Here is a macOS Automator script to watermark a PDF, and also set metadata like author and title. Followed by a more advanced script to do all that an also set an owner password and access permissions... auto-magically.

You will need:

  • an original PDF file - it must not have any password applied!
  • a PNG watermark image with a transparent background (RGBA)
  • an script of Workflow type

Simple Automator Workflow

The simple version of my Automator workflow uses only standard in-built actions:

  1. Get Specified Finder Items - click Add... and select the original PDF file,
  2. Watermark PDF Documents - click Add... and select the watermark PDF:
    • Select Draw watermark over PDF,
    • Adjust the X and Y position, scale, angle and opacity of the watermark - this requires a lot of trial and error, as the preview image is not that of the original PDF.
    • Note that this action actually creates a copy of the PDF in a temporary folder.
  3. Set PDF Metadata - set PDF metadata including title, author, subject, content creator and keywords, self-explanatory,
    • Note that this action edits the current PDF in-place, hence this is my preferred order, so that the original PDF file is not touched
  4. Move Finder Items - and choose a location, e.g. Desktop

Automator script to set PDF metadata and watermark

Save! Then, test:

  • run the workflow (Command+R),
  • and on the Desktop, you should now see a new PDF file, prefixed with (With Watermark) n.
  • Check the PDF by opening it in Preview:
    • check that all pages have the desired watermark,
    • from the Tools menu > Show Inspector (Command+I), check that the metadata is correctly written


  • You will be prompted to allow Automator accessibility System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Accessibility > check - restart Automator if you need to
  • You will also be prompted to allow folder access: Security: Automator folder access

You can of course convert this from a Workflow type, to:

  • a Quick Action - so that you can right-click a PDF file and run this workflow from the Quick Actions menu:
    • set this input: Automator Quick Action Pto receive PDF file input
    • delete the Get Specified Finder Items action
  • or, a Folder Action - so that any PDF dropped into a given folder is automatically password protected and watermarked.

I didn’t, since I expect to rarely use this... except for the special occasion involving my last post, My System Explorer MOC 70821 + 70841.

Advanced Automator Workflow

Automator has no in-built PDF action to set a password to open, nor set the owner password, nor set access permissions (to allow or deny printing; copying text or graphics; inserting, deleting or rotating pages; adding annotations or signatures; or filling existing form fields).

In my use case, I only wanted to set the owner password and to allow Printing - specifically:

Preview Export PDF Permissions

However, Automator can automate the process by which Preview can do these things! All it involves is an AppleScript to send keystrokes and click buttons / checkboxes.

The workflow is similar, with the addition of step #4:

  1. Get Specified Finder Items - as above
  2. Watermark PDF Documents - as above
  3. Set PDF Metadata - as above
  4. Run AppleScript - paste the script below, changing the password in the first line - the script is adapted (“simplified”) from the ”AppleScript to add password to PDF in Preview” answer provided by applescript unsung hero and fanatic user3439894(those are really his badges)
  5. Move Finder Items - as above

This script:

  • runs Preview and opens the input PDF file provided by the previous action,
  • clicks on the File menu > Export...,
  • waits for an then clicks the Permissions... button in the export dialog,
  • waits for the ”Require Password To Open Document“ checkbox in the next dialog (previous screenshot),
  • sends the owner password (the cursor is already placed in the correct input field), hits Tab and then sends it again to the second input field,
  • and clicks on the “Printing“ checkbox followed by the Apply button to close this dialog,
  • click Save, and then click Replace when asked to confirm overwriting the file,
  • and finally, return the input as the result to the next action.
property ownerPassword : "1234"

on run {input, parameters}
    tell application "Preview"
        open input
    end tell

    tell application "System Events"
        tell application process "Preview"

            tell its menu "File" of ¬
                menu bar item "File" of menu bar 1 to ¬
                click (its first menu item whose name is "Export…")

            repeat until exists button "Permissions…" of sheet 1 of window 1
                delay 0.1
            end repeat

            tell its sheet 1 of window 1 to click button "Permissions…"

            repeat until exists ¬
                checkbox "Require Password To Open Document" of ¬
                sheet 1 of sheet 1 of window 1
                delay 0.1
            end repeat

            tell its sheet 1 of sheet 1 of window 1
                keystroke ownerPassword
                key code 48
                keystroke ownerPassword
                click checkbox "Printing"
                delay 0.1
                click button "Apply"
            end tell

            delay 0.1
            click button "Save" of sheet 1 of window 1

            delay 0.1
            if exists button "Replace" of sheet 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 then ¬
                click button "Replace" of sheet 1 of sheet 1 of window 1

            click button 1 of window 1

        end tell
    end tell
    return input
end run

As usual, don’t run anything you see on the Internet blindly. Plus take note of a very big caveat - absolutely no error handing is implemented!

Built-in Robotic Process Automation!