George English Answers The Question: What Is A Watermark?

Hi Angela,

I just read George English’s Creative Client Cons. Great article!

I just have one question. George suggests that “Another way freelancers can protect themselves is by never sending out work that has not been paid for. Instead, send watermarked proofs.”

I have coffeemarked notes and lipstickmarked cups, chocolatemarked cookbooks and perfumemarked lovenotes, but what are watermarked proofs?


Technically, a watermark is a transluscent design that can be seen on paper when it’s held up to the light. Companies often employ them for their high-end paper stock used for formal correspondence.

I was generalizing it to mean a digital “watermark” for electronic media. If you look at almost any stock art site, you’ll see the company name or logo on the images, so they cannot be stolen. Sometimes these “digimarks” are not visible to the naked eye, but are actually serial numbers that can be read electronically.

If you’re sending out copy or images, simply putting “proof” across the front of the page, very faded, will do the trick for many file formats, such as uneditable PDFs, jpgs, gifs, tiffs.

George English