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Watermarks in Excel

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Watermarks in Excel.

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 make create from the spreadsheet. (See the Microsoft Knowledge Base, article 213977.)

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. Also, the quality of this approach depends highly on the quality of the printer you are using. (Some printers won't do gray shading terribly well; it always appears muddy or too dark no matter what you do.)

Some people have also reported success in creating a page-size graphic and then inserting it into the header for the worksheet. Since the header prints on each page, the graphic prints along with it. Again, trial and error will be necessary to get your graphic just as you want it to be.

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 (2202) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Watermarks in Excel.

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