Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Watermarks in Excel.

Watermarks in Excel

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 22, 2018)


Excel does not have the ability to easily create and print watermarks. Granted, you can use the Background feature of Excel to add a graphic that appears "behind" your worksheet, but that graphic does not appear in Print Preview, will not print on the printer, and doesn't transfer to any Web page you create from the spreadsheet.

This is amazing, particularly since people often use Excel to create and maintain confidential information and including a watermark that indicates confidentiality would be helpful. So how do you create a watermark to show that information is a draft or it is confidential? There are a couple of ways you can work around this deficiency.

First of all, some printers have the ability to produce watermarks and place them on your output. Check out your printer's documentation to see if your printer can do this. If it can, this is definitely the easiest solution.

You can create a watermark using WordArt and then manually place it on each output page, as desired. When creating the WordArt, format the colors to SemiTransparent and use a light gray fill for the art. This approach takes quite a bit of trial-and-error to get exactly what you want, and you must place the graphic on each page of your output.

Another workaround is that you can simply perform two printing passes. Create your watermark in Word and then print it on the page. Then run the paper through the printer again, this time printing from Excel. This may sound convoluted, but it is no more of a bother than any of the other workarounds. It also has the added benefit of a smaller Excel file since you aren't saving graphics with the file.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12579) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Watermarks in Excel.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is five more than 3?

2016-03-23 09:51:15

Tony M

Why not create the watermark in word, then embed the excel worksheet data into the word doc?

2016-03-23 08:39:20

Willy Vanhaelen

I use FinePrint for many years now and it is an amazing program.

Certainly worth the investment of 50$. You can first try it out for free.

2016-03-22 06:58:14


Another option would be to use a post printing processor. A good one I used to use (until the company's security policies changed) is FinePrint. It lets you create a "Letterhead" in work and then apply that along with your print content. Also, its print preview is GREAT!

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