Sign a PDF with

Sign a PDF with
Mac Tip #537, 23 May 2012

Do you use Apple’s and want to add your actual signature to a PDF? Recent versions of Preview let you do that easily. Here’s how.

I wrote this Tip using Version 5.5.2 (719.25) of on OS 10.7.4. Earlier versions of Preview may not include this feature.

Quick Start

  1. Open the Signatures section of the Preferences for Preview.
  2. Scan a small white card signed in black ink with the built-in camera.
  3. Save the signature.
  4. Use the signature in a document via the Annotations Toolbar.

Want more detail? Read the full Tip below.


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Check the Signatures section of the Preferences

Open the Preferences for Preview and click on the the Signatures section. The Signatures pane opens and displays any signatures that have already been saved.

If no signatures have been saved yet the window displays a button Create Signature…. Press the button to get started.

A new window opens to show some instructions, along with a preview of what the iSight camera sees and a blank area where the recognised signature will appear.

The Signatures section of the Preferences for Preview.

The Signatures section of the Preferences for Preview.

Scan a small white card signed in black ink

Sign a small white card, such as the back of a business card, in black ink. Hold the card a short distance from the Mac’s camera so that the signature rests on the blue line across the Signature Preview area.

Tip: the instructions say to use a small piece of paper. I recommend a card as it’s more rigid and may be easier to hold steady.

Hold the card there for a few moments, as steady as you can. I found my hand shook quite a lot but the Mac was still able to recognise my (dog’s) signature.

In my tests the Mac started by displaying small elements of the signature in the Signature Preview section. After a few moments it gradually built up the entire signature.

I actually made several attempts before the Signature Preview area showed a signature I was satisfied with.

Save the signature

If you want Preview to save this signature for use when you open the app in future check the box beside Save this signature for use after Preview quits.

Wait! Are you sure you want to do that? If someone else accessed your computer could they use your saved signature in a way you wouldn’t be happy with?

Once you are satisfied with the Signature Preview press the Accept button to save the signature.

The signature is saved.

The signature is saved.

The signature is saved, along with a timestamp and a note of when it was last used.

Add more signatures if you wish

To save additional signatures click the + icon at bottom left of the window to start the process over again.

I experimented with scanning other things too, such as a business card and text at the bottom of our heatpump remote. Results were mixed. Have some fun and try scanning a variety of things. It could be an amusing way to add ‘stamps’ to a PDF document.

Use the signature in a document

I select the Sasha signature to go in my PDF.

I select the Sasha signature to go in my PDF.

Visit Annotate PDFs with Apple’s Preview for written instructions and a video about how to add annotations in general.

  1. Open a document into Preview and scroll to the place where you want the signature to appear.
  2. If necessary, go to the View menu and choose Show Annotations Toolbar.
  3. Click on the Signature tool in Annotations Toolbar. The icon shows a letter S beside a small cross, on a line and with a small downward facing arrow beside it.
  4. If you’ve saved more than one signature a list may appear showing all the saved signatures. Select the signature you wish to use. The cursor turns into a cross shape.
  5. Click and drag across the page where you want the signature to appear. Drag to the right to make the signature larger and to the left to make it smaller.
  6. Save the document if you want to make the added signature permanent.
Sasha has now signed the PDF document.

Sasha has now signed the PDF document.

More than once someone has emailed me a form that I must sign and return. In the past I’ve had to print off the form, sign the printed copy and scan the whole thing just to email it back. This feature in Preview should be able to save a tree or two and a whole lot of time and annoyance. I don’t think my dog Sasha will really be signing any forms though. 😉

Let us know how you get on with it.

A final comment

MacTips supporter Colin Jackson actually sparked me to write this Tip when he asked on Twitter how to add a signature using Preview. He commented:

The technique just worked fairly well for me. I went for the blank piece of paper option, and covered it with so many signatures that it became difficult to select one. I didn’t need to use a card because the software is clever enough to stabilise the image. Doing this again, I’d sign only once or twice with wide spacing between them and select the best.

This will be a timesaver for me. Every month I have to sign papers, especially for tax, and email them back. This will save printing and scanning at probably ten minutes a pop.

Let us know how this Tip helped you. To leave a comment if you’re reading this by email or RSS feed please visit the Tip at the MacTips website. There should be a link from the title.

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