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: Printing a Draft Watermark.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 24, 2017)
In Word, I can create a watermark that prints "behind" each page of my document. I have this nifty little technique that allows me to have the word "DRAFT" appear in light shading, behind the text of the document.
Excel is a different story. I can't get such a feature to work in Excel at all. It doesn't provide a means to create and print watermarks. Some people try to use the Background feature of Excel (Format | Sheet | Background) to create watermarks. This adds a graphic "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. (See the Microsoft Knowledge Base, article 213977.)
The inability to create watermarks in Excel is amazing to many of us who have been using Excel for years. Instead, we have all been forced to scramble around for workarounds that will hopefully suffice until a better solution comes along.
One workaround is to use WordArt to create a watermark. You can manually place the graphic on each page, and it will print in the output. If you format the colors in the WordArt to SemiTransparent and use a light gray fill, then you may get just the look you want. There are drawbacks to this approach, of course, with the chief one being the inconvenience of engaging in the trial-and-error necessary to get the desired results.
For some people, their printers provide the solution. Some printers have the capability to create watermarks. For instance, the driver for some HP LaserJet printers allows you to do this. You can, in the Print dialog box, click on Properties to display what can be done with the printer, directly. Poke around on all the tabs and in all the controls, and you may find that your printer will create the watermark for you.
Other people use the approach of performing two printing passes. They do one pass in which the watermark is printed. Then, they feed the paper back through the printer to print the actual worksheet data.
Another approach is to create your watermark as a picture, using your favorite image editing software. Make sure the picture is large enough to cover a full sheet of paper, with the word "DRAFT" positioned diagonally in the center of the page. Then, in Excel, go to Page Setup and add the picture to the header. You can adjust its brightness or contrast to get the desired effect.
Finally, there are third-party solutions that you can use to put watermarks on the page for you. An example of this type of utility is FinePrint, which can be found at http://fineprint.com. (A quick search of the Internet should turn up other competing products you may want to consider, as well.)
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2448) 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: Printing a Draft Watermark.
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Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.