I am trying to insert a watermark into a map using ArcGIS. As you can see from the screenshot, I have the text in place, although I need to make the text transparent (e.g. 50% transparency). I used "insert text from the Insert menu to add the text. There does not seem to be any way to accomplish this using the insert text method.

Is there another way to include transparent text in a map layout?

enter image description here

4 Answers 4


Try using an annotation feature class for the 'DRAFT' text, manually editing the text, and setting the transparency for the layer at 50%.

This allows you to see the features under the text, and it is not necessary to export the document for use in another program.

enter image description here

  • 2
    +1 This is the way to incorporate transparent text in Arc without having to bring additional software into the workflow. The only downside to this is that, because it is annotation, it needs to be placed at an actual location relative to each map. This may become tedious if you need to produce a large number of figures - it would be nice if ESRI could could include some enhanced functionality within the dynamic text options for DD pages to address this
    – JWallace
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 18:40

As far as I know, there is no way to make text transparent in ArcMap. My suggestion for a workaround would be to export to PDF and then add the watermark using Adobe. That's what I do to add watermarks to my maps. The limitation of this would be that it requires Adobe Standard I believe.

If you don't have Adobe Standard, here is a link with some other suggestions, including using just an outline, dots as a fill, etc.: https://geonet.esri.com/thread/20449

  • 2
    Here is one more suggestion I found online that may give you the result you are looking for. It is a bit more involved but would give a better looking result than the dots or outline: forums.esri.com/Thread.asp?c=93&f=982&t=90947#296853 Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 17:04
  • Yes it is unfortunate that it does not work. I just tried bringing a transparent png in to the layout, and even it does not render the transparent parts as expected. Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 17:32

enter image description hereGo to

  1. Data Frame Properties
  2. Frame
  3. Background
  4. Properties
  5. Change Symbol
  6. Edit Symbol
  7. Chose Type: Marker Fill Symbol
  8. Marker...
  9. Edit Symbol...
  10. Character Symbol
  11. Add letters in different layer. Change color(white), size,Mask-Gray.10% and offset. Fill Properties- Separation-x-250,y-250.

Another possibility is to create the watermark as image, using any photo editing software (photoshop, gimp...), and save it as TIF. Then add the TIF to your data frame as if it were a GIS layer, fit it to display using the Georeferencing tool, then go to layer properties and set the no data value and transparency levels as desired. Well... in layout view, remove the watermark from your legend. Maybe a not elegant solution, but it works and I got good results!

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