Signing Documents With Preview

You can sign PDF documents in the Preview app and in Mail. You save your signature using either the trackpad or your Mac's camera. You can then insert that signature in any spot in the PDF. It then becomes a permanent part of that PDF just as if you had printed out the document, signed it, and then scanned it back in. You can do the same in Mail, but only the copy sent will contain the signature.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Signing Documents With Preview.

Hi, this is Gary with On this episode let me show you how you can sign documents in Preview, and even in Mail, without having to print them out first.

You can use Preview to sign documents without having to actually print them out first. So you may have a PDF document, say a form from somebody that was sent to you by email or you download off the internet and you need to sign it and send it back. In this case I've just created a letter in Pages and the letter has a spot here for my signature at the bottom. I'm going to use that as an example. It is more common though that you're signing a form. So what do you do.

Well, in Preview you've got, under Tools, Annotate. At the bottom you've got Signatures and I have no signatures recorded here. I only have Manage Signatures as my only option. I can get to the same place by clicking on the Tools button. Then I see all these tools here. There's the signature tool. I can click here and this takes me to the same place I would have gotten to the other way.

Now I can add a signature one of two ways. Either using the Trackpad and I've got a Trackpad hooked up to my Mac and, of course, all MacBooks do. Or use the camera to take a picture of my signature as I've written it on a piece of paper.

So let's start with the Trackpad method. I'm going to click here to begin. Now it's important to realize my Trackpad now is kind of like a piece of paper with my finger as the pen. So instead of actually dragging a cursor and clicking down to draw anywhere I touch is actually going to put a mark. So I'm going to actually swipe twice to create an X like that. Now I can press any key to finish. I'll press the spacebar. You get the option here to Clear, Cancel, or hit Done and it will record the signature.

Now you can see the same menu here actually comes up with this signature. I can create another one very easily, create signature, click to begin, X, and Done. Now I've got two in there. So it is very easy to have two signatures say maybe one with your middle name and one without. Or you and your spouse for instance. Or a signature and your initials because sometimes you need to initial documents.

The other way to do this is to create a signature using the camera. So what you want to do when you are using the camera is that you want to write your name in nice thick black ink really large, much larger than you normally do, on a piece of paper. It should take up most of the piece of paper because you are going to use your camera and you want it to be as good a resolution as possible. So I'm going to hold the paper in front of the camera, I'm going to click camera here, and you can see it's going to try and focus on it. There you go, it captures it. So you want to try and put it right above that line there and then you hit Done and now you've got it there.

You can do the same thing with a set of initials. There you go and it gets it. So now you have both of those in there and I can use them in documents.

So how do I use them. Well, I want to put the signature right here. I'm going to go in here. Instead of going down to Create Signature at the bottom I'm simply going to select the signature. When I do it's just put right in the middle of the document there. I can grab it and move it where I want. I can grab a corner and I can adjust its size. Put it just where I want and now it's part of the document.

Now I can print this out or I can simply just save it and then go ahead and email it. So now that I've saved it if I were to reopen the document you can see the signature is there. It is part of the PDF now. So if I would return this to somebody it has my signature in there. It is basically indistinguishable from if I were to print it out, sign it, and then scan it back in which is the way we would most likely have done it before having this functionality in software. It is much easier to do it this way and it is much quicker. It is legal as long as you are the one doing it. So you have the right to be able to sign your name the way you want in most cases.

Managing signatures is pretty easy because all you need to do is turn Tools on and then instead of selecting one that you are going to use in a signature you just hit the x button here and it will get rid of that one.

Now most of the functionality you get in Preview you also get in Mail now with El Capitan. So, for instance, say I'm sending an email to somebody and I want to attach a document to them that I need to sign. So I'm going to a certificate, it's a PDF, and it needs my signature here. So I can click on the little markup button here, go to Markup and now I can mark this up adding annotations and also signatures.

So, I can add my signature right here, I'm still in Mail, put my signature down here, hit Done. You can see the PDF that I'm sending now is going to have my signature on it.

So I can do this and it would just be this copy of it here that has my signature. If I were to go back to the original here that's in the Finder, the one I attached, you can see the signature is not in there. So it's a good way to sign something but leave the original PDF intact and just send your signed copy off to somebody.

Comments: 17 Responses to “Signing Documents With Preview”

    Russ Winkler
    3 years ago

    Thanks. Can I add a signed signature to my Gmail and iCloud email signature file for iOS 9.x? If so, how?

    3 years ago

    Russ: Very different thing. See my old video for some info on how to do that.

    Peter Fulton Foss
    3 years ago

    I tried this a couple of years ago and got so frustrated I gave up. You saved the day by telling us to write in big black letters and take up the page. Ah duh; I was using my standard-size signature.

    Linda DesGroseilliers
    3 years ago

    Great video, Gary. I’ve seen the signature feature, but had no clue how to use it. Thanks for the enlightenment!!

    Friar Do
    3 years ago

    That means that anyone who has received a hard or soft copy of a signed letter from you can emulate your signature. Nevertheless, it makes an excellent illustration of the pointlessness of such “authorisation” on digital documents.

    3 years ago

    You are amazing! How do you discover this stuff? The Mac is so feature rich but documentation, including help, poor. I think that’s the legacy of Steve Jobs.
    Gary, keep up the good work.

    3 years ago

    I’ve been using a png of my signature by opening the pdf in Illustrator and inserting appropriately, but when my system doesn’t have the fonts used in the pdf, it’s obviously a problem. Can I make this png accessible to preview by reformatting and/or moving to a different source folder, and if so, how?

    3 years ago

    Friar Do: Anyone could do that using any image editing software, and could have for decades now. Signatures are meant to be a signal of authorization between two trusted parties. When more is needed, a notary is usually used.

    3 years ago

    Wilma: No. You’ll have use this method to do it in Preview. There is encryption involved with storing the signature.

    3 years ago

    thank you great tip..your website very helpful

    3 years ago

    I opened a document…but how do I get it to preview?

    3 years ago

    Bruce: If you opened it in another app than Preview, then just close that and quit that app. Then drag and drop it onto Preview. Or, run Preview and then use File, Open. Or, Control+click the file and choose Open With and then Preview.

    George Hudson
    3 years ago

    As usual, very informative video.
    Is there a way to save a signature on an iPad Pro using the Apple Pencil, which could then be used on my Mac?

    3 years ago

    George: No, there’s no way I know of to port it over. You could use one of those apps that lets you use your iPad Pro as a drawing screen for the Mac. That should work — but not in the same way you mean.

    G Ivory
    3 years ago

    Gary, your videos are a find! Wish I had bothered to learn about/use this feature before.

    Jim Bonner
    3 years ago

    Hi Gary, thanks for another great video. I’ve gotten my signature into preview, but when I try to use it nothing happens. This is when I used the tool menu, then chose “annotate” and then “signature”. I could see my signature, but when I clicked on it nothing happened. So, next I tried to use the annotation tool, from the tool bar, but it was “grayed out” and couldn’t click on it. I was using a Pages document to practice it on. Any ideas on what I might be doing wrong? Thanks for your help!

    3 years ago

    Jim: So you created a PDF from a Pages document and you are trying it with that? Should work on that, but not if you try it with an actual Pages document. It must be a PDF.

Comments Closed.