Adobe Acrobat Sign

What is a wet signature and when should you use one?

Some agreements require wet ink signatures. Digital technology can help you to obtain these physical signatures quickly.

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A woman filling out a signature using their mobile phone while holding coffee outside a building

What is a wet signature?

By definition, any signature affixed to a hard copy with a pen or other writing device is a “wet signature.” And although they might seem a little old school with electronic signatures (e-signatures) becoming more commonly accepted on contracts and other documents, some governments and private businesses still require parties to physically imprint their mark on a signed document. Plus, some signers (also known as “signatories”) just prefer to use handwritten signatures in general.

A wet signature doesn’t necessarily have to be a person’s name. According to the US Uniform Commercial Code, “A signature may be made manually or by means of a device or machine and by the use of any name, including a trade or assumed name or by a word, mark or symbol executed or adopted by a person with present intention to authenticate a writing.”

Not only do signatures not need to be names, but they also don’t need to be made with a pen. You can put a mark on a paper document with a stamp, personal seal, name seal count, thumbprint, unreadable line of cursive, typed name, pair of initials or even a distinctive "X." These are all considered legal signatures when provided on a physical document. Depending on the document type, however, some wet signatures may require a notary to be present at signing.

A woman writing a wet signature using a pen on a paper while sitting at their desk

How to obtain a wet signature quickly and efficiently.

Wet signatures are not as easy to obtain as electronic signatures, but Adobe Acrobat Sign speeds up the process. Adobe Acrobat Sign supports both written and electronic signature options and wet signatures are built into the Adobe Acrobat Sign workflow.

  1. The singer (signatory) downloads a PDF or Word document with the field requiring their wet signature or personal seal.
  2. The signer prints the document.
  3. The signer physically signs the document.
  4. The signer scans the document back into a digital form with a smartphone or other device.
  5. The signer uploads the file and sends it back to the requester.

Learn more about collecting wet signatures

Electronic signatures are valid in all US territories.

Electronic signatures have been recognised and legal in the United States for decades. In 2000 the US Congress passed the US Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, which made electronic signatures on digital documents legally valid in every US state, territory and anywhere else that US federal law applies. Since the passage of the ESIGN Act, electronic signatures have become more common internationally and are now recognised in most countries as a standard way to authenticate business and legal documents when using electronic forms..

Electronic signatures save money and cut costs for organisations by incorporating digital solutions into the signing process. According to a study by Capgemini, companies that use electronic systems and digital solutions are 26% more profitable than those that do not.

Signing documents with wet signatures with Adobe Sign on a mobile device, tablet, and laptop

See how these companies moved to digital signatures.

Using wet signatures takes time, effort and money. The following organisations speeded up their workflow with digital signatures, saving valuable time for all parties involved

Police ICT

Police in the United Kingdom had to meet with each witness in person to have them sign a hard copy of their statement. Adobe ICT partnered with Police ICT, a company that supports law enforcement in the UK, to streamline and digitise the process. Police met with witnesses via phone and obtained electronic signatures verifying their statements using electronic documents, reserving in-person meetings for more serious crimes. This move toward a greater use of electronic signatures saved approximately 25,000 work hours every year.


CXC is an Australian workforce management company. Some years ago, they were expanding quickly and needed to onboard over 2,000 contractors as quickly as possible. By adding electronic signatures to their workflow, CXC was able to save 28 hours per month in contract management time, grow quickly, improve business processes and turn what could have been a painful expansion into a smooth transition.

Integrate wet signatures into digital workflows.

Make wet signatures easier and electronic signatures your standard with Adobe Acrobat Sign. Adobe Acrobat Sign is compliant with relevant electronic signature laws and syncs seamlessly with other industry-standard business software. Adobe Acrobat Pro allows you to create fillable PDFs and collect electronic signatures so you can save time and cut costs by taking paper out of your document management workflow.

Learn more about the differences between Acrobat Sign vs. DocuSign.

More signature questions? Here are your answers.

What is an original signature?
An "originally signed" or "original signature" describes a signature that isn't mechanically or electronically reproduced. In other words, it means that someone wrote their signature, in person and by their own hand.
What is a signature release?
A signature release form — either online or on paper — lets the intended recipient of a delivery opt to receive it without the need for a signature. This allows the mail carrier or courier to leave the letter or parcel at the delivery address without anyone having to physically sign for it.
Does a signature have to be in cursive?
Traditionally most people signed in cursive, but there's no legal requirement that a signature must be in that style. What's more important is that whatever mark the signer chooses to use — whether it’s cursive or a printed name, thumbprint, seal or even a symbol — clearly verifies their identity. And that by placing it on the document, the signature demonstrates their intent to consent to its contents.
What’s the meaning of “wet signature”?
A wet signature simply means you’ve made an imprint on a physical piece of paper. In other words, you actually “signed” a document with a pen, seal or other identifying mark. Although e-signatures have become more common, there are circumstances such as the signing of wills, trusts, adoptions, divorce proceedings and more where wet signatures continue to be required. Plus, in the US, a notary public generally requires a wet signature to verify a signer’s identity.