Home » Blog » Painting Tips » How To Sign Your Artwork Like A Pro

How To Sign Your Artwork Like A Pro

One of the most difficult tasks for a beginning artist is deciding how to sign your artwork. Signing your artwork can often lead to some anxiety.

Is my work good enough to sign? Where do I sign? What do I use to sign my work? Do I only sign if I am a professional artist selling my work in galleries?

The simple answer is you should sign your first painting or piece of art and continue from there.

Your signature is your brand, your mark of ownership. It identifies your artistic work as your own original.

It doesn’t matter if it will be sold or hidden away in a closet, it deserves to be identified as your original piece.

**This page may contain affiliate links to products I have used or recommend. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. For more information click here.**

Where To Sign Your Painting

Where you sign your artwork is often a personal preference. Some artists sign on the front.

Others prefer to sign on the back so as not to interfere with the aesthetic of the piece. Some artists don’t sign their work at all.

Traditionally, the signature is placed in the lower left corner on the front of the work. This is where a collector or buyer will look first for the signature.

Some artists incorporate their signature into the painting, hiding it in a bush or tree so it doesn’t interfere with the painting.

Where to sign often depends on the subject matter and type of work.

If you are not sure where to place your signature, sign a piece of transparent paper such as tracing paper. Use this to place over various areas of your artwork to give you some ideas about placement and size.

Pinterest pin with a picture of an acrylic painting of a girls legs sticking out of a car window. The text reads how to sign your artwork.
Pin for Later

There is no hard and fast rule as long as the signature doesn’t detract from the painting.

People have asked me if they should sign their painting before making prints and sometimes a buyer will request you not sign your work. I always sign! And I always sign before making prints.

Your signature is part of your artwork. Your painting should never be anonymous. A signature will help deter theft, give you proper attribution and get your name out there as an artist.

Two Important Points to Remember!

1.Sign before you varnish your painting. The varnish will protect your signature as well as the painting. See my post on varnishing your painting.

2. Make allowances for matting and framing. You don’t want your signature hidden behind a mat.

What Do You Use To Sign Your Artwork?

The best thing to use to sign your artwork is whatever medium you used in your piece. For example, an acrylic painting can be signed with some thinned acrylic paint and a script liner brush.

For a graphite drawing, use a graphite pencil.

It is not always possible or desirable to use the same medium. There are other things you can use to sign your work.

Sakura Pigma Micron pen is a good choice. It has a fine tip and is archival and acid free. You can also get it in various colors.

A paint pen such as the Montana Acrylic Paint marker is also a good choice. The Pentel Sign Pen is also a good pen to sign your work with.

red package containing 10 micron pens
Micron Pens on Amazon
two paint pens with clear casing
Montana Paint Pen on Amazon
black brush marker
Pentel Sign Pen on Amazon

For oil paintings, a lot of artists just use the end of a small brush or a stylus to scratch their signature into the wet paint.

This works best if there is a dry ground layer underneath the wet paint.

If you are concerned about your signature smudging when you varnish your painting, you can lightly spray it with a spray varnish depending on the medium you are using. In most cases it isn’t a problem but you can always test on a piece of scrap paper or canvas.

Whatever you use, make sure it is archival so your signature doesn’t fade over time.

Painting by Claude Monet of a Japanese bridge over a river of waterlilies with artists signature in lower left corner
Claude Monet The Japanese Footbridge 1899 Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

How to Write Your Signature

Some people have beautiful handwriting that translates well to a signature on their artwork. Other people not so much.

I have Parkinson’s so my signature is very hit or miss depending on how bad my tremors are at the time. However, there are workarounds that can get you a pretty good signature every time.

First, you have to decide on what you want to use for your signature. You can use your full name, initials, first initial and last name or even your logo.

I use my first name and last initial, MarilynO. Whatever you choose to use make sure it is legible.

If you want to use a specific style in your signature, you can check out some fonts online. There are a lot of sites with free fonts you can download and keep for future use.

1001 Fonts is a good place to start. Find a font you like and practice writing your name with it.

You can also print out your name using the font you like and use transfer paper to transfer it to your artwork. Then go over it with your paint or archival pen.

I use a watercolor pencil to first sign my acrylic paintings. Then I go over it with my paint or pen.

It works well because the pencil is water soluble and can be removed with water and redone until you are satisfied.

If you want to have your signature on a nice straight line, use a ruler and a piece of chalk or watercolor pencil to draw a straight line. Then you can sign your work on the line and rub the line out afterwards.

banner ad for dickblick.com

Signature on the Back of Your Artwork

You can also sign the back of your work. The back is also a good place to add the title, date, medium used and any other information you would like to add about the piece.

You can add the subjects name if it is a portrait, where the scene is if you are doing a landscape, or where the inspiration for the piece came from. This is all nice to have for future reference.

Where to Sign Your Art Prints

Prints are usually signed on the border of the print in pencil or ink. If it is a limited edition print, the number of the print is also included.

For example 1/25 means print number 1 of 25.

Some artists sign the back of the print and some don’t sign it at all. Sometimes the buyer will request that you sign your print in a certain area.

Pinterest pin with teal boarder and a black fountain pen signing paper with blue ink

Signing Sketchbooks

You should also sign and date sketches in your sketchbooks. This information might be valuable to you later on in your art journey.

You can see how far your artwork has progressed and where your inspiration for particular pieces came from by going back through your old sketchbooks.

You never know if someday these sketches will be sold. For more information about sketchbooks, read my post on How To Start a Sketchbook.

However you decide to sign your artwork be consistent.

Over time your signature becomes part of your brand and easily identifiable with you. It is an extension of your artwork and the finishing touch on your painting.

If you have an interesting way of signing your art or have any other ideas or questions, I would love to hear them in the comments below.

Don’t forget to check out our free facebook group, Trembeling Art Creative Corner, for more tips and meet some wonderful artists from beginners to professionals. A great place to show off your artwork and get your questions answered. 😊

Thanks for reading.

Digital signature Marilyn with butterfly

About The Author

66 thoughts on “How To Sign Your Artwork Like A Pro”

  1. Rosalie Rhodes

    Something female artists should seriously consider- the use of their maiden name as their signature. Because of tradition, divorce, and deaths, our names are subject to change- maybe once or many times. So keep in mind, your maiden name is yours and yours alone, and it can follow you throughout your career. Honestly, It took me 50 years to realize this !

  2. Excellent article. I have Alzheimer’s and forgot how I sign the painting. I also have a lot of trouble knowing when my painting is finished. Do you have any suggestions on how to tell when a painting is finished? I always do the signature on the back with a bit about what I am trying to paint. I put a large signature on the top of my easel so I remember what it is supposed to look like. It is just a first initial with a stylized dot.

  3. I too am an artist with Parkinson’s so thanks for the info. Iused to have great penmanship but it has gone downhill so I am just using my first initial and my last name.

  4. I am currently doing abstract pictures which are matte black background and satin black images. I can’t figure out how to sign it without it standing out like a sore thumb. I’ve tried metallic gold, but again, it REALLY stands out. I guess for these particular pictures I’ll just have to sign on the back, unless anyone has a suggestion. I thought about stencilling my initials in black satin paint so it shows up against the black matte background… 🤷🏻‍♀️

  5. Hi Marilyn
    I commend you – firstly, for your excellent article that I found most informative and comprehensive, and also for dedicating your art to help those with Parkinson’s.
    I agree with all the reasons you provide for artists to sign their works. Other reasons include signifying to yourself that the work is complete, giving yourself recognition for that, and honouring the work in the process.

  6. I would think that waterproof india ink would be a good choice. If I try it I’ll post the results. I haven’t decided how to sign. I’ve been using the name of my art studio on my business card for years and have definitely considered it to sign paintings but I also want my given name out there too. Maybe a smaller version of my logo and first initial last name? How much is too much?

  7. What about initials with an icon. I sign my work in a box with my first and last initial along with a small iconic shape that I relate to my work. Is that acceptable or would it be better for me to sign my name? My medium is watercolor.

    1. Hi Becky,
      Consistency is more important than how you sign. Over time people will immediately recognize that signature as yours and it will be unique to you.😊

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top