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Copyright Stamp Tutorial For Your Photos

An Adobe Photoshop Tutorial

Model Candice Digital Photograph Copyright Stamp

Notice the copyright stamp and how it fits aesthetically this photograph of model Candice Marie.

One of the frequent questions I get is, “How do you create your copyright stamp on your photos?” I’ve probably answered over a million emails, forum posts, private messages, and even questions at my photography workshops, so I finally decided to put it in writing—so please pass this on to your fellow photographers.

First, you need an image-editing program. For the sake of the greatest common denominator for photographers, I’m only going to explain this in Adobe® Photoshop®. Bottom line, if you’re a photographer and you’re not using Adobe®  Photoshop®, then stick with your day job. Sorry, but Adobe® Photoshop®, regardless of what version you’re using, is a must in a photographer’s toolbox. If you don’t have it, it’s like a chef without pots and pans which means you’re flipping burgers at your local fast-food joint.

While I haven’t tried this out in the latest version of Adobe® Photoshop®, CS5, I’m sure it works there too as I’ve been using this technique since at least version 4.0 if not an older version and this hasn’t changed over the years. I’ll start with the steps, then give you a few tips on how to make your copyright stamp work with proper design aesthetics for your photos.

Steps for Creating a Copyright Stamp in Adobe® Photoshop®

1. Launch Adobe® Photoshop®. Go to (menu) File >>> New

When the pop up box launches, enter the following values:

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

New Canvas Box Values

Name: Call it “copyrightstampXX” with “XX” being the last two numerical values of the year—hint—make several of these files for each calendar year so you only open up the year that you need as a copyright stamp usually includes the © symbol followed by the year (ex. 2010) then your name so it will look like this, © 2010 Your Name or Company Name.
Width: 200
Height: 55
Resolution: 72
Color Mode: RGB Color
Background Contents: Transparent
Color Profile: sRGB (note on color profile, for web use, sRGB is the standard, not for image capture. Image capture, learn color management and shoot in “Adobe RGB” as a minimum. That’s another long, long photography tutorial and better left for a rainy weekend.)
Pixel Aspect Ratio: Square

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

Blank canvas should look like this, notice transparency blocks.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

Text Tool

2. Select the Text Tool then increase your canvas size for viewing to 200%, just makes it easier for viewing while you build it, that’s all!

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

Select Font

3. Select a font. You can use any font you’d like, that’s up to you. I prefer “Brush Script MT.” An old secret in the publishing world, never select a font named after a city, i.e., Chicago.

4. Select a font size. Make it the largest size font while staying in the image canvas frame. I prefer 48pt for the Brush Script MT font.

5. Type the uppercase letter “O” without the quotation marks and position it at the far left of the frame.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

Type in canvas letter "O."

6. Make a new layer. Click move tool, then click text tool.  Then click inside canvas.  You should see a new layer in the layer pallet box.  This is the layer you want selected to create the letter “c” for the © symbol.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

Make a new layer for the letter "c."

7. Change font size to a number at least one level in the menu down from your original font size for the “O.” If you’re using Brush Script MT, then change it to 36 pt’s. Make sure you’ve selected the text tool to do this and the next step.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

Canvas with letter "c" placed inside letter "O."

8. With the text/typing tool selected, click on the center of the “O” and type in a lowercase “c.” Click on the move tool (arrow) and reposition the “c” using the move tool and your scrolling arrow keys on your keyboard until you center the small c in the O to line them up so it resembles a © symbol. If you’re lucky and it lines up, you still must click out of the text tool in order to do the next step.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

Enter your year, name or company name after the © symbol.

9. Select the text tool again and change your font at least two levels down again, if you’re in the Brush Script MT font, this would be 24pt. With the text tool still selected, click outside the © you just created then type in your copyright information, it should start with the year first, example: 2010 Your Name. Again, click on the move tool and line it up so it looks level and nice for a © 2010 Your Name appearance.

10. Now save the file, as a PSD File with layers, in a folder you can easily find and call it “copyright stamps.” Name that file copyrightstamp10.psd and then use the text tool and change the year (text layer) to 2009, 2008, 2007, etc., so you have one for each year and future years all in one handy file folder.  Do not merge, flatten or save the files in any other form, otherwise the background will change from transparent to a color and the stamps will be useless. You can even save copies of this stamp in all your folders of your photo shoots so it’s readily available anytime you work on an photo from that photography session.

Using The Copyright Stamp in Adobe® Photoshop®

Now this is how you use this file. Assuming you still have it open, open up an image that you’ve finished in postproduction that you want to publish on the web. Make sure your image is around 600-700 pixels on the longest side and at 72 ppi (not DPI, that’s for printing, PPI is pixels per inch and what we use in Adobe® Photoshop®).

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

Use the menu selections, "Select>>>All" to get the dancing but harmless ants!

1. Once your canvas has the copyright stamp the way you want it (don’t worry about the color now), click with the move tool on your copyright image and in the menu select all. Select >>>>All. You should immediately notice the “dancing ants” around your entire copyright image canvas. Don’t worry, they don’t bite or jump off your screen.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

Select "Copy Merged."

2. Now go to the menu and select “Copy Merged.” Edit >>> Copy Merged

3. Go back to your photo you want the stamp placed on and click anywhere in that image area, doesn’t matter, then use your shortcut keys to paste the stamp in the image or go to the menu: Edit >>> Paste. Adobe® Photoshop® will place your new copyright stamp smack in the center of the image, don’t sweat it. Keep in mind, the stamp, smack in the middle of your photo, is the color of your stamp, so if you have a dark background, you have to look hard to see it. For the purpose of this tutorial, I changed mine to white to show you how Adobe® Photoshop® drops it in the center. You’ll also notice you have a new layer in your layer’s pallet for your photo, ignore it for now.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

By default, the copyright stamp will appear in the center after you paste it into the photo.

4. Now if want a horizontal copyright stamp, use the move tool and/or arrow keyboard scroll keys to place the stamp where you want it on the photo. I usually pick a light or dark area. More on where and how to place your copyright stamp on the Aesthetics of a Copy Right Stamp further below. If you want to turn your stamp into a vertical copyright stamp instead of horizontal, then go to menu and select Edit >>> Transform >>> Rotate 90 CCW. (90 degrees, counter clockwise) Then now use your move tool and position as you please.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

You must lock the copyright stamp layer, "Layer 1," in order to fill it with color.

5. In your layer’s pallet, it should show as “Layer 1,” if you want to rename it, you can, I’m not going to waste my time or yours by telling you how, as you’re almost done and in the end we’re going to flatten the layers. Now select the layer in the pallet, then click the “Lock:” tick-box on the upper left of the layers pallet. This is VERY IMPORTANT.

6. Now go to the menu and select Edit >>> Fill. You should see a popup box and in that box you have many selections, for now, we’re going to use “white” under the contents box for this tutorial and in the Blending box we set the mode at normal and the opacity at 100% then select “OK.” If you’ve done this step and step 5 correctly, only the copyright stamp text should fill with white or whatever color you choose. If your entire photo fills up with the color you chose or white, you forgot to do step 5 above and select the “Lock” button, so hit undo, and go back to step 5.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

Select settings for filling your copyright stamp with color.

7. Now I like a little drop shadow on my copyright stamp to make it stand out a bit without being overpowering. So if you want this drop shadow, follow this step, otherwise go to step 8. To create the drop shadow, first ensure that the copyright stamp layer is still selected in the layer’s pallet (Layer 1), then go to your menu and select Layer >>> Layer Style >>> Drop Shadow.

A pop out box with variables will now appear, you can use any settings you like, in fact, play with it a bit as you make changes you’ll see your copyright stamp drop shadow change as long as the “Preview” box is check-marked off. My defaults are Drop Shadow selected from the left list, under the “Structure” area for Blend Mode I use Multiply. Opacity 75% with the black color selected in the color box. Angle at 30 and “Use Global Light” selected. Distance 5, Spread 10, Size 5. The defaults that pop up first should work just fine. After you’ve made your variable choices and are happy with what you see, hit OK.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

A drop shadow helps your copyright stamp stand out without standing out!

8. Now go to your menu again and select Layer >>> Flatten Image. Now you can output to your preferred JPG format for the web. I use “Save for Web” and eventually I’ll write a post on why this is the best setting for saving out for web use. That’s another future tutorial.

Aesthetics of a Copyright Stamp

I often see many crazy copyright stamps that scream “LOOK AT ME” and all it does is show a potential photo editor or editor that you don’t understand proper presentation or the aesthetics of layout and design. (In other words, you’re showing how amateur of a photographer you really are, not good if you’re trying to get published.) If you’re trying to get noticed by a magazine or some publication to get hired as a “creative” and you’re a copyright screamer, you’ve just got fired before you were hired—so here are some things to consider when using copyright stamps on your images.

1. Never place a copyright stamp where it’s obtrusive on your photo, that just takes away from the image and if you’re using “save for web” feature in Adobe® Photoshop®, no one can steal an image worth printing at a decent size. Remember, our copyright laws are not recognized by the entire world and if you’re placing images on the “world” wide web, someone will use your image without your permission somewhere—that’s why you don’t upload high-resolution images to the web! Bottom line-Get over it! No watermark or “no right-click” script will stop them, that’s what a screen capture feature on a computer overrides. Sure, I don’t like my images used without permission, but it happens. Best you can do is to take deterrence steps to reduce it, but if they want it, they will find a way.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial for Photographers

It's all about presentation as you can see in this photo of model Candice.

2. This is an old graphics layout and design trick and also used for headlines or sub-heads in many publications. If your copyright can’t be black or white, then make the color the same color from something in the photo. If your subject is wearing red, use the eyedropper tool in Adobe Photoshop and use that color—not some hot pink or fuchsia color that can’t be found in the photo. Sometimes the subject’s skin color works well too. The idea is to have a copyright stamp but not to take away from the image.  In this image above, it made perfect sense to use white, as Candice is wearing white, not to mention the whitecaps in the water are white too.  Notice in the first photograph of this post, back up to the very top, I used her skin color for the copyright stamp.

Vertical or Horizontal?
We wake up in the morning and go to bed at night to a horizon, thus horizontal photos are psychologically less interesting than the more powerful vertical image.  In Art 101 they teach about the importance of phallic symbols in design. Food for thought!
3. Vertical or horizontal placement of the copyright stamp? Ideally, find a spot large enough for the copyright stamp that doesn’t take away from the image and that has a consistent color or pattern so your fill color and drop shadow will work well. In other words, don’t place a dark-colored copyright stamp in a dark area or a light-colored copyright stamp in a light area. Once you’ve found that spot, see what works best, vertical or horizontal, though keep in mind, try and follow the action of the image, or the direct opposite and place it away from the action.

Well I hope you liked this tutorial, it’s the first of many I plan to write—provided support for this site is shown by those using it. Show your support by clicking either here or here or both here’s, one at a time. As a minimum, don’t forget to use the Facebook Like and tweet this on Twitter buttons, plus use the social bookmarks below to help spread the gospel of photography. Every bit helps and I’ve got to pay the server and software bills. Let the stories be told! Thanks! Rolando.

Adobe® and Photoshop® are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems Inc. and are not affiliated with LensDiaries.com nor are we endorsed by them–though if you’re Adobe® and watching, I could use some new Adobe® software ;) .

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12 Comments

  1. Thanks for the copyright tutorial. I found it much easier to make a custom brush in Photoshop that I use to put credits or copyright notices on both print and web photos. The brush is infinitely variable in size, color, opacity, and placement, and is quick and easy to make and use.

    • Ron, no problem. Thanks for your nice words and please let your photographer friends and colleagues know about Lens Diaries™. Thanks, rg.

  2. THANKS…. just used your procedure….

    • James my good friend and former U.S. Army buddy, you’re welcome. rg

  3. I have read quite a few tutorials for creating designs for the copyright stamp, but this , I believe, is the most preferable. Once again, thank you!

    • You’re welcome! Thanks for your nice words and please let your photographer friends and colleagues know about Lens Diaries™. Thanks, rg.

  4. I made my stamp into a brush so I can use it on any photo, I can change the size and color or add a drop shadow to it if I want.

    • Super! I just like to provide starting points, so feel free to modify! Thanks!

  5. This work can be done using picasa also but i need to make a round copyright stamp in Adobe Photoshop, can u plse tell me how to make it?

    • I’m not sure what you mean about a “round” copyright stamp. I have no use for it, so I’ve never attempted it. You might try some photography forums on Adobe Photoshop and see if you can help there. I wish you luck and thanks for checking out my blog.

  6. This is awesome, thank you! I shoot as a hobby only for my kids activities and I’ve been messing with one in photoscape, I really need to take a photoshop class. I use PS for very basic stuff, I’m self-taught. I’m trying this today. Thanks for the advice on placement and color.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, that is very generous of you.

    • I’m glad you liked it! Please pass it on to others, thanks!

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LensDiaries.com (Lens Diaries™) is a hybrid photoblog composed of a photography blog and a photography social community. The photoblog provides photo tips, photo tutorials and photo diaries by professional photographer, author, writer, speaker and social media consultant, Rolando Gomez. There is even a photography book section.

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