Mimic a watermark in Excel

Microsoft Excel doesn’t come with a built-in watermark feature. However, there are a couple of ways that you can simulate the look of a watermark. One way is to insert a picture of a watermark in the worksheet’s header. That picture then appears behind the worksheet data. The other way is to add WordArt on top of the worksheet data that indicates that the data is confidential or a draft copy.

What do you want to do?


Technique 1: Use a picture in a header to mimic a watermark

  1. First, create an image that you want to use as a watermark. In an image editing program, save your work as a .png picture file or choose another supported file format.

     Tip    Instead of creating your own image, you can use existing images of “Draft” or “Confidential” text watermarks. These were created by opening Microsoft Word, inserting a predesigned watermark into an empty document, taking a screen capture of the watermark, and then saving that screen capture as a .png file in an image editing program. To copy either .png file to your computer, right-click one of these links: Draft or Confidential, and then, on the shortcut menu, click Save Target As. Next, specify the location where you want to save the picture, and then save the file to your computer.

  2. In Excel, click the worksheet where you want the watermark.
  3. On the Insert tab, in the Text group, click Header & Footer.

Ribbon image

Excel switches to Page Layout view, and your cursor appears in the center header box at the top of the worksheet page (under Header).

  1. On the Design tab, in the Header & Footer elements group, click Picture.

Picture button in Header & Footer Elements group

  1. Find the picture you want to use, and then double-click it.
    The text &[Picture] now appears in the header box. This text indicates that the header contains a picture.
  2. To see what the watermark looks like on the page, click any cell on the worksheet.
  3. To customize the watermark, click in the center header box again, and then do one of the following:
  • To move the picture down on the page, in the header box, place your cursor before the ampersand in &[Picture], and then press ENTER one or more times. You may have to experiment a bit to achieve the correct positioning for the watermark.
  • To resize or scale the picture, click Format Picture in the Header & Footer elements group, and then select the options that you want on the Size tab.
  1. To switch from Page Layout view back to Normal view, click any cell on the worksheet, and then click the Normal button on the right side of the status bar.

Button on status bar for switching to Normal view

 Note    Headers are visible only in Page Layout view, in the Print Preview window in Backstage view (File tab, Print), and on the printed worksheet.

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Technique 2: Use WordArt to mimic a watermark

  1. Click on the worksheet where you want to display the watermark.
  2. On the Insert tab, in the Text group, click WordArt.

WordArt button in Text group

  1. Click the WordArt style that you want to use. For example, use Fill - White Drop Shadow, Fill - Text 1, Inner Shadow, or Fill - White, Warm Matte Bevel.
  2. Type the text that you want to use for the watermark.
  3. To change the size of the WordArt, right-click the WordArt. On the shortcut menu, click Font, and then enter a new number in the Size box.
  4. To add transparency so that you can see more of the worksheet data underneath the WordArt, right-click the WordArt, and then click Format Text Effects. In the Text Fill category, make sure Solid Fill is selected. If you like, you can select a fill color. Now, drag the Transparency slider to the percentage of transparency that you want.
  5. To rotate the WordArt, select it, and then drag the rotation handle (rotation handle: Round arrow that appears at the top of a selected shape that you can use to rotate the shape.) in the direction that you want to rotate the WordArt.

 Note   You cannot add WordArt directly to a header or footer. However, if you create the WordArt in an empty worksheet that does not display gridlines (clear the Gridlines check box in the Show/Hide group on the View tab), you can press PRINT SCREEN to capture the WordArt, and then paste the captured WordArt into a drawing program. You can then insert the picture that you created in the drawing program into a header and footer as described in Technique 1: Use a picture in a header to mimic a watermark.

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Applies to:
Excel 2010