sign artDo you sign all of your art? Many artists decide to not sign artworks because they think it interferes with the composition. I have been guilty of this myself. I did not autograph a couple paintings produced during my early years as an artist.

I certainly wish I had signed them!


Unless the individuals can remember I painted those artworks, or they wrote my name on the back themselves, I will forever be forgotten as the artist.

“I wish I knew then, what I know now”, as the saying goes!

In recent years, I have been signing my artworks on the back. But, with my current unseen collection, I will be focusing more on having a signature on the front.

Here are some general rules and guidelines of artwork signature signing that I am being guided by.


Rules and Guidelines for Signing Art


  • I will be making my signature the same for all my drawings, paintings, or prints, so that others will eventually come to recognize that I completed a particular artwork just by looking at my distinctly styled signature.


  • I created an autograph that was not too eye-catching, since it could possibly distract from the artwork.


  • My signature is easy to read. If my name could be identifiable, then I would have simply defeated the whole purpose of having an artist autograph in the first place. If you are an artist who prefers to use initials on the front, it will be a good idea to include your full signature on the back of the artwork.


  • I made sure not to sign too close to the edge. When my paintings and drawings are eventually framed, my signature will not be hidden by being too close to the border. I also find that I have to crop some images slightly when photographing art for prints and display on the web. To account for this cropping, I needed to have my autograph a little further inside the composition.


  • I am signing my paintings immediately after I finish them, while the paint is still wet. This will ensure the tones are evenly matched, and the signature doesn’t stand out. Doing so will also make it very difficult for forgers to reproduce them.


  • I am using the same medium that I used for my artwork. This is very obvious. My signature for my oil paintings are done with oil paint, and my drawings – graphite.


signature man ray

Man Ray Signature


The Importance of Signing Your Artworks


Art buyers, critics, and the general public will eventually come to recognize you and your art by just viewing the signature.

If an artwork is sold without an autograph, others who see it will not automatically know the artist. Of course, someone may tell them, but they may forget unless they know you personally. But something that people can actually see (a signature) is much more easier to remember. Many times an artwork is resold without the seller actually informing the buyer who created it. So, signing the artwork would let anyone know that you are the artist, even 100 years from now.

signature leonardo da vinci Leonardo Da Vinci Signature


As an aside:

Total Freedom of Web Design!Nowadays, there are very unique and interesting ways to find out who completed an artwork, besides being identified by an expert. If the image appears elsewhere on the web under your artist profile, others may find out who completed it by using Google image search.


What about including the date on the front of the artwork? Do you do this? Do you think it is a good idea to include the time that the print, painting, drawing, etc. was created right on the front, next to the signature?

Please state your opinions below.

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  1. I may start dating them on the back it may be a few years between doing the piece and then reproducing it in prints, etc.I don't want people to think they are buying my "old" art. It is the nature of the business nowadays that we need to consider the print end of the market. Just like movies have to consider cable and DVD sales and there is a cycle they go through before they get there. I think I will go sign my latest on the front and write Title and date on the back.

  2. I absolutely agree with you about the signing of artwork in the front or for sculptures side or back. I went to an artwork exhibition last year and nearly all the artworks were signed on the back and I told them that they would regret it one day. Anyone can sign it on the back as we found out here in New Zealand. If signed on the back it would be up to the artist to have to prove that that particular artwork was created them. It also leaves the artwork open for copying and anyone can then claim the artwork as theirs. No signature, no claim of copyright. I also put the year in which I complete my sculptures and my mother does the same with her paintings. I have been a sculptor for over 30 years and have always signed and dated my sculptures, The original sculpture is signed in the clay. That is how people who have not heard of me find out about me right across the world. When I do Limited Editions the number of the edition is also added as well as a certificate of authenticity is given to the buyer. Also a collector when they have the picture on the wall one of the first things they do to show a visitor is accentuate the 'signature'. No one is going to pull a painting from the wall to turn it around to see who painted it.

  3. You are very right about that! Especially if it's a huge painting that is fastened to the wall. There would be no way of others knowing you did it.

    I think the main reason artists do not sign their artworks is because it can possibly ruin the composition, or so I've been told by my art school professors. I believed it for years and only signed mine on the back! Now I am realizing what a huge mistake it was.

    The fact is, paintings are not always in galleries, with a name and title card alongside. They almost always end up either in storage, or displayed on a wall somewhere. Where is the name card then?

    Thanks so much for explaining your side of this important topic!

  4. I've been painting for about 35 years and my signature has changed slightly, although I have always signed on the front, near the bottom in one corner or the other depending on the composition. I think it is important that your signature not interfere with the painting. It should be there, be recognizable as your signature, but not obtrusive. I've seen artists that sign large, in the most obvious spot and it detracts from the painting itself. I have been known to put my name in a sign or on a mailbox if it is appropriately part of the painting.

    I have a friend who paints abstracts that signs on the back so that the buyer can hang in the direction they like best. Her compositions are so good that they can hang in almost any position.

    I now sign my first initial and last name---MClements--because it's shorter and easier and it is not as neat and perfect as I used to make it. I used to sign almost like calligraphy--I was a 3rd grade teacher and it showed in my writing at that time. I used to date my paintings, but no longer do that for reasons listed above. Age shouldn't matter, but I think customers might wonder why it is still there. If it hasn't sold before, something must be wrong with it. Actually it might be one of my best paintings that has been hanging in my own home or something. I think it is good to keep a record of your paintings with date, medium, photo, who bought it from you--some history in a notebook or on your computer--I'm not good at that--but plan on being better about it this year.

  5. I always sign on the front. (It tells me I'M DONE!!) I also sometimes write the first name of the model and or where I painted it. If it's a landscape I may note where. I like the dates on paintings. I kind of look at my work as a story/history.

  6. I don't think I've been an artist very long until I look at some of the early work that I dated. An old date is definitely a barrier to sale while you are still working and evolving your style. So no, I no longer date my work.

  7. @Marsha Clements
    @TurtleCreek Art Glass
    Thanks for sharing your experiences, and opinions here concerning signing and dating art!

  8. I have a Wacom Tablet so I created a digital copy of my signature which I used with a © and the year. I recently took that file and created a transparent PNG file for use in Corel PSP Pro X3 as a "watermark." It is my signature, which is very unique. I do almost exclusively Digital Visual Art so this comes in handy.

  9. @Kirk Mathew Gatzka

    Thanks for sharing that Kirk! This is a very cool signing tip!

  10. On all of my paintings I have put my glyph made up of my first and last initials. I have also signed my watercolors in the border with the title, I have done the same in pencil at the bottom of the painting itself. I used to rely on the glyph, but, have seen the same image on work by other KW's. On my photos I had added a largish watermark, but, got tired of either saving a clean copy or photoshopping it out, so I now hide several watermarks 96 pixels wide in different spots. If I ever get to sell any I will sign them on the back.

  11. As I have a little name M Shaw I sign on the front and this fits almost anywhere. Use a colour used in the painting so it tones in. I then sign fully on the back Margaret Shaw, with date and Media.

  12. - I sign (first initial and last name: C Kaufman) and date (last 2 digits of year) on the front of the painting. Usually ends up in the bottom right hand corner.
    - On back of canvas: sign (full name), date (month-year), title and country I completed painting in. Sometimes I paint a quick sketch on back of painting.

    Pet peeve: Artists who sign their paintings with a felt pen.

  13. It must take a bit of practice to sign in the same medium you are working in. Maybe if I modify my signature it will look better in paint, but so far I just crap it up every time and then get a pencil out...but at least as I have jumped back into fine art this last year I recognized the importance of signing all my pieces! What do you this of artists that have a stamp made with an iconic signature of their name but not their actual signature? My cousin does this and his name is certainly identifiable and he can always "match" any painting perfectly...hmmm...

  14. Signing a painting is, for me, a part of the ritual of painting. When I sign a painting it brings closure - it means "The painting is done!" I always sign on the front in the lower right or left hand side of the painting.

    Kellee, I practiced writing my signature in the medium. Finding the right size brush, the right consistency of paint, figuring out what I wanted the J to look like. When I switched from watercolor to acrylic I changed my signature from cursive to block script. It's neater. And that took practice too - so don't be frustrated by signing in the medium - just practice doing it on a scrap - a big scrap!

    I do find it frustrating to go to a show and see unsigned paintings. I went to one recently and could not distinguish who painted what because the artists' styles were similar and none of the paintings were signed.

  15. Over the years, my signature has become a part of the composition of my artworks, and I affix it as soon as I feel completely connected to the piece. I also put the date (month and year) because I regret so much not having done so on my early pieces (as a child).

  16. Thank you for sharing such great tips. I learned how to sign my painting using this video - Now, I am going to sign my first painting based on your tips and these videos. I am too excited!!!

  17. Do models ever sign a sketch for an illustrator?


Thank-you for your comment!