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What is a wet signature?

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Updated on:
December 11, 2022
September 20, 2023
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Curious to learn more about wet signatures? You’ve come to the right place!

In a nutshell, a wet signature is when an individual uses a seal or pen to sign an important agreement. For many years, signing a document in this way was the only way to endorse a permanent contract.

To this day, it’s still a preferred method and one that helps to sidestep fraudulent activity.

Comparing wet ink signatures VS electronic signatures?

Today, the wet signature is less common, especially with global businesses, which tend to opt for electronic signings. Wet signatures require an individual to be physically present, whilst electronic versions can be completed online.

When it comes to signing business deals with clients and colleagues overseas, electronic signings have speeded the entire process up and are proving particularly beneficial in the pandemic.

Examples of common electronic signatures, which many sign daily, include signing up for a new membership, such as an iTunes account. You may not be 100 per cent aware of this, but by ticking all the company policy boxes to say you agree with their terms and conditions, you’re providing them with your very own electronic signature.

Another form of electronic signing involves an individual typing their name at the footer of an email before sending it out to fellow associates.

Other popular examples include:

  • Typing a personalized PIN into an ATM to withdraw money
  • Adding your name to a virtual form or document
  • Using Touch ID on your mobile or tablet to gain access to certain platforms, including your banking app
  • Scanning paperwork to a client, which features your handwritten name

Wet signatures VS digital signatures

Contemplating the difference between e signatures and wet signatures is? Despite what many think, they boast numerous dissimilarities, although both are legally binding! (Read about what is a legal signature if you want to learn more.) For one, the phrase ‘digital signature’ alludes to a document’s validity when sent virtually, either via an email or via an app.

This process involves using an encryption key, which only an authorized server has permission to decrypt. One example of this is when a global platform, such as Microsoft Outlook, adds an electronic signature on an e-correspondence sent via the platform’s server. Adobe Acrobat is also one of the tools that you can use to digitally sign a document. You can read our guide on how to create a digital signature in Adobe if you want to learn more.

How are electronic signatures generated? The creation of a digital signature is somewhat complex and involves a computer-generated mathematical procedure. This procedure prevents virtual files from being viewed by anyone other than the designated recipient.

To put it simply, electronic signatures are a little like fingerprints - only those with the required fingerprints can access the encrypted documents.

Why are wet signatures less common?

With today’s digital landscape evolving at a rapid pace, wet signatures are becoming less and less common, especially with companies across the globe who participate in regular business dealings with other jurisdictions daily. Quite simply popping into an office to sign a document isn’t possible.

Thankfully technology has moved on leaps and bounds, which means documents can be signed by various parties in various locations using electronic signatures.

The fax machine was the first nod towards creating efficient digital signings. This piece of tech allows people to sign documents, scan them and send them to other locations.

For example, a London office can sign a document and send it to New York, China, or anywhere in the world for that matter. Providing both sides have the relevant technology in place, each party is able to generate the necessary electronic signatures.

But are electronic signatures as binding as wet signatures? They are now! Court rulings have made digital and electronic signatures legally binding for businesses across the globe.

Times to use a wet signature?

woman showing where to sign

There are times when only a wet signature will suffice. This does tend to come down to personal preference, especially as electronic signatures are legally binding. Wet signatures are often preferred by companies offering purchase goods or loans.

Today, electronic signatures are backed by the United Nations and the United States. The E-Sign Act (Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act) was put in place over 20 years ago in 2000. This law warrants the use of local and international digital contracts. In a nutshell, this means both electronic signatures and wet signatures each carry the same legalities today.

What are the advantages of using wet signatures?

When it comes to the benefits of using ink, one bonus is that all individuals involved in the business transaction must be present, and in the same room. This can cause less confusion in terms of the contents of the document and also avoids fraudulent signatures

Another advantage? Wet signatures are more personal and present the opportunity to form a closer, more trusting bond with a client, whilst putting a face to all parties or companies involved. This may help to secure a better business relationship, depending on the type of people involved in the business agreement.

Disadvantages of using wet signatures?

As with anything, there are cons to wet signatures too, these include:

  • Environmental factors: paper documents are not only costly to print, they’re not good for our carbon footprint.
  • Paper documents need to be maintained in physical forms, which means making office space for them, whereas virtual documents can be stored safely on a server. This makes locating them a much easier process too. You can also use digital search tools to instantly locate certain parts of the contact, rather than going through it with a fine-tooth comb.
  • Processing a paper document can be a longwinded process, whilst the ESign Act makes approving virtual documents as easy as the click of a button - irrespective of where all parties are based.
  • It’s secure to store documents online, as encryption codes and passwords can be added to the files.

How to manage electronic signatures and contracts?

There are many tech-savvy ways to manage contracts requiring a digital signature (e signature) today. These include investing in business processes such as signature electronic software, which provides companies with an easy, and centralized way to look after their electronic documents or virtual agreements.

Those using these platforms can create virtual contracts and forms from scratch, or import documents that have been designed in another program. In addition to this, digital signatures and customized signatures can be added to these platforms, meaning they are readily available when it comes to issuing approval. These are known as e signatures. Bonsai has an online signature maker which you can use for free.

On top of this, there are many types of digital e-sign programs that present users with the option to upload signee lists, which can be applied to several documents at the same time. This creates a safe, effortless audit trail, and one that requires less approval or the need to put pen to paper. You can check out our guide on how to digitally sign a PDF.

In terms of using electronic signatures in global and national commerce agreements, it’s important to know the National Commerce Act makes signing a contract in this manner completely legal.

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Wet signature FAQs

Can you scan and use a wet signature online?

Yes, you can! Scanning a wet signature into an online program effectively turns it into an electronic signature, also known as an e signature.

Is a wet signature necessary?

Both wet signatures and digital signatures are legal ways to sign a document. Certain companies, including those providing loans or a particularly sensitive service, will ask for a wet signature, as they feel a signed piece of paper or signed document is more legally binding.

How do you make a wet signature?

A wet signature is a name that is created manually, and not via a digital means. In a nutshell, it is when an individual physically marks a paper contract or physical document with their name.

Is an electronic signature an original signature?

No, an electronic signature is a signature that has been created online, either scanned into a program or created virtually. A wet signature is when paper meets a physical pen. This is known as a physical signature, all rights reserved.

Can you scan a wet signature?

You can indeed. With a fax machine or scanner, you can easily replicate a wet signature and paste it onto a virtual document. Scanning a wet signature into an e-signature program is one way to turn a physical name into an electronic signature.

There are many other processes in place that allow you to add the required name to a variety of different documents, irrespective of the device you are working from. This means businesses can receive and approve contracts without having to put ink to paper. They can even do this whilst working from home, at any time of the day or night.

How do I create a wet signature in PDF?

It’s easy to create a wet signature in PDF, however, you must first import your signature onto your computer if you want to add it as an image. Once you have saved your signature as an image, open the PDF you wish to sign via the Adobe Acrobat Reader program.

Click on the tool panel, and then on ‘fill & sign’. Use the ‘sign’ option then find the ‘add signature’ button. A pop up will ask you whether you wish to draw, add or type your signature. If adding as an image upload, you will be prompted to resize your signature once added to the PDF.

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