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What Is A Wet Signature In PDFs? Difference & How-To Use

May 10, 2022
Author
Inkit Team

Wondering how to use a wet signature in a PDF document waiting to be signed?

What’s the difference between a wet signature and an electronic one?

Or how to create an electronic signature from scratch with Adobe Acrobat?

You’ve come to the right place.

Below, we’ll be covering all that and more!

So, if you’re wondering how to start using wet signatures in PDFs, look no further.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is a Wet Signature In A PDF?
  • 3 Different Types Of PDF Signatures
  • When Should I Use a Wet Signature?
  • How to Replace A Wet Signature In A PDF Document With An Electronic One Online
  • How to Create An Electronic Signature For Your PDF Documents
  • What Are The Pros and Cons of Using a Wet Signature?

Ready?

Here’s what you need to know about wet signatures in PDF documents.

What is a Wet Signature In A PDF?

A wet signature is the “old-fashioned” way of signing documents. 

Meaning, this is when a person signs their name with a pen or seal on a physical paper document. This type of signature has been used for hundreds of years to bind a contract. 

The term “wet” is used because the signature typically requires time to dry. Ink and wax are the primary medium for signing these documents. This can include using pens, stamps, or other types of seals. 

As you might have guessed, wet signatures aren’t very convenient.
If someone were to sign a document with a wet signature, the process would go something like this:

  1. You receive a PDF document that needs your signature.
  2. You print it out.
  3. Sign it with a pen.
  4. Scan it.
  5. Attach the PDF to an email and send it back.

This takes up an unnecessary amount of time.

Wouldn’t it be much easier if you could just sign from your computer directly and save time on all that extra steps?

Keep on reading, below, we’ll show you how to do just that!

But first, let’s cover some different types of signatures too.

3 Different Types Of PDF Signatures

Though wet signatures are the oldest form of signature, there are three main types of signatures used today for documents and paperwork.

This includes wet signatures, electronic signatures, and digital signatures

What is the difference between all of these different ways to sign documents? 

Here is an overview of the different types of signatures used in PDF documents:

Wet signature

With most documents today being scanned and sent electronically, wet signatures are slowly becoming extinct.

A few reasons many companies are switching from wet to electronic or digital signatures include:

  • Time: Many companies have a difficult time getting their documents returned signed with a wet signature in a timely manner. This often takes days because the recipient has to download, print, sign, scan, and return the document to the sender. 
  • Cost: If the company is providing the documents already printed, then there is an extra cost for ink, paper, and the delivery service of choice. The delay in time can also potentially be a loss of revenue depending on the situation. 
  • Storage: After receiving the signed document, your company will need to scan and file it. Accessing the file later can often be difficult due to the time it takes to physically sort through filing cabinets. It also takes up more space having rows of filing cabinets in the office. 

Electronic signature

An electronic signature is typically used in place of a wet signature. And it’s essentially signing your signature from a computer or electronic device.

This way of signing documents is usually an acknowledgment of an electronic message, transaction, or document. 

Examples of electronic signatures include: 

  • An “email signature” or typed name at the end of an email.
  • An image of a handwritten signature.
  • A name typed on an electronic form or document.
  • Acknowledging contracts or policies by clicking “I agree”. 
  • A digital signature written by hand on an electronic touchscreen device (smartphone, tablet, etc.). 

Digital Signature

A digital signature is used to reinforce the strength of an electronic signature. 

This happens often by receiving a certificate of authority. An example would be receiving a Windows certificate that validates the signature’s author and owner. 

The use of private decryption keys is also useful to verify the signature. 

The signer will sign the document with the sender’s private decryption key, and then the signature will be verified by someone with access to the sender’s public encryption key. 

This is useful for ensuring that the original message has not been changed or intercepted by an external source. 

graphic showing how the encryption and decryption systems work

Source

Most of the time, digital signatures are used for more official documents such as electronic tax forms, business permit applications, online applications, and more.

Another way to show the authenticity of a document is through a digital watermark.

When Should I Use a Wet Signature?

The type of signature used is typically based on the preference of the signing parties. 

So, by no means are you required to use wet signatures.

The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) is a law that went into effect in 2000. This law simply states that electronic signatures have the same strength and meaning legally as wet signatures do. 

However, there are still some cases where you might have to use a wet signature in your documents.

Though, there are a few examples where a wet signature may be required to make a document legally binding. 

This may include:

  • An instance when a Notary Public must verify the signer identification.
  • Wills.
  • Trusts.
  • Adoptions.
  • Divorce proceedings.
  • Court orders.
  • Evictions.
  • Insurance benefits.

Now, below, we’ll be taking a more practical approach to PDF signatures.

Here’s what you need to know.

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The easiest way to automatically generate and manage paperless documents at scale.
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How to Replace A Wet Signature In A PDF DOcument With An Electronic One Online

If you would like to use your wet signature as an electronic signature, then you’ll just need a few tools. 

Here is how you can turn it electronic in a few simple steps:

  1. Have your scanned copy of your wet signature on your computer.
  2. Open up a document that you’d like to sign with any online eSign tool.
home page for eSign PDF

  1. Click the signature button in the top toolbar.
where to add signature
  1. Click “Add” by Your Signature.
  1. In the toolbar on the left, click “Upload”.
place to upload your signature

  1. Click “Select Image”.
  2. Upload your photo of your wet signature.
  3. Pick your desired color.
  4. Click “Create Signature” to finish.

This will allow you to have an electronic version of your wet signature. 

All you will need to do is review the final document and complete it with signing. This eSign tool will also allow you to recreate your wet signature electronically with a stylus or mouse.

You can also do this with Adobe Acrobat and most PDF management software.

How to Create An Electronic Signature For Your PDF Documents

If you’re looking to create a simple electronic signature, not a wet signature, one of the most popular tools to do this is to use Adobe Fill & Sign

Here is how you can create your own electronic signature with Adobe PDF products (Photos courtesy of Adobe).

  1. In the email you received from the sender, click the “Click here to review and sign” link in the email.
home page of adobe sign where you can see when people send you documents to sign
  1. Click the “Click here to sign” field in the document.
where to click to sign the document in the adobe sign platform
  1. Create your signature in the pop-up window to create your signature. 
pop-up banner for creating a signature in Adobe sign
  1. Select your signature option: you can choose to type, draw, upload a photo (could be your wet signature), or sign with a finger or stylus on a touch screen.
selection for how you want to sign your documents
  1. Sign the document and select “Apply”. 
what a signature looks like in the program before applying it to the document
  1. Finalize the signature by clicking “Click to Sign” at the bottom.
how to add the signature to the document
  1. Acrobat Sign will automatically send you and the sender a final signed document. 
Confirmation for a successfully signed document

What Are The Pros and Cons of Using a Wet Signature?

It’s becoming more and more common for people to choose electronic signatures over wet signatures. 

While this is the case, there are still some instances that you might consider using a wet signature. 

Here are some of the pros and cons of using a wet signature: 

Pros of wet signatures

  1. Most commonly recognized: The wet signature has been recognized as legally binding for contracts and other official files for hundreds of years. This type of signature is known worldwide to be a seal for these types of documents. 
  2. Physical copies: Having physical copies can be a pro and a con. The great thing about having physical copies of these signed documents is if for some reason a computer isn’t working, you can still have access to the necessary files. 

Cons of wet signatures

  1. More time: The number one reason most people are switching to electronic signatures is simply the timeframe. The average timeframe to get a wet signature returned is about nine days, as with electronic, it can be signed from anywhere on almost any device. 
  2. Less advanced security: The advancement in technology has resulted in password protection and other types of encryption to ensure any document being signed is not being altered or falsified in any way. When signing on paper, it’s difficult to achieve this level of security. 
  3. More costly: For a business, cost dictates a majority of actions that are taken. The cost of wet signatures includes paper, ink, shipping of the documents, and possible lost revenue due to the extended timeframe. Typically, there are no extra fees for utilizing electronic signatures unless the company pays for a particular software. 
  4. Can be lost: Just as having a physical copy of the document can be a pro, it can also be a con. Just relying on a physical copy means that the document can get lost. 
  5. Requires more storage: With physical copies of documents, you not only have to manage to not lose them, but they also require a place to store them. This can be difficult for businesses that reside in small office spaces.  
  6. Less convenient: Do you know anyone who doesn’t have their smartphone with the most hours of the day? For this reason, it is more convenient to be able to access documents on electronic devices. Otherwise, you have to make a point to bring the document with you if it will be needed. 

Should You Switch To Electronic Signatures? 

As the world continues to go electronic with many of our old-fashioned systems, you may be asking yourself if you should switch to electronic signatures. 

There are many reasons why most businesses have adopted this practice into their everyday systems. 

While electronic signatures are convenient, you may still find the occasional wet signature necessary. 

So, as a rule of thumb, you’ll find it much more convenient to have all of your work processes tied to an electronic signature.

If everyone’s on board and understands how to use an electronic signature, you should, by all means, switch to using that instead of wet signatures at work!

Interested in reading more on getting the most out of PDF documents?

Be sure to also read:

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