The Artist’s Guide on How to Sign a Painting

In order to be known and to branch out your social network, an artist must know how to sign a painting. Are there special steps to take into consideration? What are the things to remember when signing a painting? Take note of these steps and your pieces will be signed to perfection!

Get into the habit of signing all of your work – even doodles or experiments!


As noted by ArtBusiness.comyour signature identifies your art for all time as having been created, completed and approved of by you and you alone (with the exception of collaborative works, of course).

When someone wants to know who created your art, your signature tells them. When someone sees your art for the first time and wants to know who the artist is so that they can see more or learn more, your signature helps them find you. When you’re not around to identify your art (and sooner or later you won’t be), your signature identifies it for you.”

Plenty of artists don’t bother to sign their work

A significant percentage of artists these days don’t even bother to sign their art. Think about it – do you sign your art? If not, then why not? Is it a lack of belief in yourself? Is it too much of a hassle? Can you not decide on a signature? Are you mostly digital and therefore use a watermark?

good example of a signature
Picasso’s signature

Even if you display your work online and have a watermark, you should always sign your art. If you are a digital painter, you should either upload your written signature and use it on all your work or create a digital signature. Notice how easy it is to read Picasso’s signature!

How to sign a painting: just make it readable & complete


Often artists get into the habit of signing their work with their usual signature. The one that they use for checks, statements, and other official documents. And most people, their go to signature is little more than a scribble. Therefore using it is not a good idea unless a) your usual signature is extremely legible and contains at least your full last name or b) you print your name on your work in addition to signing it.

Develop a clear signature just for your paintings

No one wants to have a printed name on their art; however, so I recommend you steer clear of this. Instead, get into the habit of signing your full and complete name so that its readable. Anyone should be able to look at your signature and within a few seconds, come up with your name.

how to sign a painting properlyIf you really don’t want to because you like your usual signature because of aesthetics or simply habit, you don’t necessarily have to sign legibly on the front of the art. In that case, just make sure that you clearly sign or otherwise label or identify your art as being by you anywhere else on the piece. For example, you can sign legibly or print your name on the back of the canvas.

Illegible signatures become impractical and annoying

There’s so many cases where only people that already know the artist can identify the signature. This is simply because they know who the artist is, they recognize the artist’s  work or they already know what the signature looks like but they can’t actually read the signature.

Why is it important to know how to sign a painting?  Because you want to receive credit for the painting, many buyers highly appreciate knowing who the artist is and your art will inevitably loose ties to you generations down the road, especially if it is sold. For an example of what wouldn’t be suitable for a painter, check out Michael Jackson’s signature.

poor example of a signature
Michael Jackson’s signature

Come up with a pseudoname if you want to remain anonymous

If you are an artist who wishes to remain anonymous, then you can either refrain from signing your work all together or come up with a pseudoname. I highly recommend a pseudoname because your works will be associated with an artist as well as with eachother.

This is extremely advantageous for 2 reasons. First of all, if you ever change your mind and decide that you do in fact want to be associated with your artwork again, you can simply reveal yourself as the artist behind the pseudoname. Secondly, many avid art fans who fall in love with a piece like to seek out other pieces by the same author. Having a pseudoname connecting all your work makes this easy!

Quick list of pointers on artistic signing


  • Keep your signature small compared to the overall work
  • Sign and date with whatever you painted with as soon as you are finished to guarantee authenticity and add style; it is most difficult to forge a signature “embedded” in the work and it will blend with the piece rather than sticking out unnaturally
  • Always date your art for potential future study and also remember that art increases with value as it increases in age!
  • Refrain from signing with initials or symbols or signs unless you consider that part of your artistic persona, in which case sign legibly elsewhere or add a legible signature to whatever you’re currently using
  • In fact – if you don’t yet have something, you may want to consider adding a symbol or something to your signature to differentiate you and create a brand for yourself
  • Some artists add fingerprints or stamps to their work in addition to a traditional signature
  • If you are in love with your current way of signing and it’s not legible, sign legibly on the back of your canvas
  • Sign all work consistently in at least one aspect; I recommend choosing one location and always signing your full name legibly there and then varying symbols, etc. depending on which collection you’re in or which media you’re working with

If you have anything else you would like to add or think that should be taken note of, please don’t hesitate to leave us a comment below!

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