If you have an Etsy shop or are setting one up, you’ve been working tirelessly on what to sell and how to structure your offerings, and are no doubt absolutely swirling with ideas about Etsy branding. One topic that I’m certain is top of mind … product imagery. And while showcasing your products with amazing imagery is certainly important, branding is equally critical.
In this article, we will cover the top three essential tools you need for effective Etsy branding: watermarks, branded product photos, and a brand guide.
What are watermarks in Etsy branding?
Watermarks are a hot-button issue with Etsy branding. Many people feel VERY strongly that you should always watermark your images, and think you’re crazy if you’re not doing it. I disagree with this — in most cases. But first let’s take a look at an example of a watermark in action:
As you can see, when you coat your image with watermarks it makes the product hard to see. That means potential buyers aren’t quite sure what it looks like — and probably won’t buy it. They are depending on your photos to show them what the item is like in real life, so it needs to be crystal clear and unobscured. It also looks a little low-brow and unprofessional — not the impression you want to be giving with your Etsy branding!
Why do people use watermarks?
If you haven’t watermarked anything before, you might wonder why people use them at all in their Etsy branding. There are several reasons that I believe are misguided and unnecessary — and cases where it really does make sense.
1. Protect designs from thieves
I see this all the time. Many Etsy shop owners are absolutely terrified that the designs they showcase in product images will get stolen. Either the idea itself, or literally by taking a screenshot of their picture and replicating that in a design program.
For example, I support drinkware sellers who create designs called “cut files.” They cut designs out of sheets of vinyl and adhere them to glasses, mugs, etc. and sell those products. It’s possible in some cases for other shop owners to take a screenshot of the photo of a mug with the cut file on it. They could copy that, run it through a graphics program, and then cut it out and sell it in their own shop. So out of fear of getting their design stolen, they coat their product photo in their web address or logo as a watermark.
As for stealing a design idea or phrasing in your Etsy branding, know that you do have some legal protection. There are copyright laws and registered copyright options as well. You can learn more about that in the post Help! Someone is Stealing My Designs! 3 Things to Know About Copyrights, a guest post from Joey Vitale of Indie Creative Law.
2. To get buyers back to your shop
The thought is you spend time making a design and taking a photo or creating a mockup of your product so it looks amazing and “buyable.” Then you share it all over social media. And during all that sharing, sometimes your shop URL is lost and people don’t know where to buy the item.
So the solution is to put your Etsy shop URL or business name/logo on the picture for identifying later.
This is a valid reason, but use it sparingly! If you must have your logo or website, add it in a way that isn’t distracting.
3. Brand recognition
Another reason people will include their logo to a product photo in Etsy branding is so you start to get known and remembered. At a glance, people will see your logo in the corner or middle of the image and know it came from you because you branded your Etsy shop so well.
I think this can be OK, again, if done sparingly and attractively.
A small reference to your business in the corner of a photo can be effective in a way that doesn’t detract from the product. But it has to be very unobtrusive. And the truth is, you can have a recognizable brand simply by the style of your photos with nary a logo to be found! I’ll talk more about that when we dig into branded product photos.
Alternatives to watermarks in Etsy branding
If you still need to identify the product as yours but don’t want to watermark, there are other options.
- Put your logo on an item in the pictured scene.
- Add your website or logo to the corner of your image.
- And if your hesitation was more around protecting your design from being copied, then you can always get clever with the perspective of your image. It’s easy to copy a 90-degree square design on a white background. But it’s harder if the design is on an angle or a curve, like you see on the glass in the mockup pictured below.
How watermarking can hurt your Etsy branding
I mentioned a few scenarios where you shouldn’t use watermarks and a few ways you can use them if you really need to, but another vote for the “no watermarks” ballot is that it makes you unshareable.
We all dream that an influencer or magazine or famous person will discover our shop and share about us to their enormous, wealthy audiences, right? But if your image is cluttered with watermarks and distracting logos, they can’t use it.
They don’t want to make their perfectly curated Instagram feed, or styled magazine, or polished blog look unprofessional by adding an unprofessional photo to it. Sure, they could ask you for a clean photo to use. But likely they are busy and just won’t bother. They’ll move on to someone who has a shareable image they can snag in seconds. So don’t lose out on your opportunity to get some free marketing!
Make your images clean and shareable by branding them in a more strategic, intentional way.
What are branded product photos?
If you’re feeling kind of lost at this point, wondering what you can do to be branded if logos and watermarks are off the list, don’t worry. I have some strategies you can use when it comes to your own Etsy branding:
Style the people in your photo with your brand colors and features
When you’re planning out product photo shots, try to use photos with models wearing clothing in your brand colors (or colorize the clothing using a program like Photoshop). You can do this with photo shoots you direct, or with stock photography.
Hair style, hair color, nail polish, and lipstick can also hint at your brand colors. (Beard decor would make a clear statement in your Etsy branding.)
Use props and accessories in the colors of your brand
Find objects that bring in your color and add them to your scene. You can do this with:
- Florals (flowers, petals, plants, leaves).
- Desk accessories (gold staplers and paper clips are all the rage!)
- Candles in your brand shades.
- Jewelry, feathers, baubles, fabric and more!
You can even accessorize your scenes digitally like I did here with my Scene Creator Mockup. I used a prop with my brand color (dark pink) and created the whole scene using Photoshop ... no actual real-life photo shoot needed.
How to make a quick style guide for your Etsy branding
You might be feeling worried, thinking, “This is a nice list, but how do I keep track of my colors and assets? I don’t have all my brand colors memorized!” Well, worry no longer, all you have to do is take 30 minutes and gather all that up in an easy to access spot. Just ONE spot where it’s going to live from now on.
No more bits and bobs of brand info sprinkled in emails and scrawled on your desk calendar. Here’s what you do:
- Create a folder on your computer or in Google Drive and call it “Brand Assets.”
- Find all your logo variations (originals and jpg/png versions) and drop those in there.
- You can also toss in frequently used stock photos or banners you’ve created for your social media accounts.
- Create a Google Doc (or whatever note/text application you use) called “Brand Style Guide” with your brand color information (hex codes #CCCCCC, and/or RGB/CMYK color info), and what fonts you typically use in your designs.
Unsure of your hex code? Use this handy tool to figure it out: https://imagecolorpicker.com/.
Extend your brand outside of Etsy
You’re all set for a beautifully branded shop ... almost! Smart business owners set themselves up for success by selling on a dedicated eCommerce site as well as on Etsy.
You need to have your own site to act as a flagship for all your online sales.
This allows you to share your info more easily (with a concise domain name) as you drive people to your eCommerce website to learn more about you and your brand. And this can link off to Etsy as an additional place to purchase your products.
If you sell on Etsy, you only get your product images, your logo, your header image (see below) and a couple other spots to share about your shop and show how you create your beautiful items.
You can do a ton on the platform and be seen by many interested customers. But in the end, your Etsy shop is very much like having a booth or table at a crowded craft fair. There are a lot of distractions!
If you take some time to also create an eCommerce site, you can really go wild with expressing yourself and your brand. You can create full-on About pages, showcase your creative endeavors, gather customers onto an email list, write an engaging blog, and show off your brand to your heart’s content.
You own that space and you are in charge of what gets seen there. Plus, there aren’t any distracting links going off to other shops like your customers will see in your Etsy shop. It’s like inviting customers into your home instead of just over to your table at the craft fair.
So what do you think? Do you use watermarks? If so, will you continue to? And if you’re just getting started, what’s your plan for creating consistent, branded images in your shop?