Microsoft Word 2000 provides a powerful array of advanced document formatting techniques to help your users communicate more clearly and with a more professional appearance. Among Word’s more obscure features is the ability to add watermarks to documents.

Used creatively, watermarks can turn plain paper into impressive stationery, or provide an unmistakable reminder of a document’s draft or confidential status. But adding watermarks is a quirky process and can result in frustration—not to mention wasted paper—if a document is printed with a faulty or unwanted watermark.

Pass along these basic techniques to your users who need to use watermarks in their Word documents and a discussion of support issues that may arise from documents containing watermarks.

Adding a watermark
The standard Word technique for adding a watermark is to insert one in a document’s header or footer. Although the header and footer areas are typically less than an inch tall, you can place elements anywhere in the document in this mode. For our exercise, I’ll create a simple draft watermark, but you can expand upon the basic technique to create your own designs.

Version note

The technique I outline here is designed specifically for Microsoft Word 2000. However, the technique is similar in Word 97. For the Word 2002 technique, see the end of this article.

For this technique to work, first make sure the Drawing toolbar is visible, then click View | Header And Footer. From the Drawing toolbar, select the Text Box tool and draw a box over the center of your document. Type Draft, select the text, and then go to Format | Font. For this example, make your text 72-point Arial Black, format it in small caps, and choose a light gray color as shown in Figure A (avoid dark colors because the superimposed text will be difficult to read).

Figure A
Make your watermark text a light gray color.

Once you’ve formatted the text, right-click the border of the text box and choose Format Text Box from the resulting menu. On the Colors And Lines tab, select No Color from the Line Color drop-down list. Click the Layout tab, and choose the Behind text wrapping style. Click OK, and your watermark should look similar to the one shown in Figure B.

Figure B
Create and format the text box for your watermark in the Header And Footer view.

Now the tricky part: When you exit the Header And Footer view, whether you see the watermark or not depends on the view mode you prefer. It won’t be visible in Normal, Web Layout, or Outline view, but it will appear in Print Layout view. Invoking Print Preview mode will also reveal the watermark, but keep in mind that it might appear only on the printed copy.

Figure C
Print Preview view usually reveals the watermark.

An alternate technique
Although Microsoft suggests placing watermarks in the header or footer of your documents, you can create a quick and easy watermark for a one-page document by using a similar technique: Simply create a text box in the document itself and format it with the Behind text wrapping style. Of course, it won’t be visible in Normal view, either. However, placing the watermark in the Header And Footer area ensures that it appears on each page; the text box in the document technique works only on one page.

Removing a watermark
Removing a watermark isn’t difficult when you know the technique—you simply enter Header And Footer view, select the text box, and delete it—but watermarks have been known to stymie users because they might not even be aware of their existence until they see the printed version. Watermarks don’t show up in Normal view, and this can cause problems in an environment in which watermarks are part of a document template. Users might waste paper printing what they believe is the final version of a document, only to discover a watermark when they retrieve the document from the printer. (This is a fairly common occurrence at a company for which I consult.)

Also, Word may fail to display the watermark even when it exists, even in Print Preview mode. In these cases, you should instruct your users to proceed by trial and error, selecting and replacing the entire contents of the header and footer. When doing so, users can save paper by ensuring that they use the Print dialog box to print only a single page at a time.

What about Excel?

For a discussion of creating watermarks in your Excel spreadsheets, check out this article from Jeff Davis. As you’ll see, the technique is different; instead of creating a watermark in the header or footer, you do so directly on the worksheet.

Text watermarks in Word 2002
Microsoft has added features to Word 2002 that simplify the process of adding and removing a watermark. Instead of applying watermarks via the Header And Footer, you can also use a dialog box accessible directly from Word’s menu to apply a watermark using text you enter or a picture you select.

You can add a watermark to any document. The Printed Watermark dialog box lets you specify the text, font, size, color, and horizontal or diagonal positioning or change any of the options.

To add a watermark to your document, click Format | Background | Printed Watermark. In the resulting dialog box, you can click Picture Watermark and then browse to a graphic, or click Text watermark and then paste or enter the desired text or select one of the defaults (such as DRAFT) from the drop-down menu.

If you chose a text watermark, you can also apply the desired font, size, and color settings, and establish whether the text should be oriented horizontally or diagonally. When you’re satisfied with the settings, click Apply and then Close.

You can even preview the watermark in your document while the dialog box is still open without invoking the Print Preview window. To do so, choose View and then Print Layout.

If you want to use a drawing object, AutoShape, or WordArt as a watermark, you must still insert it into the document header or footer as you did in previous versions of Word. The Printed Watermark dialog box doesn’t allow you to use an Office drawing object. And remember, you can’t add a watermark in Web Layout view.

Removing the text or image watermark from your document is as simple as going to Format | Background, clicking Printed Watermark, selecting the No Watermark option, and then clicking OK. Of course, if you use the header technique to add an Office drawing object, you’ll need to use the same technique to remove it. If you support Word 2002, you’ll want to be especially aware of this restriction.