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What to Know About Wet Signatures

For centuries a handwritten signature was the de facto standard when it came to verifying and authenticating important pieces of paper. That’s largely not the case today. As digital and electronic signatures have gained ground and helped transform modern enterprises, handwritten, or wet signatures aren’t nearly as prevalent as they once were.

Lightning-fast adoption of technology, coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent rise of remote work, hastened the transformation from wet signatures to electronic or digital signatures. There are still cases, however, where wet signatures are required on documents. Here’s everything you need to know about wet signatures — what they are, when to use a wet ink signature, how to put the signatures in PDFs — and how productivity platforms like Nitro Sign can help make your operational processes more efficient.

What is a wet signature?

John Hancock, autograph, signing on the dotted line — anytime you put pen to paper to sign a document, you’re using a wet signature, or a wet ink signature. The term came from “waiting for the ink” to dry on the paper. A wet signature doesn’t necessarily have to be a signed name, however. Wet signatures can include initials, an “X,” a stamped symbol, an inked thumbprint, or some other physical form of signature.

In fact, the Uniform Commercial Code, or UCC, which governs all commercial transactions in the United States, states: “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.”

How to create a wet signature

A wet signature requires some type of pen, usually filled with black ink, or a stamp with your initials, signature, or other approved seal. To create a wet ink signature simply sign a printed or photocopied document in cursive, initial, or stamp the document in the designated spaces.

Adding a wet signature to a PDF

You can, however, transfer wet signatures to a PDF if a document allows. When using Nitro Sign here’s how you’ll add your wet signature to the form or document:

  • Choose the document you want to sign.
  • Open your document in Nitro. 
  • Select Home and click the Quick Sign icon on the top toolbar. From there, you’ll have a few ways to add a signature: 

    • The Handwritten option allows you to type your name and generate a handwritten signature in the document. 
    • From File gives you the ability to upload a wet signature from a scanned-in image or a jpeg file. 
    • If you choose Draw, you’ll be able essentially eSign the document using the cursor. 
    • WebCam uses your computer’s camera to take a photo of your wet ink signature.
  • Once you’ve created your signature, select OK.
  • Place your signature on the document line, resize as necessary, and select Apply.
  • Send your document to other signees where applicable.  

These step-by-step instructions will be similar if you’re using other PDF readers or fillable electronic forms.

Wet signature requirements

In general, the type of document and instructions from the other entity will dictate whether or not you’ll use a wet ink signature. While digital electronic signatures have become a common way of signing documents, particularly in modern business enterprises, a wet signature is required in two main instances:

  • You’ll use a wet signature if both parties don’t consent to electronic or digital signatures. 
  • Use a wet signature when mandated by law. For instance, court proceedings, evictions, adoptions, divorce and custody documents all require in-person wet ink signatures. A change in health and life insurance policies, such as a cancellation, also requires wet signatures, as do changes to wills and trusts. Hazardous material transport relies on wet ink signatures as well. 

Digital and electronic signatures vs. wet signature

An electronic signature, also called an eSignature, is widely used across industries ranging from medical and construction to retail and information technology. Digital signatures are a type of eSignatures that essentially secure a document by employing encryption techniques and security certificates.

An electronic signature can be an image, a symbol, fingerprint recognition, click of a box, verbal sound, PIN, or a typed name into a contract or agreement. Like their wet ink counterparts, eSignatures are legally binding. In 2000, the federal United States Electronic Signature in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act established electronic signature guidance, which remains the standard today. Similar in guidance and regulation to ESIGN, a 1999 Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA) sets out eSignature standards that fall under a state-by-state purview. Forty-seven states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands adopted UETA.

How Pacific National simplified workflows with electronic signatures

Headquartered in Sydney, Australia, logistics company Pacific National sought a cost-effective solution that gave all of the 3,500-plus workers the PDF productivity tools and eSignature capabilities. Before making the switch to Nitro PDF Pro in 2014, more than 85% of Pacific National’s knowledge workers were printing out papers to physically sign and share — a huge waste of efficiency and a drain on workflow.

Pacific National’s employees work from more than 90 sites nationwide, and the challenge was finding a solution that better integrated with the Citrix desktop software platform. The monumental task of implementing new eSign processes required plenty of collaboration with Nitro’s Success Team to execute a smooth transition. The Nitro PDF Pro solution fit into the company’s existing enterprise software framework, and today every user and device comes equipped with Nitro’s eSign and PDF platform.

Read more about how Pacific National made the switch to extend Nitro licenses to its thousands of employees across Australia.

Discover how McConnell Dowell saved money with Nitro Sign

In late 2020, McConnell Dowell was looking for a way to cut exorbitant licensing fees while reducing both printing and photocopying costs throughout the business. The Victoria, Australia-based creative construction company has more than 2,500 employees and builds iconic landmark assets, facilities, and infrastructure around the world. To facilitate greater global collaboration and more easily execute signed contracts, McConnell Dowell employees needed an enterprise software solution that was cost-efficient and easy to use.

When making the switch from Adobe to Nitro, the McConnell Dowell IT department worked closely with Nitro’s team to identify cases throughout the construction company that would benefit from the unlimited eSigning solution, thus reducing the need for costly printing. In its first year, McConnell Dowell cut its licensing and printing costs by up to 50%.

Read more about how McConnell Dowell saved big by making the switch to Nitro.

How Nitro can reduce the need for wet signatures

While wet signatures will still be used in certain instances, eSignatures can significantly reduce your paper costs, make your company’s workflows run more seamlessly, and give you and your employees the ability to create eSignatures from any device.

Are you ready to take the first steps toward end-to-end digital document transformation in your own enterprise? Whether you’re an individual, a small business, a national chain, or a global entity, you can reap the benefits and efficiencies of moving toward paperless, digital tools and eSigning capabilities. Nitro Productivity Platform bundles Nitro PDF Pro and Nitro Sign Essentials to give you a powerful combination of PDF productivity and unlimited eSigning.

Take the first steps today by contacting Nitro to learn more about unlocking the potential of your document stack while increasing your company’s ROI and securing your most critical documents.

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