How to sign your art so people can actually read it

By Nicole Tinkham

Signing your artwork takes much more thought and consideration than scribbling half your name on a receipt. Let’s be honest, most of our signatures don’t even resemble our name at all. However, an artist signature may be more important than you think.  For starters, you want art enthusiasts to be able to distinguish your work from others. Plus having a signature on your piece comes in handy if any copyright issues arise. And if you’re trying to get into a gallery or sell to a collector, an artist signature is a must. But beware! You’ll have to craft your signature just right. Anything too crazy can distract from your artwork and if it’s unreadable, anyone can claim that they created it. There seems to be a science behind the perfect artist signature but don’t worry, we’ve got a ton of tips – 25 to be exact – that can help you figure it out.

1.    Keep it SIMPLE! As creative thinkers we often go above and beyond but this is one area where you’ll want to keep it as simple as possible.

2.    It must be readable. If it can’t be read by a stranger, it shouldn’t be on your work at all.

3.    Keep your signature consistent over time so it’s recognizable.

4.    It doesn’t matter where you sign it. You’ll tend to see artist signatures in the bottom corner but they can be signed anywhere, even the back.

5.    Stay away from initials; they’re more difficult to identify.

6.    Dating your work shows your progression over time but isn’t necessary.

7.    If your name is fairly common, you may be confused with another artist. You can always change your artist name but things could get complicated if your banking name differs (for payment reasons). Think long and hard about this before making a decision.

8.    Your artist signature shouldn’t be too difficult as you’ll want it to be consistent on all pieces.

9.    Determine whether your artist signature will be in the same position on all artwork or if it’ll change depending on the piece.

10.    Ask yourself if you want the signature to be obvious or tucked away within the work.

11.    Sign your artwork in the same medium in which you used to create it.

12.    Sign a painting before glazing or applying varnish.

13.    Sign artwork before framing.

14.    Choose a color for the signature that will work well with the artwork.

15.    If you have several different pieces within one project, sign each one in case of separation. Note: you may want to sign on the back in this case. You can also number each panel to indicate that they belong to a larger piece.

16.    If doing a signature on a watercolor piece, use a script brush.

17.    When signing pastel: Use pastel pencil, colored pencil, or soft pencil.

18.    Allow room for the mat BEFORE you sign.

19.    Double check everything before spraying the final coat of fixative on the work.

20.    Include additional information such as a title, comment, or location.

21.    Embed your signature into the artwork by signing as close to completion as possible. You can do this by adding your signature to the piece while it’s still drying. This makes your signature harder to duplicate.

22.    Stay away from scratching your signature into the painting. This technique doesn’t blend well with most pieces.

23.    You can use a monogram (overlapping letters) or a symbol as a way to sign your work. Only those who know you will know what it means.

24.    Signature placement should work with the painting, not against it.

25.    Put thought into it. First ask yourself if the piece is finished. Consider all of your options when it comes to your artist signature.

You thought an artist signature was the part you had to worry about least, didn’t you? You most likely put little thought or consideration into it and just threw your name on your work last minute, right? While you don’t have to follow these 25 tips exactly, we encourage you to do two things. First off include your signature somewhere in your piece. Second, make it readable. Make it clear so people can identify you. Easy as that!

Do you always sign your artwork? If not, what’s your reasoning behind it? Please explain in the comments below of over on our Facebook page!

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