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The Difference Between Wet, Typed, Stamped & Digital Signatures

by Marta Calsina

You can also read this article in German, Spanish, French, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese and Russian.

Here, we walk you through the different types of signatures, their characteristics, and when it’s best to use them.

Companies and individuals nowadays are opting for tools that allow quicker contract signing and more efficient workflows. Electronic signature solutions have evolved over the last few years and are now widely used to sign contracts in many industries or even for general admin purposes. But, in some cases, wet, typed, and stamped signatures are also still in use. Here, we delve into the different signatures used today and what they’re used for.

What Types of Signatures Are There?

Wet signatures: But first, let’s get back to the traditional method of signing an agreement or contract, which is widely known as the wet signature. It’s also called an ink signature and involves a person physically placing a signature or a distinct mark on a document, usually by using a pen or a stamp on a paper document.

Stamped signatures: Similarly, stamped signatures involve an individual placing a stamp on a paper document, which is personalized with its own distinct mark.

Electronic signatures: The term "electronic signature" is a generic expression referring to all the methods to sign (or validate) an electronic document or identify a person. It doesn’t use a digital certificate to validate the identity of the signee and it can comprise a typed name, initials, an image, or reproduction of a handwritten signature. This signature is accepted for almost any type of agreement.

Typed signatures: Similarly, a typed signature involves an electronic process, which usually consists of a symbol that is associated with a physical person in order to record a contract. Both typed and electronic signatures reveal the intent by the signee to sign the document. However, they don’t carry any authentication process that verifies the signee or secures the document. For a signature to be considered secured, it must meet certain requirements as with digital signatures.

Digital signatures: The digital signature goes a step further and adds integrity to the electronic signature, providing enhanced security and compliance. The digital signature uses a certificate of authority, which guarantees the authenticity and validity of the signee. This document stores all the information related to the identification of the signee through encryption and hence provides authentication.

Smallpdf’s eSign digital signature, for example, provides a Simple Electronic Signature embedded with an LTV (Long-Term Validation) timestamp, which records the time and date of the signature’s placement on the document. The digital signature also contains embedded information, including the name of the signee, validity of their identity, and of the signature itself. It also contains the time of signing and can prove whether a document has been modified since then. In order for the digital signature to remain valid, the document’s content cannot be changed.

All these verification and authentication properties can be viewed with most PDF readers.

When Is It Best To Use These Types of Signatures?

The use of any of the signatures explained above is up to the discretion of the people involved. However, wet or physical signatures are likely to slow processes down due to their dependence on physical processes. While it takes about 37 minutes to get a digital or electronic signature on a document, it takes on average five days to get a physical document signed. With contract management, time really is money, with the average saving per digital document compared to paper documents being $20.

Today, just about every type of transaction is moving online, which is pushing electronic signatures to become the norm. When it comes to electronic and digital signatures, keep in mind that both are safe and secure. While digital signatures imply rigorous data encryption mechanisms, electronic signatures are still secure and legally binding, and represent an efficient and straightforward option for more simple agreements. If you need to sign documents with more sensitive information or comply with strict regulations, the digital signature is the go-to option.

Our recommendation before anything else is to check in with the existing local laws in your area and those of the other parties (if needed) in regards to legality of electronic and digital signatures. If you need to use a secure digital signature, you can sign up for a 7-day free trial. You’ll get access to all our Pro features, create and store your signatures online, and invite up to 100 signees to sign documents!

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Marta Calsina
Digital marketing