How to Insert a Watermark in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Inserting a watermark in Excel is a straightforward process that involves accessing the header/footer section of your worksheet and then either selecting a preset watermark or customizing one by inserting a picture. This quick overview should get you started, but read on for more detailed instructions.

After you complete the action, the watermark you’ve chosen will appear faintly in the background of your Excel worksheet, adding a layer of protection to your document or branding it with a company logo or a draft notice.


Watermarks are often associated with images or Word documents, but did you know you can also insert them into Excel spreadsheets? Whether you’re looking to protect sensitive data, brand your financial reports, or simply mark a document as a draft, adding a watermark can be a helpful tool. It’s a subtle yet effective way to communicate important information without obstructing the main content of your document.

This article is perfect for Excel users of all levels – from the total newbie to the seasoned pro. Perhaps you’re a small business owner wanting to add a professional touch to your invoices, a student looking to claim ownership of your market research, or an admin assistant ensuring important documents are marked confidential. No matter the reason, mastering the art of inserting a watermark in Excel is a useful skill that can enhance the appearance and functionality of your spreadsheets.

Step by Step Tutorial: Inserting a Watermark in Excel

Before diving into the steps, know that adding a watermark in Excel will give your document a professional and polished look, while also serving any functional purposes you intend, such as branding or security.

Step 1: Open the Header/Footer Section

Open the Excel workbook where you want to add a watermark and navigate to the “Insert” tab, then click on “Header & Footer”.

This will switch your worksheet view to Page Layout, allowing you to edit the header and footer areas where watermarks are typically inserted.

Step 2: Choose a Watermark

Once in the header/footer section, you can choose to insert a preset watermark such as “Confidential” or “Do Not Copy” from the Header & Footer Tools Design tab.

These preset options are quick and easy to use, but they do limit your customization options.

Step 3: Insert a Custom Picture

If you want to customize your watermark, click on “Picture” under the header/footer section, and from there, you can insert an image file from your computer.

Adjust the image’s transparency or washout so it doesn’t overpower the contents of your spreadsheet. You might need to resize the image before inserting it to ensure it fits well as a watermark.

Step 4: Format Your Watermark

Format the picture as needed by clicking on “Format Picture” in the Header & Footer Tools Design tab. Here, you can adjust the size, color, and position of your watermark image.

Remember, your watermark should be visible without being distracting, so play around with the formatting options to find the right balance for your document.

Step 5: Exit Header/Footer View

Once your watermark is set up, click anywhere outside the header/footer area to exit. This will return you to the normal view of your Excel worksheet.

Double-check that your watermark appears as intended by switching to “Print Preview” to get an accurate representation of how it will look when printed or converted to a PDF.


Added SecurityA watermark can serve as a deterrent against unauthorized use or sharing of your Excel document, especially if it’s marked with “Confidential” or “Copyright”.
BrandingInserting a company logo as a watermark can give your document a professional look and increase brand recognition.
Draft IdentificationMarking a document as a “Draft” with a watermark can clearly communicate that the work is not final and is subject to change.


Can Be OverpoweringIf not properly formatted, a watermark can distract from the actual content of the worksheet and make it harder to read.
Limited CustomizationExcel’s built-in watermark options are limited, so you may not find a preset that serves your specific needs.
Potential Printing IssuesDepending on the printer settings and the quality of the printer, watermarks can sometimes be difficult to see or may not print at all.

Additional Information

When inserting a watermark in Excel, there are a couple of tips and tricks to keep in mind. Firstly, if you’re using a picture as a watermark, make sure it’s high enough resolution to look clear, but not so large that it slows down your workbook. Also, consider the color and contrast of your watermark against the spreadsheet’s background; you want it to be noticeable but not disruptive.

Don’t forget to consider the scalability of your watermark. If you’re going to be using it across multiple documents, make sure it’s a universal design that fits well with any type of content you’re presenting. Keep in mind that watermarks in Excel are only visible in Page Layout view or when the document is printed, so don’t rely on them as the sole method of conveying important information.

Lastly, remember that while watermarks can add a layer of security, they’re not foolproof. Sensitive data should still be protected with other security measures like password encryption or restricted access.


  1. Open the Header/Footer Section
  2. Choose a Watermark
  3. Insert a Custom Picture
  4. Format Your Watermark
  5. Exit Header/Footer View

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I add a watermark to just one page of my Excel document?

No, watermarks in Excel are applied to the entire document, not individual pages or sheets.

Will the watermark appear when I print my Excel document?

Yes, if you’ve inserted the watermark correctly, it will appear on the printed document.

Can I use a watermark to protect my document from being copied?

A watermark can act as a visual deterrent, but it won’t prevent someone from copying your document. You’ll need additional security measures for that.

Is it possible to edit or remove a watermark after I’ve added it?

Yes, you can edit or remove a watermark by going back into the header/footer section and making the necessary changes.

Can I add different watermarks to different worksheets within the same workbook?

Yes, you can customize the watermarks for individual worksheets within the same workbook.


Inserting a watermark in Excel can be a game-changer for your documents, whether for security, branding, or draft marking purposes. It’s a simple process that can have a significant impact, making your spreadsheets instantly recognizable and adding an extra layer of professionalism.

Remember to balance visibility with subtlety, and always ensure that your watermark enhances rather than distracts from your content. With these tips and steps, you’re well on your way to becoming an Excel watermarking expert!

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