How to Add a Watermark to a Worksheet in Excel

Do you still think that you can't add a watermark to your Excel worksheet? I have to say that you are all abroad. You can mimic watermarks in Excel 2019, 2016, and 2013 using the HEADER & FOOTER TOOLS. Do you wonder HOW? Read the article below!

It often happens that you need to add a watermark to your Excel document. The reasons can be different. One of them is just for fun, as I've done for my work timetable. :)
You can easily add a watermark to your Excel sheets

I've added an image as a watermark to my timetable. But most commonly you can come across the documents labelled with such text watermarks as "Confidential", "Draft", "Restricted", "Sample", "Secret", etc. They help to underscore the status of your document.
Add watermarks to underscore the document status

Unfortunately, Microsoft Excel 2016-2010 doesn't have a built-in feature to insert watermarks in worksheets. However, there is a tricky method that allows you to mimic watermarks in Excel using the HEADER & FOOTER TOOLS and I'm going to share it with you in this article.

Create a watermark image

The first thing you need to do is to create a watermark image that will later appear on the background of your worksheet. You can do it in any drawing program (for example, in Microsoft Paint). But for simplicity, I've created an image right in a blank Excel worksheet using the WordArt option.
Use the WordArt option to create a watermark image in Excel

If you are curious how I've done it, see detailed instructions below.

  • Open a blank worksheet in Excel.
  • Switch to Page Layout view (go to VIEW - > Page Layout in the Ribbon or click the "Page Layout view" button on the Status bar at the bottom of your Excel window).
  • Click the WordArt icon in the Text group on the INSERT tab.
    Click the WordArt icon to choose a style
  • Select the style.
  • Type the text that you want to use for the watermark.

Your watermark image is almost ready, you just need to resize and rotate it to make it look good. What are the next steps?

  • Make the background of your WordArt object clear, i.e. untick the Gridlines check box in the Show group on the VIEW tab
  • Click on the image twice to select it
  • Right-click once and choose "Copy" from the menu
  • Open MS Paint (or the drawing program you prefer)
  • Paste the copied object into the drawing program
  • Press the Crop button to get rid of extra space from your image
  • Save your watermark image as either a PNG or GIF file

Now you are set for inserting the created and saved image into the header as described below.

Add a watermark to the header

Once you've created your watermark image, the next step is to add the watermark to your worksheet header. Whatever you put in your worksheet header will automatically print out on every page.

  • Click on the INSERT tab in the Ribbon
  • Go to the Text section and click on the Header & Footer icon
    Click on the Header & Footer icon to switch to the DESIGN tab
    Your worksheet automatically switches to the Page Layout view and a new HEADER & FOOTER TOOLS tab appears in the Ribbon.

  • Click on the Picture icon to open the Insert Pictures dialog box
    Click on the Picture icon to open the Insert picture dialog box

  • Browse for an image file on your computer or use Office.com Clip Art or Bing Image, which you want to have as a watermark in your Excel sheet.
    Browse for the picture you want to see as a watermark

  • When you've found the desired image, select it and press the Insert button

The text &[Picture] now appears in the header box. This text indicates that the header contains a picture.
This text will be in place of the image you insert to headers

You still don't see a watermark in your worksheet. Take it easy! :) Just click within any cell out of the header box to see what the watermark looks like.
Click on any cell in the worksheet to see a watermark

Now when you click on another page in your worksheet, the watermark will be automatically added to that page as well.

REMEMBER that watermarks are visible only in Page Layout view, in the Print Preview window and on the printed worksheet. You cannot see watermarks in the Normal view, which most people use when they work in Excel 2010, 2013 and 2016.

Format your watermark

After you add your watermark image you'll likely be keen to resize or reposition it. You can also remove it if you've had enough of it.

Reposition a watermark

It is a common thing that the added image turns out to be at the top of the worksheet. Don't worry! You can easily move it down:

  • Go to the header section box
  • Place your cursor in front of &[Picture]
  • Press the Enter button once or several times to get the watermark centered on the page

You may experiment a bit to achieve the desirable position for the watermark.

Resize a watermark

  • Go to INSERT - > Header & Footer again.
  • Choose the Format Picture option in the Header & Footer Elements group.
    Click the icon to open the Format Picture dialog box

  • To change the size or scale of your picture, click the Size tab in the open window.
    Click the Size tab to change the size or scale

  • Choose the Picture tab in the dialog box to make color, brightness or contrast changes.
    Click the Picture tab to change color, brightness, or contrast

I recommend using the Washout feature from the dropdown menu under Image Control as it makes the watermark fade out and it becomes easier for users to read the content of the worksheet.

Remove a watermark

  • Click on the header section box
  • Highlight the text or the picture marker &[Picture]
  • Press the Delete button
  • Click on any cell outside the header to save your changes

So now you're aware of this tricky method for adding a watermark to a worksheet in Excel 2016 and 2013. It's high time to create your own watermarks that will strike everybody's eye!

Use a special add-in to insert watermark in Excel in one click

If you don't want to follow numerous mimicking steps, try the Watermark for Excel add-in by Ablebits. With its help you can insert a watermark to your Excel document in one click. Use the tool to add text or picture watermarks, store them in one place, rename and edit. It's also possible to see the status in the preview section before adding to Excel and remove a watermark from the document, if necessary.
Add a watermark in Excel in one click

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