How to add eSignatures to PDF and sign PDF documents online

How to add eSignatures to PDF and sign PDF documents online

Organizations and remote workers often go through a lot of manual steps to get a signature from clients, vendors, and other associates on agreements and contracts.

One common method is to send an email with a PDF agreement attached. The customer prints and signs it, scans or photographs it, creates a new PDF, and emails it back. This process can take days, and that’s if things go right.

If you need to make changes, the whole process has to start over again. Companies spend an incredible amount of time and money on document creation and management. It’s a lot — especially for a process that would take a few minutes in person. Worse, this series of steps offers many opportunities for error:

  • Did you attach the right PDF document? 
  • Does the customer have the capability to create a new PDF file? 
  • Do they have a PDF reader?
  • Is the email secure?
  • Did the vendor sign in all the right places?

The good news is that it’s easy to learn how to add a signature to PDF files without all the back and forth. Creating and collecting eSignatures may seem complicated, but don’t worry — you’ll be up to speed in no time. 

Today, we’ll take a look at two methods for getting an eSignature: Adobe Reader DC and PandaDoc.

What is an eSignature?

Adobe offers a great explanation of eSignatures and their purpose:

“An eSignature or electronic signature is a legal way to get consent or approval on electronic documents or forms. It can replace a handwritten signature in virtually any process.”

In other words, an eSignature is precisely what it sounds like: an electronic signature. In many cases, an eSignature is just as legally binding as a handwritten signature. 

You can obtain eSignatures through email and other online delivery methods or in-person with a mobile device. 

Why use eSignatures?

There are many reasons you might want to use eSignatures, but the main reason for most people is to have the ability to conduct business remotely. In today’s business climate, it’s normal for people to work across the country from one another or have business contacts worldwide.

eSignatures eliminate the need to mail documents to be signed and wait for them to come back. As soon as you have the eSignature, you can move forward.

eSignature software can be a convenient way to handle any agreement between multiple partners, including personal contracts. Any time you think it would be a good idea to get something on paper that shows you and someone else agrees to the terms of a deal, eSignature software makes it easy to get signatures in place. 

How to use Adobe for digital signatures

When you think about PDFs, Adobe is probably the first company that comes to mind. After all, Adobe co-founder John Warnock and his team were the first to create the new “portable document file” format in the early 1990s. The team’s goal was to develop a document type that anyone could view from virtually any operating system.

Adobe and PDF go hand-in-hand. Millions of computer users now use Adobe products to view, create, and manage PDFs each day. So, it’s not surprising that Adobe has focused resources on adding digital signature capabilities that work with its accessible file format.

Working with Adobe’s PDF signature features is relatively straightforward, but there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

How to add signatures to PDF with Adobe Acrobat Reader DC

While Adobe allows users to create digital signatures with several of its software programs, Adobe Reader DC (document cloud) is the most common.

Steps for signing a PDF using Adobe Reader DC

1. Open the PDF document or form.


2. Click the sign icon in the toolbar or use the Tools menu and select “Fill & Sign.” You can also choose Fill & Sign from the right pane.


3. After you click Fill & Sign, Adobe Reader DC detects the form fields automatically. When you hover your mouse over a field, you’ll see a blue box.


4. Click anywhere in the blue box, and the cursor will drop into the right position.


5. Type your text to display it in the field.


6. Click on each field to add your signature.

Signature options

When you sign for the first time, you can decide how you’d like to create and display your signature when you sign documents:

  • Type: Choose from various signature styles in the Change Style menu.
  • Draw: Draw your signature with your mouse or trackpad.
  • Image: Upload an image of your signature from your computer.
  • Save Signature: Add a signature to your Adobe account so it will be available to choose the next time.

Creating an image of your signature

To create a signature image:

  1. Sign your name in black ink in the center of a white sheet of paper.
  2. Photograph or scan the page. Avoid shadows.
  3. Transfer the image to your computer. Adobe can handle various image file types: JPG, JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, TIF, and BMP. 

Once you eSign the PDF and save it, the signature and optional text become part of the PDF.

How to collect an eSignature with Acrobat Sign

When you need to have someone sign a PDF, you’ll be configuring the Fill and Sign tool for them to use. These services are part of the Adobe Sign service.

With Adobe Sign, signers do not need to download any products. They can simply sign from any web browser or mobile device. The process for preparing a PDF for signing is straightforward:

  1. Open the PDF file in Acrobat DC.
  2. Click the Fill & Sign tool.
  3. Add a recipient email and an optional custom message. 
  4. Click Next.
  5. Create form and signature fields. 
  6. Click Send. 

At this point, Adobe sends an email to the signer. Once the document is signed, you and the signer will receive the signed PDF by email. You can track this process in Acrobat Reader DC or Acrobat DC from the Home menu by clicking For signature. Your copy of the PDF will be stored in Adobe DC. 

Adobe signature validation

To ensure your PDF is signed by the right person, it’s a good idea to use validation. Adobe allows the signer of a document to validate their identity with an encrypted certificate signature used to verify digital signatures. As you receive certificates from signers, their certificates are saved in a list of trusted identities. This way, you can validate the signatures against the list when you receive additional documents from them. 

Adobe eSignature benefits

Adobe is a popular choice for eSignature software because it’s universally recognizable and has a large corporate presence. The public perception is that Adobe is a trustworthy, tech-savvy player.

Remember, too, that Adobe was a pioneer in the evolution of the PDF file format. The company has always focused on creating files that can be used on different devices. PDFs can be viewed, signed, saved, and created on any Mac or Windows operating system and many Linux systems.

On the other hand, Adobe can become costly to use if you need more advanced functions. The company offers a wide range of memberships, software downloads, and cloud-based services, however, so you can compare the options and purchase exactly what you need without a lot of unnecessary extras.

How to use PandaDoc for digital signatures

The PandaDoc platform is also ideal for electronic signature services. It can help your Sales, HR, and Legal teams close deals, stay compliant with industry regulations and handle complex agreements — no matter where the parties are located.

How to eSign with PandaDoc

Like Adobe, PandaDoc allows users to choose the way they’d like to sign PDFs. Users can use their mouse or trackpad to draw a signature, upload a JPG, PNG, or GIF image file, or type in their name in one of six formatting styles.

Steps for signing a PDF with PandaDoc

  1. Open the email from PandaDoc.
  2. Click Open the Document.
  3. Review the document using the black bar at the bottom to work through the fields that require your input. 
  4. When you’ve filled in all the fields, a Finalize Document button will appear at the bottom of the screen. Click this button to verify that your eSignature is valid and legal. 
  5. The document is now considered complete unless you need to wait for additional parties’ input and signatures. 
  6. PandaDoc will send you an email notification when all parties complete the document. 

How to collect an eSignature with PandaDoc

PandaDoc, like Adobe, allows signers to complete their signatures free from downloads or subscription charges. Signers can sign the PDF from any web browser or mobile device. The PandaDoc process for preparing a PDF for signatures is similar to the Adobe Sign method, but not identical.

First, you’ll need to create a document with the PandaDoc Classic Editor. You have several document creation choices, including:

  • Templates
  • Editable documents
  • DOCX conversions
  • Uploads
  • Custom design services

You’ll want to select the editable document option, work with a template with signature fields, or reach out to the PandaDoc design team to create a custom document that meets your needs.

Once you’ve created an editable document with signature fields, you can move on to the next steps.

  1. Navigate to the document from the Documents menu.
  2. Click the blue Send button on the right panel.
  3. Check the recipients.
  4. Adjust document expiration settings as needed.
  5. Create an email subject.
  6. Add an email message to the recipient.
  7. Click Send.

Once you’ve sent the document, you’ll get a confirmation popup with a link to view document analytics and activity.

PandaDoc signature validation

PandaDoc uses built-in eSignature software technology that is E-SIGN and UETA compliant. Users can add additional security benefits by protecting PDFs with access codes.

PandaDoc validates signatures with signature certificates that verify the signing event. This way, you can track who opened and signed the document. The verification is shown on the last page of the PDF file when you download a completed document.

The PandaDoc signature certificate includes the following information:

  • Document reference number
  • Recipient name
  • Signatures and initials
  • Verified email address 
  • IP address
  • Date/time stamp

PandaDoc eSignature benefits

PandaDoc allows users to complete legally-binding agreements and contracts with ease. The service also provides unique analytical elements that allow you to do more with documents without a considerable cost commitment. You can opt to receive notifications that tell you when a signer opens, views, comments on, or e-signs your document, for example.

PandaDoc offers over 450+ templates to help your business make an impression. Users can increase closings by almost 30% and decrease the time spent on document creation by 65%. 

PandaDoc also makes it simple to get signatures in person on your mobile device. This is a handy feature in today’s increasingly paperless world. As you negotiate with a client in person, you can adjust your agreement’s terms on the spot and immediately handle signatures when the deal’s done.

To learn more about PandaDoc, sign up for a free trial. See how it can keep your documents moving as your enterprise grows.


Parties other than PandaDoc may provide products, services, recommendations, or views on PandaDoc’s site (“Third Party Materials”). PandaDoc is not responsible for examining or evaluating such Third Party Materials, and does not provide any warranties relating to the Third Party Materials. Links to such Third Party Materials are for your convenience and does not constitute an endorsement of such Third Party Materials.

Yauhen is the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, proposal, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year.

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