Easily add electronic signatures to PDF documents

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This tutorial was made using:

  • Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended for Windows

  • Adobe Acrobat Pro version 9 (Acrobat is required--This tutorial will not work with Adobe Reader!)

Steps 1 through 13 describe how to create the electronic signature in Photoshop. If you already have a signature image you would like to use, click here to skip to step 14


It happens all the time. Someone sends you a PDF document and asks you to sign it and send it back. So what do we usually do? We print out the document, sign it, and then either scan and email it back or fax it back. This doesn't take a lot of time to do once, but when you have multiple documents to sign, it can really eat up your time.

This tutorial will show you how to create an electronic signature (PLEASE NOTE: This is not technically a "digital signature") using Photoshop and then easily add that signature to PDF documents.


1. Sign a blank piece of paper and create a high quality scan of it.

2. Open the scan in Adobe Photoshop and select the crop tool (keyboard shortcut: C)

3. Create a box around the signature using the crop tool. This tool will remove all of the unnecessary white space around the signature. When you are satisfied with the box, double click inside of it to complete the crop.

4. Select the magic wand tool (keyboard shortcut W). This tool selects all pixels of a certain color. We will use it to remove the background of the image.

5. Right below the "File Edit Etc" options at the top of the screen, there will appear settings for the magic wand tool. Make sure that "contiguous" is unchecked, and set the tolerance (which determines which pixels will be selected--the number ranges from 0 to 255, with 0 ONLY selecting pixels that exactly match the area you click on, and 255 selecting ALL pixels) somewhere in the 10-30 range. You might need to play around with the tolerance level to get a selection you are satisfied with.

6. Click somewhere in the white space to select all of the background pixels.

7. BEFORE DELETING THE BACKGROUND, look to the right side of your screen in the layers window. If the layer listed is named "Background" and appears in italics, follow steps 8 and 9, otherwise skip to step 10.

8. Double click the layer titled "Background" and you will see the following dialog box

9. Don't make any changes, and just hit OK. The layer should now appear as "Layer 0", and the lock icon next to it should be gone.

10. Make sure that the background is still selected and hit the delete key on your keyboard. This will remove the background. The white and grey checkered pattern in the following image represents transparency.

11. You will probably need to change the size of the image for it to work well for our purposes. Go to Image -> Image Size (or hit ctrl+alt+I on your keyboard).

12. I find that a good size for the signature is about 1300 pixels. Change the width to 1300 (and make sure the measurement is in pixels, not inches or something else), and click OK. The height will change automatically.

13. It's time to save the image. Go to File -> Save as to bring up the save dialog. Under "format" be sure to select PNG (PNG files allow for transparency, which is important for signatures). Save the PNG file somewhere you can easily find it like your desktop.

14. Open up the PDF that needs to be signed in Adobe Acrobat.

15. Go to Tools -> Comment & Markup -> Stamps -> Create Custom Stamp. You will be presented with a window asking you to select an image for the stamp. Click the Browse button.

16. IMPORTANT: In the "Files of Type" list at the bottom of the "Open" window, make sure you select PNG. If you don't do this, the window will not show the file we created earlier.

17. Navigate to where you saved the PNG file from step 13 and click Select.

18. You will be shown a preview of the signature. If it looks correct, click OK.

19. You will now assign the stamp to a category and give it a name.

20. I have a category named "Signatures", and you can give the signature itself any name you like. Make sure to uncheck "Down sample stamp to reduce file size," as we want to maintain high quality.

21. Right click somewhere in the top toolbars and make sure there is a check mark next to "Comment & Markup". If there is not, click it to have those tools always be shown.

22. You can access your stamp by clicking on the arrow to the right of the Stamp tool, going down to the category you defined or used in step 20, and clicking on the signature

23. Place the signature wherever you want on the document and resize to your liking.

And that's it, in just 23 easy steps!

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by olek0010 published on September 22, 2011 8:53 AM.

First post was the previous entry in this blog.

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