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Create an Electronic Signature for a PDF File with PDF.Live

This post answers common questions about how to insert a signature on a PDF and how to sign a PDF online (free and with a paid subscription). We refer to electronic signatures as e-signatures, which may not be legally binding; we refer to digital signatures as legally binding, because they’re created using public-key cryptography where two or more parties collaborate on a document (as in Docusign, Panda Sign, HelloSign and more). We have a separate article that unpacks the differences between electronic signatures and digital signatures.

An electronic signature, or e-signature, is a non-cryptographic signature that verifies you approve of or acknowledge a piece of information contained in a document. E-signatures are useful for less sensitive documents and, notably, may not be recognized for official documents. An official signature on a legally binding document typically requires a digital signature. 

If you need to add an e-signature to a document, PDF.Live provides an online signing tool that will let you either add your signature or upload a photograph of your signature. This tool functions entirely in your browser, allowing you to upload your PDF and sign it with no additional downloads.

E-sign a PDF Online 

Once you locate the PDF you’d like to sign on your computer, head to the Sign PDF tool to convert a PDF to a signable PDF. You will be prompted to drag and drop your PDF in the tool. Once you’re ready to start, select Sign PDF.

screenshot of pdf live showing how to upload a pdf and sign it

Upon selecting this, you will then be taken into the PDF.Live editor. This online editor has a lot of additional functions that we encourage you to explore to make changes, edits, annotations, and more on your PDF. For now, we’ll be focusing on the signing feature.

You should see a dialogue box appear on your screen, prompting you to “Create Signature”.

screenshot of pdf live showing where to find the create signature box

If you’ve accidentally closed this box or would like to return to the signing function after making some changes to your PDF, the PDF sign feature is located in the “Popular Editing Tools” area of the PDF.Live editor.

You can also find the PDF Sign function under the Protect tab. Click on Create Signature to return the dialogue box.

screen shot of pdf live showing where to find the create signature feature in the editor

How you create your signature is ultimately up to you. If you’re comfortable with using a mouse and don’t need your signature absolutely perfect, you can draw it by clicking and dragging your mouse in the blank area of the dialogue box.

The colored circles allow you to change the color of your pen and signature: black, dark blue, purple, or blue. The different-sized dark circles allow you to change the thickness of your signature. The smaller the circle, the thinner it will be.

The paintbrush on the far right allows you to erase whatever marks you’ve made in the signature section and start from scratch.

In this example, we’ve used the purple pen and medium thickness to create a cursive initial.

screenshot of pdf live showing how to create initials by drawing with your mouse

Once you’re done, you can check the box that says Save Signature to use the signature later on whenever you need it. Select Create and Use and your cursor will turn into your signature. You can then click anywhere in your document to place a signature there. Once you’ve placed it, you can resize it as you would any other PDF.Live object. Select the check mark when you’re happy with the placement of the signature. If you’d like to resize it, select the dot in the lower right corner to drag it and resize it.

screenshot showing how to place a signature box on a pdf

Alternatively, you can upload an image of a physical signature that you’ve made. 

screenshot of pdf live showing where to find the image upload box

Here, you would take a picture of your signature using your phone or a camera. Then, either upload that image to a cloud storage service or send it to yourself. You can then drag and drop your signature in the tool or click Select Image File to find it in your computer’s or device’s file browser.

Once you’ve selected the image, it will be uploaded to PDF.Live and you can place it anywhere in your PDF as you did with the signature you drew.

You can adjust the size of your signature by clicking the lower right corner of the signature box and dragging it to adjust the size. 

All signatures that you’ve created during your session will be stored in the PDF.Live editor under the PDF Sign section of the Protect tab, until you sign out or close the window. 

screenshot of pdf live showing history of signatures for this pdf