In this paper, a new robust watermarking framework is designed using the discrete cosine transform (DCT), binary decimal sequence (d-sequence) and Dn-structure. The core idea is to generate a binary d-sequence based on random number generator (RNG) and some secret keys. This binary sequence is then utilized to generate reference sets based on Dn-structure. For embedding purpose, the host image is transformed using DCT and selected coefficients are employed to construct a macro block. Each binary watermark bit is securely embedded into macro block by utilizing the reference set. The reverse process is finally formulated to extract the watermark at the receiver end. The proposed technique is experimentally analyzed using various quality metrics and attacks. The comprehensive experimental results illustrate that the proposed watermarking scheme is robust to both geometric distortions (resizing, cropping, wrapping and random row deletion) and general signal processing attacks (various noise addition, blurring, high pass filtering, image sharpening, contrast adjustment, Histogram equalization and gamma correction and JPEG compression) and outperforms state-of-the-art watermarking methods. © 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.