SELLER'S BEWARE! How Your Un-watermarked Photos Are Losing You Business

There's a supply chain when it comes to selling bottle caps, pendants, or charms made using bottle cap images. Of course, it might be a short one, but there's a chain nonetheless. It begins with the designer. This is my section of expertise in the business, and I pride myself in my work and being the first of the chain in creating a finished product that can be enjoyed by the end consumer. A good designer begins by hand-mouse drawing1, creating, laying out, and perfecting their 1" circle collage sheet. They then list their wonderful digital files for sale, like I do on Etsy. Then, a customer with intentions to craft their own finished products for sale browses possible sheets to create with and purchases the ones they like best. Then then list their finished pendants and charms to sell. However, some sellers have choose to not initially create the products they intend to sell using the collage sheets they purchased. They will choose to take the route of made-to-order, where when a customer orders the product, they begin work on creating the pendants based on the design and type of charm was ordered and ship it out once made. This is a great business route to take as it reduces unmoved inventory and less waste. But, there is a fallback to this option. If a seller isn't going to initially make the products they intend to sell, how do they list their product with a well represented photo of their product to attract customers? The answer lies with pendant and charm templates. There are a lot of sellers that offer digital photo templates such as this template from digitalcraftportal.blogspot:
The process is pretty straightforward, you purchase the template, open it up with a photo-editing software, select the design from your purchased collage sheet you want to display in the center, and save the photo. The template creates a neat 3D dome effect on the images, similar to how it would look in person with a glass dome on top. This allows a seller to easily display their products in a attractive fashion. Seems like a full proof strategy for listing items, right?

Don't Forget the Watermark!

Many designers, myself included, require in their Terms of Use upon purchasing our images that a watermark must be used over our designs if uploaded online in it's digital form. This means, if you use the original digital collage sheet to display the products you can create, you have to put a watermark on it. A watermark is usually a faint design placed over the image to deter thieves from using images that they haven't purchased or don't have the right to use. Here is a basic example of a watermark I use on my digital collages sheets:

Of course, my designs that are sent to customers don't include the watermark on them, but it is a great way to display images as a sample of what they look like.  It is a very sad and unfortunate thing that the use of watermarks is important, but you would not believe how many people will snatch up an image that isn't watermarked. When I was first starting out as a collage sheet designer, I made the mistake of listing an item without a watermark, very soon after I found my exact design being shared and used on Facebook by a shady private group that I just coincidentally stumbled upon. Watermarks definitely make a difference. 

So, back to the problem, one would assume that charm pendant templates' use of the 3D glass dome effect would be enough to act as a watermark to protect their work. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A somewhat popular trend in the collage sheet world is advertising bottle cap images as super cheap, big lots sold in bulk, where the sheets are less than $0.50 each. WOAH! Sounds like a super deal right!? Usually the people offering things like that didn't make the designs themselves and are selling other people's designs that they have stolen or are reselling illegally. I've come across many people doing that and some have had my work included in them. One day, while on a huge righteous hunting spree, I went through thousands of designs being offered to see if anybody was selling my images.  What I found was unbelievable, many people were selling collage sheets that had been obviously taken from charm pendant templates. We're talking each 1" circle on the digital sheet still had the remains of the 3D dome effect blatantly there. They were selling the files for ridiculously cheap and people were buying them left and right! I was shocked. I am the type of person that strives to be a perfectionist when it comes to work, that includes having the highest quality of images possible. So, for people to be eating up collage sheets that were very low-quality, was a total surprise. But, I guess some people don't mind sacrificing quality for a steal, oh, and when I say "steal" I mean literally. The sellers of those sheets don't have permission to use those images and therefore are selling a bootlegged product and the customers that purchase that bootlegged product are also breaking the law.

Now, why does this concern a charm pendant seller? Because you are losing potential business. In short, if somebody is able to crop and cut out a photo you post and use it themselves, why would they buy anything from you? Potential customers are lost as well as reputation. Not only does the lack of a watermark violate many designers Terms of Use, but it also hurts the designers business along with yours. A charm sellers negligence can be very frustrating and hurtful to designers. Adding a watermark is a very simple additional step to take, and it makes the world of difference to the designer who you purchased the images from and to your business. Many designers are also very happy to help you put a watermark over your photos if you don't know how to as well. Seriously, just ask. I would much rather spend time helping a customer put a logo on a photo than discovering a shady seller selling my design at a very low-quality and redistributing it to who knows how many other people. Also, you might be thinking, "I don't want to put a watermark over my photo, they look tacky." I once had a customer say this to me when I asked them to put a watermark over my designs they were displaying as large images. That is simply not that case! Sure, a poorly made watermark might not be very attractive, but I have seen several prosperous sellers use a faint version of their logo (image and all) over the lower half of the image that looked not only beautiful but also gave their photos product identity. I am happy to create custom watermark logos for customers as well as free basic ones for protection.  The point is, there is never an excuse not to put a watermark over an image! Be kind to you, and your designer :)

1a term used to say that they draw their own artwork, not taken from a existing image found on the internet -- like some cheap sellers do


  1. I work at a photo print shop and have customers wanting to print your designs and want me to sell them to them. If I read the copyright it says they can not be resold as prints. Which means I can not reproduce them and sell them. I am not selling them but wanted you to know. If they are allowed to reproduce them this way would you please put this in your copyright. Thank you

  2. Hi,
    Thank you for bringing your concerns to me. There's seems to be a miscommunication. Buyers are allowed to have my designs printed up at any print shop of their choosing (I even provide Permission to Print letters when they are requested). They are NOT allowed to then turn around and resell my printed designs as a printed sheet or cut out as circles. They can only use my designs for commercial uses when they are in a tangible, finished product (i.e. bow centers, necklaces, other finished crafts). My Terms of Use (TOU) are laid out all over the place and can be reviewed at anytime (please see item listings to get started).

    If you, as a printer, have purchased my designs, you cannot print them and sell them to people in sheets. If others have given you my designs and you have not purchased them yourself, you do not have my permission to use my images in any form except strictly printing them for those who have purchased from me. If you have any further questions, please let me know via email. Thanks! :)