Historically, when one needed to authorise and sign a document, one would do this as a physical process with a wet-ink signature. In more modern times, with electronic documents and electronic communication, it is natural to ask if this is necessary. From a broad legal perspective the short answer is no, a wet ink signature in and of itself is no more legally valid that an image of a signature in a document or a documented trail within which the individuals state their approval/consent, and the understanding is that those signature images or email approval trails are coming from the correct person.

There is some relevant information at

Note for some signing processes, the signing may actually need to be witnessed, and it is legally acceptable to do that with a video link!

E-expenses example

A good recent example of such a process in action, is the recent changes to expenses claim approvals in the university (since people are working remotely and electronically due to covid-19). For that process the claimant completes the usual expenses claim form, they then email it to the approver, the approver checks it and if they are content they email it on to the next point in the approval chain stating clearly in the email they give approval, and so on. At no point in this process is a web-ink signature required, nor even is an image of your usual signature require, nor is an online signing service used, it is simply sufficient to have the email approval chain to authorise the processing of the reimbursement.

Signature image

Should you wish to produce an image copy of your signature then you could do this by writing on a piece of paper and then taking a picture of it via your smartphone or a scanner. You can then crop it down ready for use in embedding into letters or other documents. Remember to keep it safe, as whilst it is not legally binding on you if someone else illegally obtains and misuses it, such misuse will likely lead to confusion and inconvenience when it comes to light and needs to be sorted out.

Online e-document exchange signing services

Should you wish to use an online document signing exchange service, then a couple of easy to use and free/cheap services are

  • https://signrequest.com/ - free for up to 10 documents a month, easy to use, can also add attachments (need to use it at least once a year to keep the account/login live)
  • https://www.signable.co.uk/ - after a trial period the cheapest plan is a pay-as-you go option costing £1 per document

Such services typically require you to upload a PDF document (which is generally best rather than letting them convert a Word document to PDF which may result in it not being exactly laid out as you expect); then you mark up the document positions for each signatory, and provide the email addresses of those people, and if desired/needed the approval chain order. Those people then get an email (in order) with a link to the service for this document; they go along to review the document, and if satisified they 'sign it'. When the approval chain is complete the system typically send back a copy of the signed document to all parties.

In such services one can typically upload an image of your own signature, or just type in your name and it will create a pseudo signature of your name, potentially in a font/style of your choosing.


So in conclusion, when needing to sign documents you can use wet-ink, an email approval chain, an embedded image of your 'signature', or a document signing exchange service. Whatever you do though, read the documents carefully and only sign when appropriate to do so!

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Last updated on 02 Apr 2022 21:54.