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.
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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 to not interfere with the piece’s aesthetic. Some artists don’t sign their work at all.
Traditionally, the signature is placed in the lower left corner of 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 unsure 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.
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?
Use whatever medium you used in your piece to sign your artwork. For example, an acrylic painting can be signed with thinned 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.
For oil paintings, many artists use the end of a small brush or a stylus to scratch their signature into the wet paint.
This works best with 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 your medium. In most cases, it isn’t a problem, but you can always test on a piece of scrap paper or canvas.
Whatever you use, ensure it is archival so your signature doesn’t fade over time.
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, some workarounds can get you a pretty good signature every time.
First, you must decide 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.
You can check out some fonts online if you want to use a specific style in your signature. 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.
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 subject’s 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.
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.