How to add a signature to a PDF- Complete Guide

Ditch the paper chase! This guide offers simple methods for adding electronic signatures to PDFs. Save time, go green, and get your documents signed effortlessly.


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The ubiquity of PDFs in our digital landscape is undeniable. From contracts and agreements to permission slips and invoices, these versatile documents hold vital information that often requires a signature to solidify their legitimacy. But unlike the familiar pen-and-paper method, signing a PDF demands a different approach. This in-depth guide delves into the various methods, tools, and considerations involved in adding your signature to a PDF, ensuring a smooth and secure signing experience.

Understanding the Signature Landscape: Electronic vs. Digital

Before we dive into the how-to, it's crucial to differentiate between two key terms: electronic signatures and digital signatures.

  • Electronic Signatures (e-signatures): These are the digital equivalents of handwritten signatures. They can be typed representations of your name, scanned images of your wet signature, or even drawn signatures created within the PDF editing software. E-signatures offer a convenient and efficient way to sign documents electronically, but they don't necessarily guarantee the signer's identity or prevent document tampering.
  • Digital Signatures: These sophisticated signatures go beyond mere visual representation. They utilize cryptographic techniques to link your identity to the document electronically. When you apply a digital signature, a unique digital certificate verifies your identity and ensures that the document hasn't been altered since it was signed. This added layer of security makes digital signatures ideal for highly sensitive documents or situations where legal validity is paramount.

Choosing Your Weapon: A Survey of PDF Signing Tools

The method you choose for signing a PDF depends largely on the tools at your disposal. Here's a comprehensive look at the most common options:

  • Free PDF Signers:
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader DC: The free version of Adobe Acrobat Reader offers basic signing functionality. You can create a typed signature or upload an image of your wet signature. While convenient for basic needs, it lacks features like digital signatures and fillable form creation.
    • Online PDF signers: Web-based services like DocuSign, Smallpdf, or PandaDoc allow you to sign PDFs directly in your browser. These services often have free tiers with limited features, but paid plans offer functionalities like digital signatures, sending documents for multi-party signing, and audit trails.
  • Paid PDF Editing Software:
    • Adobe Acrobat Pro DC: The paid version of Acrobat Reader unlocks a plethora of advanced features, including creating and managing digital signatures, applying password protection and encryption, and editing fillable forms. It's a powerful tool for frequent PDF users who require robust security and editing capabilities.
    • PDFelement Pro: This software offers a compelling alternative to Acrobat Pro, providing similar features like digital signatures, form editing, and document conversion at a more competitive price point.

The Art of the Signature: Crafting Your Digital Mark

Once you've chosen your signing tool, it's time to create your signature. Here are the different methods available:

  • Typed Signature: This option allows you to type your name in a stylized font that resembles a handwritten signature. Many programs offer pre-set cursive fonts or allow customization to achieve a desired look. While convenient, typed signatures may appear less formal than other methods.
  • Drawn Signature: For a more personal touch, you can use your mouse or a touchscreen pen to draw your signature directly on the PDF document. This method offers greater flexibility but might require some practice to achieve a signature that matches your handwritten one.
  • Uploaded Image: If you have a pre-made image of your wet signature scanned at high resolution, you can upload it to the PDF document. This is a good option if you want your digital signature to perfectly replicate your physical one. However, ensure the image quality is sufficient for clear reproduction.

The Signing Workflow: A Step-by-Step Breakdown

While the specific steps may vary slightly depending on the software you're using, the general signing workflow follows these key stages:

  1. Open the PDF: Launch your chosen PDF signer and open the document you want to sign.
  2. Access the Signing Tools: Locate the program's signing features. This could be a dedicated "Fill & Sign" menu, a "Sign" button, or a similar option depending on the software.
  3. Create Your Signature: Choose your preferred method (typed, drawn, or uploaded) and create your signature according to the program's instructions. You might need to save your signature for future use.
  4. Position and Apply: Drag and drop your signature to the desired location on the PDF document. Most programs allow you to resize and rotate the signature for a perfect fit.
  5. Add Additional Information: Depending on the document, you might need to add additional information alongside your signature, such as your typed name, date, or title. Some programs offer options to insert text fields where you can enter this information.

Now let's explore some methods for adding a signature to a PDF document:

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe Acrobat Reader is a powerful software that offers a range of features for creating, editing, and signing PDF documents. Adding a signature in PDFs can be done using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, follow these detailed steps:

  • Open Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer.
  • Click on the "File" menu and select "Open" to browse and select the PDF document you want to sign.
  • Once the document is open, click on the "Tools" tab located on the right-side panel.
  • In the Tools pane, select "Fill & Sign."
Fill and sign feature in adobe acrobat reader DC
  • On the right-side panel, click on the "Sign" icon.
  • Choose the "Add Signature" option from the drop-down menu.
  • If you have a pre-existing digital signature, select "Use an Image" or "Use a Certificate" depending on your preference. If not, select "Draw" to create a new signature.
  • If drawing, use your mouse or a stylus to sign your name in the designated area.
Signature in Adobe acrobat DC for PDF
  • Adjust the size, position, and orientation of the signature using the handles around it.
  • Once you are satisfied with the signature, click "Apply" to add it to the document.
  • Save the document to retain the added signature.

Online Signature Tools

Several online signature tools offer user-friendly interfaces and convenient options for adding signatures to PDFs. Here's a more detailed process for using an online signature tool:

  • Visit a reputable online signature tool website, such as DocuSign, HelloSign, or Adobe Sign.
Adobe Acrobat in E-Sign
  • Create an account or sign in if you already have one.
  • Once logged in, look for an option to upload a PDF document.
  • Click on the "Upload" button and select the PDF file from your computer.
  • After the file is uploaded, choose the option to add your signature.
  • Depending on the tool, you may be able to type, draw, or upload an image of your signature.
  • If typing, enter your name and select a font style that resembles your signature.
  • If drawing, use your mouse or touchpad to sign your name in the provided area.
  • Adjust the size, position, and style of the signature to your liking.
  • Apply the signature to the document and save the signed PDF to your device or cloud storage for future use.
Signature on a PDF file

Mobile Apps

With the increasing use of smartphones and tablets, mobile apps have become a convenient solution for signing PDF documents on the go. Here's a more detailed process for using a mobile app:

  • Install a reliable PDF editing app with signature capabilities, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, DocuSign, or SignEasy, from your device's app store.
  • Open the app and grant the necessary permissions.
  • Import the PDF document you wish to sign by selecting the "Import" or "Open" option within the app.
  • Look for a feature specifically labeled as "Signature" or "Sign."
  • Choose the option to create or import your signature.
  • If creating a signature, use your finger or a stylus to sign your name in the designated area.
  • If importing a signature, select an image of your signature from your device's gallery.
  • Adjust the size, position, and orientation of the signature to fit within the designated space.
  • Save the signed PDF to your device or cloud storage for future use.

Tips for a Professional and Polished Signature

Tips for a Professional and Polished Signature

To ensure that your signature appears professional and visually appealing, consider the following tips:


Maintain consistency in your signature across all platforms and documents to establish a recognizable personal or brand identity.


Aim for a legible signature, even if it incorporates unique elements or flourishes. A clear signature helps avoid confusion and maintains the document's credibility.


Avoid overly complex or intricate signatures that may be difficult to reproduce accurately. A simple, clean signature often provides the best balance of professionalism and personal style.


When creating a digital version of your signature, use a high-resolution image or vector file to ensure optimal quality and avoid pixelation.

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BoloForms Signature Dashboard

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What are e-signatures?

E-signatures are electronic representations of your handwritten signature that you can add to digital documents. They can be typed, drawn, or uploaded images of your wet signature.

What are the benefits of using e-signatures?

There are several benefits to using e-signatures:
Convenience: Sign documents electronically from anywhere, anytime, on any device.
Efficiency: Saves time compared to traditional printing, signing, scanning, and mailing paper forms.
Accessibility: Makes forms accessible to a wider audience, particularly those with limited mobility.
Security: Reputable e-signature platforms offer robust security measures to protect your information.
Environmental Friendliness: Reduces paper usage.

How do I use e-signatures?

The process varies slightly depending on the platform you use, but generally involves:
1. Uploading or accessing the form electronically.
2. Choosing your signing method (typed, drawn, or uploaded image).
3. Positioning your signature on the form.
4. Saving the signed document.

Are e-signatures legal?

In most countries, e-signatures are recognized as legal for contracts and other documents. However, there might be specific regulations depending on the type of document and your location. It's always recommended to consult with legal counsel to ensure e-signatures are appropriate for your situation.

What about digital signatures?

Digital signatures offer a higher level of security compared to basic e-signatures. They use cryptography to verify the signer's identity and prevent document tampering. While not always mandatory, digital signatures might be required for highly sensitive documents or situations with stricter legal requirements.

How can I ensure the validity of my e-signatures?

Look for e-signature platforms that offer features like:
Audit trails: Document the signing process, including timestamps and signer information.
Tamper-evident seals: Alert recipients if the document has been altered after signing.

Are e-signatures secure?

Reputable e-signature platforms implement robust security measures like encryption to safeguard your information and signed documents.

What should I consider when choosing an e-signature platform?

Here are some factors to consider:
Security features: Look for encryption, audit trails, and tamper-evident seals.
Ease of use: Choose a platform with a user-friendly interface.
Features: Consider features like multi-party signing and document tracking (if needed).
Cost: Free and paid plans are available, with paid plans offering more features.


The gradual shift from traditional pen-and-paper signatures to electronic signatures is a growing trend in various scenarios such as service providers, confidentiality agreements, rental agreements, and consent for online forms. Electronic signatures serve as the digital counterparts of handwritten signatures and can be seamlessly collected via online forms.

While digital signatures offer a higher level of security through cryptographic measures, this article primarily focuses on electronic signatures. The article provides step-by-step instructions for adding signatures to PDF documents using tools like Adobe Acrobat Reader, online signature tools, and mobile apps. It also offers tips for creating a professional and polished signature.

Go for BoloForms as a user-friendly and efficient signature tool for forms, designed to simplify workflows and enhance productivity. With BoloForms, users can effortlessly add electronic signatures to forms, access them anytime and anywhere, and enjoy the benefits of automation and top-notch security measures. Simplify your signature journey today with BoloForms!


Paresh Deshmukh

Co-Founder, BoloForms

28 Jul, 2023

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