The Little Known Secrets of Adding Watermarks in Excel 2010

Last updated on January 3, 2012 By

Many people ask the question “How can I add a watermark to Excel?” You know the kind of thing I mean if you’ve ever seen printouts marked “Secret” or “Confidential” or “Draft” in big bold letters splashed on every page at a 45 degree angle. Microsoft’s online help explains that “Watermark functionality is not available in Microsoft Excel” and goes on to say that you can mimic a watermark. So let me explain the little known secrets of how to add a watermark in Excel 2010 using WordArt.

Example watermarks in Excel

You could add watermarks for all kinds of reasons, but most commonly I’ve seen the following watermarks especially when it comes to sensitive financial information.

Sample Watermarks in Excel

Adding a text water mark to a single page in Excel 2010

If you want to add a text water mark in Excel to a single page it’s easy to do it using WordArt. To watch a brief video showing the steps (1 minute 43 seconds) please click here (opens a new page on Youtube).

Sample Watermarks in Excel

Instructions on how to insert WordArt:

1. Click the worksheet where you want to display the watermark.

2. Get into Page Layout view. To geto into Page Layout view you can either click the Page Layout View button (the center one) to the immediate left of the Zoom slider on the Status bar at the bottom of your Excel window, or go to the Ribbon, get to the View tab and click the Page Layout View command button. Once you’re in Page Layout view you may wish to change the Zoom so you can see a whole page. This helps you to position the WordArt on your printed page.

3. On the Insert tab, in the Text group, click WordArt.

4. Select the style you want to use.

5. Type the text that you want to use for the watermark.

Next you need to resize your WordArt to make it look right on your printed page.

How to Resize WordArt using the right-click Context Menu

Instructions on how to resize your WordArt:

1. Bring up the context menu by right-clicking on the border of your WordArt

2. Change the font size to change your watermark size

It’s common to see watermark text rotated at a 45 degree angle, and you can drag the green rotation handle in the direction you want to rotate the WordArt. One tip is to hold down the Shift key when you are dragging the handle to snap to 15 degree increments.

How to Rotate your WordArt Watermark

Adding watermarks to many pages in Excel 2010

Here are two options for adding a water mark in Excel that prints out on many pages.

1. Option 1
Follow the instructions above for adding a watermark to the first page, then copy the watermark image to every other page. This requires you to paste and reposition your image to fit where you want it to go on every single page – quite a labor intensive task.

2. Option 2
Add a watermark image to the worksheet header. This is described in detail below. With this option you get the same watermark image automatically repeated in all pages on your worksheet. This is faster than option 1, and in my opinion also more reliable.

How to add a water mark Image to the Worksheet Header in Excel

I created a quick tutorial video lasting 2 minutes 44 seconds, to show step-by-step how to add a watermark image to many pages at once. As these instructions are longer than the first method above, I suggest you watch my Youtube video below.

Step 1 – Create your water mark Image in Excel (or a drawing program)

In a drawing program, such as Microsoft Paint, create a picture that you want to use as a watermark. For simplicity I like to use a WordArt image created straight in Excel, and paste this into Paint but it doesn’t have to be text so you could use any image you want. Refer to my instructions at the beginning of this article on how to create WordArt in Excel 2010, and watch my video on Youtube to watch what I do in Paint.

Here are my steps for using WordArt to create a transparent PNG or GIF image that you can use as a watermark.

1. Create your desired WordArt object in Excel (see instructions above for how to create and resize your WordArt)

2. Copy your WordArt to the Windows clipboard (e.g. CTRL + C)

3. Open MS Paint (or your drawing program of choice)

4. Paste the copied WordArt object into Paint

5. Use the Crop button to get rid of extra space from your image

6. Save your watermark image as either a PNG or GIF file, making sure the background is transparent

Step 2 – Add water mark in Excel Worksheet 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, and this includes images in the header.

Here are my steps for adding a watermark image to your worksheet header.

1. Click the worksheet where you want to display the watermark.

2. On the Insert tab, in the Text group, click Header & Footer.

3. Under Header, click on the Custom Header button.

4. Click in the center header section box.

5. Click the Insert Picture button and then find the watermark image that you want to insert.

6. Double-click the image. &[Picture] appears in the center header section box.

7. Click OK and come out of the Page Setup dialog box. Your watermark image will appear in place of &[Picture].

Note: the watermark image displays in the same position on all printed pages from that worksheet. No other worksheets will have the watermark unless you also add an image to their respective headers. This means you can add different watermarks for each worksheet in your workbook.

Step 3 – Format your water mark in Excel

After you have added your watermark image you may wish to resize, reposition or replace it.

  • Resize watermark
    Click the header selection box that contains the picture, click Format Picture in the Header & Footer Elements group, and then, in the Format Picture dialog box, select the options that you want on the Size tab.
  • Reposition watermark
    If you want to add blank space above your watermark, go to the header section box that contains the &[Picture], click in front of &[Picture], and then press ENTER to start a new line. You may need to add more than one line to get the watermark centered on the page. In my short video I added 10 blank lines using ENTER.
  • Replace watermark
    To replace your watermark in the header section box that contains the image, select &[Picture], click the Picture Button image, and then click Replace.


  • Before printing, make sure that the header or footer margin has sufficient space for the custom header or footer.
  • To delete a picture in the header section box that contains the picture, select &[Picture], press DELETE.
  • To switch from Page Layout view to Normal view, select any cell, click the View tab, and then, in the Workbook Views group, click Normal.

So now you know the secrets of how to add watermarks in Excel 2010. Go create some your own eye-catching watermark in Excel and surprise your boss.

Now go create your own Watermarks in Excel just like these

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Author: Victor Chan

Victor expertly teaches Microsoft Excel to people all over the world. He has millions of views of his popular Excel explainer videos on YouTube. These show time-saving shortcuts and real-world applications explained with easy-to-follow visuals.

Victor has over 20 years of experience using Excel as a professional for Big 4 Audit Firm Deloitte and two global tech companies. He knows firsthand that being more productive with Excel can lead to greater job satisfaction and career growth.

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