With email, one of the main reasons I have to print things off is to sign them and fax or mail them back. As I transition to a paperless office I’m having to look at ways to sign documents without printing them out.
There are really two types of signatures. The first is just an image of your handwritten signature. The second is a digital addition to the file that “proves” you were the one that signed it. By now digital signatures should be common, but they aren’t. I’m not saying they aren’t used in big companies, but the average web user isn’t signing emails or anything else digitally.
Right now most of the paper that requires my signatures needs to be faxed to someone. If I want to sign papers to buy some investment property, transfer my retirement account to a different broker or open a new savings account, I’ll have to sign a piece of paper and fax it back. Using a digital signature does nothing if you are going to be sending the document over a fax machine.
So for most of my day to day use I need a way to put an image of my signature on a document. Acrobat gives you both the image and digital signature capabilities. It can be a little tricky to setup, but once you get it working you can sign documents with ease.
They way I’ve done this so far is:
- Create a image of my signature on a transparent background. (I’ll talk about how to do this later.)
- Create a self generated digital signature.
- Add the digital signature to Acrobat.
- Add an image to be used as the visual representation of the digital signature.
Once this is setup you can basically drag a box onto a document to add your signature. If you save and email the document it has your digital signature. If you fax it to someone, it has your visual signature.
just wondering about the legal aspect, would this digital signature be enough to sign a legal document?
Mark Shead says
@redsaid – If you have a digital signature from a company like Thawte I believe it would–at least in the US. The way digital signatures work is very interesting. I’ll have to try to do a post on it sometime (once I make sure I understand it myself).
Thank you for this. I see you’ve shown us how to save a signature on a transparent background, but I’d love to hear how you actually do the other steps. I have Adobe Acrobat Reader 8.0. I’ve been going crazy trying to sign some reports. I’ve managed to do it using a screenshot and signing in Paint, but when I fax them the type looks all pixelated and I can’t figure out why.
Mark Shead says
@Liz – I’m working on a post for later this month on the other steps I use for signing documents. I’ll probably have it ready to go the week of the 20th.
I use Acrobat 7.0 Standard. So far I’ve found two ways to do it. The first is to use the digital signature method and just attach the signature as the image to use. The second way is much easier and involves creating a stamp with your signature file and using that to place the signature on the page.
I’m hoping readers will have some ideas about other ways of doing it as well.
In response to Liz,
You’re first problem is using a screenshot. The typical PC screenshot is 96 pixels per inch. your printer prints at about 150 pixels per inch. This loss of resolution is the reason for the pixellated print. You will have to use another method of creating your signature if you want it to print at a higher quality.
As I told you in e-mail, I figured this out last night (with some help from friends). This way really works!
Here’s what I did:
Opened my pdf into Photoshop.
Then it displays each page and asks you to choose one. Click on it, and then it will open a little box that tells you to RASTERIZE it (a new vocabulary word for me). Change the resolution from 72dpi (at least that’s what mine was) to something larger (after many attempts it turned out that 200 was the best. Less left it still-pixellated; more made it too large for my fax service to accept).
Then sign it, either using the paintbrush tool or by cutting and pasting in your signature file, as per the instructions on this site).
Then go to “Save As” and give it a name AND change it from a TIFF (at least that was the default setting for me; it might be a Photoshop file) to a BITMAP (the suffix BMP). (It might be that other formats are fine, but when I tried to fax it as a TIFF my fax service rejected it, saying something was wrong with it.
So– that’s how I did it.
Now how I made my signature was: I brought up a New file in Photoshop, making sure I chose a Transparent background. Then I signed it using the brush tool. Then I saved it as is.
To put it into my document, I clicked anywhere on it; selected ALL; Went to Edit –> Cut. Then clicked on my document. It appeared on there in some incorrect place. I then clicked on the MOVE tool and used the mouse to move it right over the signature line. Then clicked on Paste.
Voila! After that was when I saved my document as a Bitmap with a new name.
Hope this helps somebody out there.
woops sorry I wrote too quickly, I cut and pasted the signature onto the document first, then moved it.
I’m new to this “electronic” signature but my question is – wouldn’t having a file of your signature only makes it easier to forge letters or documents? This is mainly the reaon I’m hesitant to have an e-signature but I’d like to hear from people who have been using one and if there are any disadvantages. Thanks.
Mark Shead says
@JB – It wouldn’t make it much easier than having signed paperwork that could be scanned in by a thief and used for the same purpose. The benefit is that you can quickly turn around fax documents without printing them out. It lets you conduct more work over email and fax without dealing with the print sign scan fax cycle.
If your computer contains vital information like passwords, bank account numbers, etc. those are probably bigger risks than your signature. You should take the time to secure your computer regardless of whether or not you have a scanned copy of your signature on the drive.
Yes I agree that computers should have protection from unwanted access. My concern is not about someone “stealing” the image file of your signature from your computer. Doesn’t the image file get sent with the email? Then the receiver would then have a copy of that and could possibly use to create fake letters or emails? Or are e-signatures only meant to be used with documents to be faxed?