ATB - An alternative to watermarks: Metadata
|8 min read
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Lyricanna's avatar
By Lyricanna   |   Watch
206 119 15K (1 Today)
Published: September 10, 2013


We have all seen watermarks on images, here on dA and around the internet.  And even though they have become a necessary step in the aid of preventing art theft/misuse of art, they are not always ideal.  It's really hard to signature or watermark an icon that is 50x50 pixels and still show it off, for example.  And even in larger pieces of art, sometimes they just look ugly or, like the watermark option offered by dA, take up too much of the image.

So what is the alternative?

Metadata
Metadata is data that can be added to an image file.  As you will see in my little walk through below, a variety of information can be added, from original artist's name, date of creation and location to terms of use, copyright information to contact information.  This is a handy tool to add ownership of your image to the file without taking anything away from the image; no watermark that could be removed or cropped.  The data added just becomes a part of the file.

How to add Metadata in Photoshop CS2
That's the program I have, so this is the basic walkthrough that you'll get based on my available tools ^^;.  I do believe that that most programs that allow the addition of metadata are similar, so clicking around in your file menu will likely help you find what you need =)

Step 1
Have Photoshop and your newest creation open.  I'm going to add data to my Bananach doll that I posted recently.
Step1 by Lyricanna

Step 2
Click file and then click on file info.
Step2 by Lyricanna

Step 3
Edit the information that you need to on this screen.  The default description may be enough for some, but IPTC Contact allows for contact information to be added and IPTC Status has a specific section for terms of use that you may also find useful =)  Do not forget to click that tiny arrow in the top right hand corner to save your metadata template for easy use and re-use.

Step3 by Lyricanna

Step4 by Lyricanna

Step5 by Lyricanna

Step 4
Check all of your information and then click okay.  Save your image.  Now to view your metadata!  I don't have a program that allows this but metapicz.com/#landing is a good free website to use to check that everything took.  

Programs that allow you to add metadata
Don't have Photoshop?  Here is a list of programs that allow the addition of metadata.

:star:Adobe Photoshop, most versions! (No idea how many people use really old versions, but 7 and up for sure)
:star:Gimp - it's free!
:star:Lightroom
:star:Inkscape
:star:Adobe Illustrator
:star:Paintshop Pro
:star:Macromedia Flash
:star: www.photome.de/ Photo Me

2 disclaimers:
1) Metadata and .png files do not get along, I have learned.  Only certain fields can be used in a .png file, and you have to use the Save For Web option when saving as a .png to preserve the data.  So this may not be ideal for those of us that prefer the .png format.  .jpeg is your best bet for this endeavour.  It seems to be pretty iffy on .gifs as well =/  So there is a sacrifice for transparency on images for safety.

2) Like the removal of watermarks, it is also possible to remove metadata =(  There is no fool proof way to protect your images but a combination of metadata and say a signature that blends in with your piece well enough that few people can see it to remove it, goes a long way.

3) I am not an expert and am rather new to metadata myself.  I did not mean for this article to come off as an "only way to do things"; as a matter of fact, use all the tools at your disposal that you feel comfortable using!  So I do not have all the answers but I will do what I can to see what I can learn =)

So now you know a little bit about images and metadata :dummy:



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anonymous's avatar
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Ikro2009's avatar
Ikro2009Hobbyist Digital Artist
Watermarking still king. EXIF is really hard to modify as rippers are usually lazy and uneducated, but most people will instantly recognize a watermark and not look for EXIF. The values are also cleared if the file is, let's say, edited or overwritten. 

Watermark your work and edit the EXIF instead of crying, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. 
Lyricanna's avatar
LyricannaHobbyist General Artist
You do realise that this article was written 6 years ago and I am under no obligation to keep it updated with current technology and techniques, right?
Ikro2009's avatar
Ikro2009Hobbyist Digital Artist
No problem, I actually liked your guide, you addressed it correctly, still up-to-date and many still don't know this technique. We should use all the weapons we have to prevent art theft, but we MUST use them and stop just complaining and crying.

Your statements are worth mentioning to everyone on this site, at least the people who take their work seriously and are not entitled, princess-like artists, acting like a toddler crying everywhere "muh, they re-uploaded my art on facebook without muh pehrmission, aaaaahhh!". 
ChimeraDreams's avatar
ChimeraDreams Traditional Artist
Thanks for the info!  
Dragona15's avatar
Dragona15Hobbyist Digital Artist
Interesting article. I did not know about metadata, but when I get the chance I will explore this tool and see how it might be helpful against little reposters.
I'm going to do a little tests like save a file with metadata and then 'crop' or 'edit' like art thieves do to see if metadata remains even after the picture has been so rudely changed. This metadata could be useful to fasten copyright reports in which the admins will immediately see if the image in question belongs or not to 'reposterusername'.

Thanks!
Lyricanna's avatar
LyricannaHobbyist General Artist
No problem!
Vocalkokoro's avatar
VocalkokoroHobbyist Digital Artist
I use png files for everything I do, so it can be pretty difficult to watermark my work, especially when I upload huge comics. ^_^;

I use Gimp. Normally what I do, if I'm making a comic, is credit myself, color the words, surround the words in a white outline, and decrease the opacity of the words. Afterwards I place them in an area of the image where there are a decent amount of color changes near it. The reduced opacity would make it difficult to edit out since it's bending in with the background of the image, and the changes in color (Say, there is an object behind the watermark.), would make it even more difficult to edit out with simple programs. Plus, I would put the watermark near an area where the image would look awkward if it were ever cropped to get rid of the watermark.
Also, my comics are so big, and that I credit myself in each panel, that it would be frustrating for someone to have to remove every single watermark from all of the panels. It can be time-consuming and troublesome for me to have to take the time to watermark every single panel, but it's worth it.

I hope this helps anyone~. :heart:
Ikro2009's avatar
Ikro2009Hobbyist Digital Artist
You are really a legend, this is how EVERY ARTIST should take responsibility instead of crying. A blended watermark conveniently placed may be impossible to remove, or the thieve will have to be as talented as you to do it.

Most of them are MSPaint users. 
Shadowflashdabearded's avatar
This will help many and cut down administration work with art thieves. Nice one :thumbsup:
Lyricanna's avatar
LyricannaHobbyist General Artist
Thanks =)
WDWParksGal's avatar
Excellent information! Thank you for sharing :aww:
Lyricanna's avatar
LyricannaHobbyist General Artist
You're welcome =)
cality's avatar
calityHobbyist Writer
Great article, I never knew about this before! It's always nice to learn something new. :la:
Lyricanna's avatar
LyricannaHobbyist General Artist
Indeed it is :la:
synconi's avatar
synconi Artisan Crafter
This is really awesome and informative, going to go teach myself how to do this in the GIMP :eager:
Lyricanna's avatar
LyricannaHobbyist General Artist
Glad you think so =)

Might only be the newest version of Gimp from other comments I received though ^^;
synconi's avatar
synconi Artisan Crafter
I shall have a try! :salute:
VixenDra's avatar
VixenDraHobbyist General Artist
I can't find this option in Gimp....
Lyricanna's avatar
LyricannaHobbyist General Artist
It's the newest version only, if I recall.
VixenDra's avatar
VixenDraHobbyist General Artist
Ohh pity, I like my current version and I'm afraid of changes within my main software I like the way it is^^; I'll try to look around and find a sollution.
MichelLalonde's avatar
MichelLalondeProfessional Photographer
I know metadata can be erase in just one click but I still use it for a few reasons not mention here yet.

1-Easier to search for my stolen work. (image search engine use some of it)
2-Easier to prove that the work is mine. (better have a metadata than none when I ask that the image be removed. 

I use ACDSee for my metadata as it does bach processing and presets. I can easily do 1,000 images in just 30 sec. Ok.. I still have to add individual info like titles & descriptions but that's it.

nanaleonti's avatar
nanaleonti Digital Artist
I've been using this for a while! Cool!
catluvr2's avatar
catluvr2Hobbyist General Artist
You can view metadata by opening an image file in Textpad or other plain text editor.
VixenDra's avatar
VixenDraHobbyist General Artist
So changing file format(into one that doesn't support metadata) after downloading would ruin it?
anonymous's avatar
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