Scanned signatures are a popular alternative to signing contracts in-person. But how do you scan a signature, and is it the best way to sign a contract digitally? Find out in this how-to guide.
What is a scanned signature?
A scanned signature is a digital copy of a handwritten signature, usually captured as an image. To create a scanned signature, a signatory will draw their signature by hand on paper and use a device of some sort to transform the handwritten signature into a digital format, like a PDF, JPEG, or PNG.
Since the main purpose of a scanned signature is to sign a digital version of a document, scanned signatures are often confused with electronic signatures. But they are not the same.
What is the difference between a scanned signature and an electronic signature?
The main difference between an electronic signature and a scanned signature is how they are created.
An electronic signature is created on an electronic device, either by drawing a signature using your finger or by typing your name. Meanwhile, a scanned signature is originally drawn on paper (aka a wet ink signature) and scanned using a device, making it possible to add your handwritten signature to a digital document or contract.
There are also a few other differences between an electronic signature and a scanned signature, including:
- How easy they are to create
- How secure they are
- What they look like
But we’ll cover those in more detail later in this post. First, let’s talk about why people scan a signature in the first place.
Why would you scan a signature?
Scanning a signature can be a basic way to sign documents remotely. For businesses that want to close deals and sign contracts without meeting in person, a scanned signature provides a good way to do that.
Scanned signatures are also useful since they can be reused time and time again.
Rather than manually drawing, scanning, and saving a handwritten signature every time you need to sign a contract, you can scan a signature once, save it and upload it to different documents in Word, for example.
How to scan a signature
There are two main ways to scan a signature. You can either scan a signature using a scanner, or you can take a picture of the signature using your phone and upload it.
Read on for a step-by-step guide to doing both.
It’s worth noting that you’ll only be able to scan a signature the first way if you have a scanning device on hand. If not, you’ll be better off scanning your signature using an iPhone or Android.
How to scan a signature using a scanner
- First, draw your signature on a sheet of paper. For the best results, use a white sheet of paper and a pen with black ink. That way, there’s a better contrast between the pen and paper, making it clearer once scanned.
- Next, use a scanner to scan the signature on the piece of paper. This is usually as simple as turning the scanner on, placing the paper into the paper feeder, and selecting ‘Scan’. All scanners are different, but they’re all pretty easy to use.
- Once you’ve successfully scanned the piece of paper, use the scanner to crop the image to only include your signature. If this isn’t an option on your scanner, don’t worry. You’ll be able to crop the digital copy of the signature once you’ve uploaded it to another device.
- Now save the image of your handwritten signature as either a PNG or JPG on the device of your choice. If you're having any issues, you can use online free tools to convert PNG to JPG format.
- Next, open up your contract and paste the image of your scanned signature into the space allocated for signatures. This can be a bit fiddly depending on the file type you use since most contracts are created in Word, which wasn’t designed to handle contracts.
How to scan a signature on an iPhone
It’s also possible to scan a handwritten signature using an iPhone, which is an alternative to actually drawing a signature using your iPhone. Scanning a handwritten signature using an iPhone is possible in a few different ways.
- Firstly, draw your handwritten signature on a white piece of paper using a black pen. As we mentioned earlier, this contrast in colors will improve the quality of your signature when scanned.
- Now, you have a few options:
You can use your iPhone to take a photo of the handwritten signature, which means you will also need to save it as a PNG or JPG and crop it, like with a scanner.
Or, you can download an iPhone app that scans documents for you, like CamScanner, Adobe Scan, or Scanner Pro. Each of these apps can be used to scan documents to a high standard. However, many of them must be paid for in order to unlock the best features, or are only free for a trial period.
- Whichever way you choose, you’ll then need to then manually add the image of your scanned signature to the contract you wish to sign. Like when you use a scanner, this process can be slightly fiddly when it comes to formatting. But it’s not impossible.
What are the drawbacks of using a scanned signature?
Now that we’ve discussed what a scanned signature is and how to scan a signature, let’s talk about whether it’s worth doing at all. There are a few, significant drawbacks of using scanned signatures that are worth noting.
1. Not as secure as electronic signatures
Scanned signatures aren't as secure as electronic signatures.
Some businesses want to ensure that signatures created digitally can be uniquely linked to a signer and that this signer can be formally identified.
This is called an Advanced Electronic Signature (AdES) under the eIDAS regulation, and it’s an effective way to ensure that signature used is authentic.
This can’t necessarily be achieved with a scanned signature since there isn’t a digital timestamp to show when a contract has actually been signed, and there’s no clear audit trail to identify who signed the document, where they signed it from, and whether they are the authorized signatory.
This makes scanned signatures less attractive to counterparties when doing deals since they don’t have the same security features as Juro’s Advanced Electronic Signature, for example.
2. They don’t look always look seamless
One drawback of using scanned signatures is that they don’t always look as professional and seamless as electronic signatures do.
This is because it’s difficult to ensure that the color of the background (from the paper) is an exact match for the document you’re signing online. If you aren’t using a high-resolution scanner, you may also find that your scanned signatures are either blurry or pixelated.
Electronic signatures don’t present this problem since they’re drawn directly into the contract and are clear.
3. Scanning a signature isn’t the easiest option
While it sounds convenient compared to in-person contract signing, scanning a signature isn’t the quickest and easiest way to sign a digital contract. After all, you still need to draw the signature, scan it, crop it, save it and upload it to a document.
This process is too slow, too manual and too clunky to be used at scale, for companies that need to sign dozens or even hundreds of contracts each month.
Electronic signing, on the other hand, is far easier and can be done at scale. Juro’s native eSignature functionality enables users to sign contracts within their browsers in just a few clicks.
Juro’s eSignatures are automatically embedded within the contract and can be added on almost any device, from desktop to mobile. All signatories need to do is type or draw their signature within the signature box.
Is there a better way to sign contracts online?
While it’s possible to sign a contract with a scanned signature, it certainly isn’t the fastest or most secure way to get a contract signed.
Scanning a signature and adding it to a contract online often means switching between different tools, which can create friction during the signing process.
If you need to get contracts signed faster, you need a tool that allows you to sign contracts in the same place you create them. Juro is an all-in-one contract automation platform that provides native eSignature functionality as standard. This means Juro users can create, review, negotiate, sign and manage their contracts all in one place.
Juro’s Advanced Electronic Signatures are also fully compliant with provisions of the eIDAS, E-SIGN and UETA acts, making it a more secure way to get contracts signed.
Juro also enables users to mass-sign contracts, send signing reminders and customize signatory workflows. This gives legal and commercial teams the power to get contracts signed without friction.
To find out more about how Juro can make signing contracts simple, fill in the form below.