Printing a Draft Watermark

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.

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.)