those which are found on deviantART.

Roberlan

Q Why do you/don't you watermark your work? Do you feel it helps prevent art theft? People tracing your work? Or claiming it as their own?

Yes, I use them a lot. It would be nice to have my work shown with no watermarks, as I think it is much better for viewing, and would be nice to show it even in larger sizes; but that's just not possible. This is because there are a lot of people who don't respect other peoples work and try to use it somehow.

There are two kinds of these types of people: the ones who shamelessly steal your work to sell and the ones who steal just because they think its OK "to use it as an avatar on Facebook". Not OK.

So I think it is important for every artist to protect their work, because sometimes you can't have the law help. In the beginning I used to just put my signature, then started using the dA watermark, and lately I put a lot of small watermarks on top the image. I think this helped avoid some of the problems I've been facing.

Q Do you think watermarking your work may make it less appealing? Why?

Yes, I think watermarks can make the work a little less appealing. I really don't like to use it at all, and for many years I avoided it, but then I started to see a lot of my work stolen, used on t-shirts, avatars, wallpapers, etc. So I started using the default dA watermark.

Of course, it is a risk we take as artists in order to try to protect our work and prevent it from theft. This happened many times to me and is really frustrating, even with watermarks some skilled vector "thieves" try to use it or live-trace it.

Q What do you think is the best way to protect your work ,but still ensure it gains the right exposure? Given the different ways to watermark your work, for instance using a dA watermark or putting your URL or name or just a signature, what do you think is the best way?

I think the best way is still the watermark. I can't think of other ways to show our work in a safe way and still get the exposure.

Aseo

Q Why do you or don't you watermark your work? Do you feel it helps prevent art theft? People tracing your work? Or claiming it as their own?

Well in my case, I put my logo/icon over the work but not to the extent that
it's overlapping the art for it often ruins the presentation.

In cases of art theft however, it helps only if the thief is not fluent in using editing programs like Photoshop, etc, for you see, it's just a matter of patience to delete and clean watermarks.

Q Do you think watermarking your work may make it less appealing? Why?

Yes, though there are some that blend naturally. In this case, what is my goal in putting a watermark?

If I go for prevention of art theft I clearly have to sacrifice the presentation. Big large text is a deal breaker and small fonts/icons defeats the purpose.

Q What do you think is the best way to protect your work but still ensure it gains the right exposure? Given the different ways to watermark your work, for instance using a dA watermark or putting your URL or name or just a signature, what do you think is the best way?

I think it's a matter of artist approach. One way is putting lo-res works in the web.

Never put something Higher which could be traced. Watermarks can be a bonus if it is well executed to be a part of an artwork.

CQCat

Q Why do you/don't you watermark your work? Do you feel it helps prevent art theft? People tracing your work? Or claiming it as their own?

In a high speed information world we are in, your work could be blogged and tweeted so many times before you know. I only watermark my work by putting my signature and URL at the bottom of my pieces I upload online. This is a quick and easy way for people to look me up if they are interested in my work and want to see more.

Anything you post online, with or without watermark, if someone wants to steal it or trace it or claim as their own, they will do it. There is no 100% guarantee that your art stays safe once it's online. I do not worry about that too much. If someone steals my work, claims to be their own, or use it for commercial purposes without my consent, I will take action against that behavior.

But so far, I haven't had any situation known to me. And people always ask me for permission to use my art for personal purposes. I trust people in the art community and there are certain things, like style and talent, you simply cannot steal.

Q Do you think watermarking your work may make it less appealing? Why?

I think that is a personal choice, to have watermark or not, what type of watermark to use over their work. I prefer seeing other people's work without a big translucent watermark in the middle of the piece. But everyone has their own judgement of how safe the online environment is when they share their work. It is really up to them to take any measures necessary to protect their art and hard work.

Q What do you think is the best way to protect your work but still ensure it gains the right exposure? Given the different ways to watermark your work, for instance using a dA watermark or putting your URL or name or just a signature, what do you think is the best way?

Personally, I prefer to have my signature and URL on my artwork. It serves several purposes. First, it states that I own the copyright of the art. Second, people can find more information about me via the URL, especially when the work is blogged or featured somewhere far away.
Third, it doesn't cover most of my art and allows people to appreciate the art as I see it.

I understand this is very minimal protection against any real theft. I had a few good-hearted fans on dA warning me about potential theft from other people. They turned out to be false alarms. But I do appreciate what they did for me. And I do believe most of the people in our art community are good and sincere.

PixelledandDead

Q Why do you/don't you watermark your work? Do you feel it helps prevent art theft? People tracing your work? Or claiming it as their own?

I personally don't like to watermark my work, but it's a necessary evil. There are way too many jerks out there that take full advantage of un-watermarked art and sell it off as their own. I've actually caught someone using someone else's artwork on eBay, using their work to make faces for watches sold for $14.99 a piece.

It was so surprising, and when they were caught, they made it seem like it was an innocent accident. I still don't understand how that works...accidental downloading of something you found online, and making a conscious act to use it for your own profits?! I think not!

As far as tracing, there's a difference between a child tracing and an adult tracing. If you like something enough that you would want to create a "likeness", then I'm not going to wig out about it. I have no claim to a certain pose, or a hair color, but there's no appeal in making something look identical to someone else's work when you're not expressing your own creativity. We work hard to produce what we do in this community, and if you're tracing for "learning" purposes give credit where it's due. We share our artwork with the world, but no one wants to be taken advantage of.

Q Do you think watermarking your work may make it less appealing? Why?

I think it all depends on how noticeable the watermark is. If it's soft enough, I don't think it's very noticeable at all. It's intention is to make it difficult to steal and exploit, and to a certain extent to advertise the artist's other info, like a website or email address where they can be further contacted and possibly commissioned.

As many times as our work is copied to hard drives, and other social websites like Facebook, and MySpace links to the original work tend to get lost in the mix. So this is just that extra little helping hand to get them back to the original posting.

Q What do you think is the best way to protect your work but still ensure it gains the right exposure? Given the different ways to watermark your work, for instance using a dA watermark or putting your URL or name or just a signature, what do you think is the best way?

I personally like the watermark provided by DeviantArt. It's simple, and very easy to apply. I'll only really make my own if I have a commission like a tattoo that has sparked more interest in acquiring it without paying. I can express as many times as I want, until I'm blue in the face but I'll still get remarks like this under my artwork:

Anonymous: Can you add more to it....plz. And thank you

Me: I'm sorry, can you please explain what you mean by "add more to it please"?

Anonymous: Hmmm... Well could you add something so if someone were to get this tattooed on their shoulder it could wrap around their shoulder or go down their back....something like that?

Me: Unfortunately I can't give away someone else's commissioned project, nor can I simply add on to it and give it away. I've been paid for the work, and they pretty much own the rights to the tattoo. ^_^ Sorry but thank you for the inquiry.

Now I'm not saying he's not an honest person that wouldn't dare to take artwork for his own personal use, but where does someone get off asking you to add to it, though they know someone's paid for it? I've got plenty of those types of examples, but I won't bore you. I just know that there are a lot of dishonest people, with no respect for what we do, or how long it takes to do it.

The lack of sleep, food, human contact mean nothing to a lot of people, but to us, these are the things we've sacrificed to sit there and create path after path and point after point just to make one piece that we can be proud to share with our friends and art enthusiasts. Watermarking, I don't like to do it, but if I can make sure people know what I do is really mine, then I'm going to continue to add them.

My Own Experience

For a long time I had little confidence in my work. I'd happily post my work without watermarks and often at a high resolution. Then one day I found my work being sold on eBay as a large print. Someone else was making money from the hours I spent creating a simple illustration, that I held little confidence in. Although initially I did have a sense of pride and found it complimentary (as absurd as this may sound now), but this soon changed to being angry and frustrated. I wasn't even credited for the work which was being sold, it was some random name. I swiftly reported it to eBay to get it removed.

These days I'm in a bit of a weird position, because I post a lot of results to tutorials I've done via social media and art community websites. People are more than welcome to take what I've taught them and duplicate the images present via their own means. For this reason, I try to keep away from using watermarks, to make the image look as presentable as possible. This in turn may attract more visitors to the tutorials and so on.

I've also had a pretty naive opinion on watermarking. If a person wants your image enough, they will find a way to get around the watermark, maybe put their logo on top or even use photo manipulation to remove it. So these day's I'm more inclined to put my website URL and signature on my illustrations so if there is an "innocent" misuse of my images, they can always venture back to see my other work.

From an article/feature writer point of view, I've had many an article delayed because I've been waiting on an artist to get back to me with work which doesn't have obtrusive watermarks on it. So it can be an inconvenience and on the odd occasion I've opted to feature another artist due to deadlines in place.

Conclusion

There are pro's and con's with watermarking. If you've been posting your artwork online for a period of time, you've more than likely encountered some misuse of your images and so trying to prevent it can make you feel like you're banging your head against a brick wall.

So the question is, "Should You Watermark Your Art?". There isn't a clear answer to this as it's all down to the nature of the work and what you want to sacrifice to get your work out there.

Think about why you share your work online. Do you do it to gain more exposure for yourself and your work? So if this is the case, then is a huge watermark covering your art the best way forward? Would your name and URL perhaps be the best way forward?

What do you feel is the most appropriate way of watermarking your work? Would you rather take away the overall look of the work with a large watermark to protect it or use a smaller watermark with a higher risk of misuse?

If you're looking for an elegant way to watermark your work, then read this tutorial How to Create Seamless Watermark Patterns here on Vectortuts+.

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