PDFs have become a prevalent way to provide proofs for clients. But switching to PDFs disrupts the tradition of adding studio-branded “proof” stickers or checklists to a client’s hard copy proofs.

Worse, some some creative teams have reported problems with restless clients jumping the gun and using those PDFs as printer-ready digital art.

Here is one technique to improve your studio’s proofing process: Add a special proofing watermark to all the PDF proofs you send your clients.

Adding a watermark takes about a minute in Adobe Acrobat and as we’ll see in this tip, the process is flexible enough for a variety of approaches.

Adding a Proofing Watermark with Acrobat.

Once you’ve created a proof PDF for your client, use the following steps to add a special watermark in Adobe Acrobat. (You’ll need the full version, not just Adobe Reader.)

1. Choose Document > Add Watermark & Background.


2. Under the Type section, select “Add a Watermark.”


You can choose when you want the watermark to be visible. We’ll usually check both “on screen” and “when printing”, but you can decide what would work best for your studio.

3. Under Source, select your proofing image file.


While Acrobat allows you to type text, most designers are going to want to create their own crafted proofing message. In our example, we created a simple PDF in Illustrator CS2 to use as our proofing message. You can download that file as an example:


4. Adjust the position, size and opacity of your watermark.


Set the vertical and horizontal position of your watermark. In our example, we’ve centered the mark horizontally, and aligned it .5 inches from the bottom of the page vertically.

You can size or rotate your watermark image as needed. Although we did not in our example.

And finally, you can choose to fade the opacity of your watermark to make it less obtrusive.

Play with these settings to achieve the look you are going for.

5. Set the page range.


Finally you get to pick whether to apply your proofing watermark to every page of the PDF, or just to specific pages.

6. Save your PDF and send it off to the client.

After you’ve applied your watermark, save the results. Use a save-as with a different name if you want to keep the original untouched.

Bonus Idea #1: Create a Job Ticket PDF Form.

Here is an interesting twist that takes this idea a little further. Create an editable PDF Form for key project information. Fill that form our with the details for your project before you apply it as a watermark.



When you use a PDF Form like this, you’ll lose the ability to edit the information once it is applied as a watermark. But you can easily keep an updated version of your project ticket PDF in each project folder on your server.

Got another Idea? Leave a comment.

We’d love to hear about other ideas for using Acrobat watermarks. Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below. Because of the increasing volume of comment spam, it may take us a day to read and okay your thoughts. But rest assured, we do read every comment.

Source: This tip inspired by a recent workflow consulting session with an in-house creative team at Costco. Special thanks also to Image Ink Studios who helped our research by providing us some examples of their own job ticket stickers.