Though I don’t write a lot on this blog these days, I have lasting traffic and content from artists who have found useful information in past entries, especially those pertaining to art business.  I like that, although it sometimes feels a little funny to get questions from other artists who think that they are asking an “expert” – I’m really just a girl who’s done a lot of research when it comes to art business and marketing.  And having a web presence.  Because everything I do on the web is DIY, I have learned by doing…and there’s a lot of “what not to do” under my belt, believe me!
Recently I received an email from an artist who was asking my opinion on whether or not to watermark the pictures of her art that she posts online.  It’s a good question, and one I researched before deciding not to watermark my work.  It’s not a decision everyone may agree with, but in my circumstances, I don’t believe watermarking is beneficial, and in fact I believe that were I to watermark my paintings, I would do so to my detriment.

sample of a watermark
Why would you watermark your art?  Well, there is some concern about image theft.  It’s a pretty simple matter to save an online image onto one’s hard drive, and ignorant or unscrupulous people may then consider themselves to own that image, and use it freely without compensating the artist.  I have heard stories about artists who found their painting in a book or on a web site, under another artist’s name.  That’s worst case scenario, and some artists do plaster their art with watermarks so as to avoid having their art digitally “stolen.”
However, I believe that this type of theft is rare, and can be largely prevented without emblazoning one’s art with distracting and obtrusive watermarks.  Because watermarks are distracting.  They interfere with the viewer’s enjoyment of the art.  My mom won’t look at my paintings unless they are framed – she says that the masking tape I use to secure my paper to the painting board is too distracting – I can’t imagine how she’d manage with watermarks to divert her attention!  I don’t want to lose a buyer because he couldn’t see my art for the watermark.
My solution to avoiding watermarks is to instead be very careful about what I upload to my web site.  I never upload a full resolution image of any painting.  Instead, I reduce my image sizes to 600 pixels wide, decrease the resolution of each painting to 72 or 96 dpi, which is all a computer monitor requires, but renders the image too low resolution to print in any kind of quality.  While this will not stop anyone from saving one of my online images, they aren’t saving a printable version.  I’m flattered if someone wants to save one of my images to their desktop or screen saver – that’s a compliment and is actually a little free publicity.  It takes only a few steps to reduce image size and save it to publish online, by now it’s a habit for me.
Now there are some artists who have done their own research and have chosen to use watermarks.  And they have very valid reasons.  Some artistic styles and disciplines have more trouble with image theft than others.  But it’s not necessarily the best option, and I encourage you to research the issue if you are concerned about it, and come to your own conclusions.
And as for my scrapbooking blog, I’m seriously considering using watermarks – in that field it’s very beneficial to have some sort of personal credits on papercraft projects.