This paper investigates the application of complex wavelet transforms to the field of digital data hiding. Complex wavelets offer improved directional selectivity and shift invariance over their discretely sampled counterparts allowing for better adaptation of watermark distortions to the host media. Two methods of deriving visual models for the watermarking system are adapted to the complex wavelet transforms and their performances are compared. To produce improved capacity a spread transform embedding algorithm is devised, this combines the robustness of spread spectrum methods with the high capacity of quantization based methods. Using established information theoretic methods, limits of watermark capacity are derived that demonstrate the superiority of complex wavelets over discretely sampled wavelets. Finally results for the algorithm against commonly used attacks demonstrate its robustness and the improved performance offered by complex wavelet transforms.