Creating a Transparent Signature Stamp

Attorneys and other legal professionals have discovered that they can scan their scan their signature and easily turn it into an Acrobat stamp.

The resulting stamp, however, has a white background.

When stamped on top of documents, the results are not visually pleasing:

To create a transparent stamp, you must “feed” Acrobat a file with transparency capabilities such as a GIF or Photoshop PDF.

Read on to learn how . . .

Transparent Formats and Transparency

Only certain graphic file formats offer transparency as an option. One example is the GIF format.

Although some scanning software can produce a GIF, none that I know of automatically remove the white background to produce transparency.

In other words, just because you have a GIF file doesn’t mean it has transparency.

You’ll need to use a tool to remove the background to produce the transparent effect.

Using an Image Editor to Delete the Background

Most image editors—including Adobe Photoshop—offer tools to remove backgrounds. In Photoshop, the Magic Wand tool may be used to remove backgrounds. After removing the background, choose Save As and save the file as a Photoshop PDF which preserves transparency.

If you use a different image editor, use the appropriate tool and save your file as a GIF.

If you have Photoshop, you can get very good results with this method. You can add all sorts of tweaks and flourishes to your signature like a little heart above the lowercase “I”.  That will make your court filings really special. Just kidding!

If you want the best possible results with a color signature, I recommend using an image editor which allows the finest possible adjustments.

An Easier Way: Good for most Legal Customers

Not many legal professionals are Photoshop users, but most have Microsoft Word.

Using Word, you can get decent results and a transparent background with black and white scans.

Here’s how:

  1. Write your signature at the size needed on thick white paper. Use a marker-type pen such as a Sharpie Ultra Fine Point.
  2. Scan in the signature at 300 dpi, black and white. Save the file as a TIFF file.
  3. Start Microsoft Word and create a new document.
  4. In Word 2003 Choose Insert>Picture>From File…
    In Word 2010, click the Insert ribbon, then the Picture button
  5. Find the TIFF image you scanned earlier.
    This will place the image on the page.Alternately, you scan your signature to PDF, and use the Snapshot tool in Acrobat to place the image on the clipboard, then paste into Word.
  6. Select the image by clicking on it once.
  7. The next step will vary depending on the version of Word you use:

    For Word 2003 . . .
    Right-click and choose Show Picture Toolbar

    In Word 2010…
    Double-click the picture to access the Format ribbon, then choose the Color group:

  8. Click the Set Transparent Color tool
  9. Click once anywhere in the white area of the signature picture.
  10. Save the Word document.
  11. Choose File>Print and print your file to the AdobePDF print driver. Give the file a name when prompted.

Adding the Stamp to Acrobat

For complete step-by-step instructions, consult my article Creating a Custom Stamp.

Below are abbreviated instructions.

  1. Launch Acrobat and choose View–>Toolbars–>Commenting
  2. On the Commenting palette, click on the arrow next to the Stamp button.
  3. Choose Create Custom Stamp and click the browse button to find the PDF stamp you created.
  4. Create a new category for the stamp (or use an existing one) and give it a name. Click the OK button.

Final Thoughts

One thing to consider is the use of your signature in the digital realm.

The Digital Signature Act does not specify what constitutes a valid, digital signature. They leave that up to the courts. From what I understand, signature validity and repudiation issues only occasionally come up in contract disputes. Disagreement on terms and performance is far more likely.

If you normally use a signature stamp in your practice, and are comfortable with that, then an Acrobat signature stamp can be used in the same way.

Some parties may not accept a signature stamp, but my experience has been that most receiving parties either never check or don’t know how to check.

Last week, while traveling, I received a $5000 banquet contract from a hotel in Word format. I converted the file to PDF and stamped it with my signature. It was without any questions.

When sending a PDF with a signature stamp, I usually “flatten” the PDF by printing it to the Adobe PDF print driver.

I also add simple usage restriction security to prevent copying the signature from the document.

These methods aren’t foolproof, but I do feel better using them.

(Updated)

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