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 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


  1. this was very helpful I'll be waiting for more tips
    Thank you

  2. Thank you

  3. This article is very educative.
    I knew the process but can't figure it out until after i read this.

  4. Thanks a lot. This is very helping

  5. This is very "Helpful" Thanks!

  6. Helpful, thanks very much though i am yet to try it.

  7. Excellent stuff!!! Thank you

  8. Thank you ver much for this information
    very helpful to me

  9. Really helped. Thankyou

  10. Thank you very much for this information. Helped me a ton.

  11. Hi

    How do I make the watermark appear in front of the images on my sheet?

    Right now it's behind when printing so it's hidden.

  12. thank you so much

  13. Fab, super useful! I will add that I had coloured some cells white in my spreadsheet and the watermark didn't show up but once I set the cell colour to clear it was there :-)

  14. Excellent help! Very clear instructions. Thank you! :-)

  15. who to use watermark in excel sheet

  16. how do i put the watermark in work sheet for background use

  17. Yeah! it really work. I have tried it and it works. kudos

  18. How do I put watermark behind the text?

  19. Hi,
    I have successfully added my picture to the header, but I cannot seem to get it to go behind the cell content. The header is above the content and I have been fiddling with margins & trawling the internet for 2 hours but no answer as yet. Help!!

  20. hi ekaterina,
    how to print page number watermark in excel?

    • Two ways Ferry: you can do this from *Printer Properties BEFORE you print OR add them via header/footer. You can access header and footer in Print Preview, Page Setup, then Header/Footer. You can create a custom or use one of their defaults. *NOTE: if you choose to add the watermarks in Printer Properties, draft or page numbers, the watermarks will not show until the doc actually prints. Hope this helps! :o)


  22. thanks for your help
    I would like to add watermark to specific cells instead of worksheet, is there a tricky method for this case.

  23. Hi!

    I want the watermark to be in DIAGONAL.
    Any idea?


  24. I usually follow the same word art, save as picture steps, but instead of adding it in as header, I use the image as background for the worksheet.


  26. hello , thanks . I love you .

  27. I have a calendar automatically generated in excel, and I want to put this into the background of another excel sheet, so that I can write text over the top of the date stamp generated by the calendar. Is this possible?

  28. This is one of the best on-line, free, helps that I have encountered. I really appreciate the clear concise instructions. I found it helpful, for me, to print the six pages of instructions, just so I was able to clearly follow and remember each step. I now have it and won't have to research whenever I needed it again in the future.


  29. I cant seem to make a watermark in excel show up if i have filled the cells with another color

    the only way i can see the watermark is if i make no fill on the excel cells

    is there a way to do this while keeping the watermark in the same place on each sheet

    i dont like manual pasting a picture on each spreadsheet draft.

  30. The tip on repositioning the watermark did not work for me.
    I found right hand columns being moved to a second page.

  31. Vey helpful. Thanks so much. One thing though, is it possible to rotate the picture watermark? The rotation is inactive?

  32. Hi,
    Thanks for the info. I did till make the image in centre of the sheet. But i only see it when i double click on header part ( that too only &[picture]). But when i try to print ( in print priview )i dont see actual text/image on the sheet ( neither foreground not background ). Could you please help me ..

  33. hi,
    when i insert watermark then he is tiled, how can centered watermark in excel

  34. Thankyou very much. It was very helpful.

  35. Actually in MS Excel 2010 under Page Layout, then Print Titles, then the Options button, from there on the Effects tab it shows the option to add a watermark however, it just does not seem to add it after you select it and click ok.

    However, I like the alternative of using the WordArt - Good Idea!


  36. In Excel 2013, I am using a picture watermark and colored background. However, I am unable to type in the area where the watermark appears. Any suggestions?

  37. Hi,

    It is very useful but watermarks does not automatically added to other worksheet automatically. How to solve this.

  38. This was very helpful. Thanks a lot :)

  39. Hi, Its Cool. I have done almost but still cant change the degree (rotation in diagonal direction), kindly assist.

    • Hello, I am also having this problem. Has anyone else figured how to rotate the watermark once it is inserted into the document as a header/footer?

      • Rotate the watermark before you insert it. I rotated it first then saved it as a png image.

  40. this worked perfectly. i did have to play with the formatting to make it center but it was very helpful - thank you for the new trick.

  41. after adding the watermark to the Excel Sheet, when I select a row or column, or search for text, no there is no gray highlighting like usual. What did I do wrong?

  42. Thank you very much!!!

  43. Hi Jason,
    how do I put watermark behind the text?
    thank you!

  44. Hi Jason,

    Please don't worry, the picture is implemented into the file, so the recipient doesn't need the same file access. The watermark will show in any case.

  45. I'm looking for a watermark on an excel spreadsheet which I can then e-mail out to people. These people may not have the same file access to this &[Picture]. I assume this means the watermark will not show up.

    Anyone have a cure for what ails me?

  46. After I have clicked on the Header and Footer tab, all my other functions in the ribbon grey out and I cant click on the Insert tab at all.

    How do I get the ribbon to "unlock"

    • Hello Loren,

      Just click on any cell out of the header box or press Esc on your keyboard to make other Excel commands available again. The point is that when the cursor is placed in the header box, HEADER & FOOTER TOOLS appear in the Ribbon and all other commands get inactive.

      Hope this will help.

      • Thank you, Ekaterina Bespalaya. I like your post. It's really helpful.

      • THANK YOU...

  47. This was very helpful and refreshing!

    Thank you!

  48. I Love Google, it brings me fantastic information like "how to add a watermark in Excel" I am so impressed you made my job easy and enjoyable today. Thank You :-)

  49. Thanks it helps a lot!

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