The Official Guide: Wet Signature VS eSignature (2024)

A wet signature is a physical mark made with pen on paper, while an eSignature uses encryption to secure electronic documents.
Last updated on:
April 29, 2024
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The vast majority of signatures we face in our daily work are “wet” – meaning they’re physical and hand-written. Though, with eSignatures, the average time it takes a business to sign a document can be shortened from 5 days to 37 minutes!

In this guide, we’re talking about:

  • Digital Signatures
  • eSignatures
  • Wet Signatures

And what makes each unique.

What is a Wet Signature?

A wet signature is simply a traditional ink signature. Labelled a “wet” signature due to the ‘wetness’ of ink, it’s usually a name or mark signed with a pen on paper.

Here’s a wet signature from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s signature

The term “wet signature” predates the digital era, with some usage of the term recorded in the 1800s. 

Why do people use wet signatures? Wet signatures have always been the predominant way to sign documents:

  • While the first ever form of signature — the seal — dates back to the Sumerians (4500 B.C. – 1900 B.C.)
  • The primary reason why wet signatures have been the gold standard of authentication is due to the permanence of ink.

Ink to paper is permanent. While it can be tampered with and forged — we’ll get onto the flaws with wet signatures later on — a physical wet signature is still better than no signature or a seal that can be melted away and replaced.

What’s the difference between Wet Signatures and eSignatures?

There are many core differences between wet signatures and eSignatures. Let’s discuss why a business would choose a digital eSignature over a traditional wet one.

Digital vs. Physical

  • Physical vs. Digital: Wet signatures are physical (ink on paper), while eSignatures are digital (algorithms and code).
  • Barrier to Entry: The digital nature of eSignatures can be a hurdle for some businesses.
  • Legitimacy Concerns: There’s a misconception that eSignatures aren’t as legitimate or legally binding as physical signatures.
  • Legal Validity: eSignatures are legally binding and hold up in court just like traditional signed documents.
  • Security: eSignatures can be safer than traditional signatures due to the metadata, which is harder to forge than physical signatures.

Security

In regards to security, both methods have unique advantages and disadvantages. But there’s one major difference between the two.

A physically signed document can be destroyed and physically tampered with. An electronically signed document can’t ever really be destroyed. This is especially true if you’re backing up your documents properly, and following good security practices.

Of course, the looming threat of hackers is always the boogeyman of digital security. That said, Verizon found that nearly 95% of all espionage attacks are the result of phishing attacks — attacks where a scam email is created to bait you into entering personal information to be stolen.

This means that as long as you stay vigilant and ensure to follow the correct security procedures, the risk of your electronic signature being breached is nil.

Companies like SignHouse also use data such as your IP address and two-factor authentication to keep your signature away from any bad faith actors.

In other words, your signature will always be safe away from fraud and forgery attempts, as nobody will be able to log in to your account to sign documents without your permission.

Costs

  • Cost of Physical Signatures: Signing a document physically often involves printing and scanning, requiring access to a printer.
  • Printer Expenses: Printers involve costs for ink, power, and initial purchase, which can be substantial.
  • IT Resource Allocation: For larger businesses, dedicating IT resources to maintaining and fixing printer hardware can be costly.

Every year, US businesses throw away $8 billion in handling and signing paper documents. According to a 2020 study by LunarPen, businesses can save as much as $20 for each document signed digitally

Check it out: LunarPen’s study.

  • An eSignature has minimal costs involved.
  • Especially with services that offer stellar free plans like SignHouse, you often don’t have to pay anything extra to be able to use them.
  • And, the premium plans for most services are still far cheaper than having to buy and maintain a printer.

Convenience

  • Finding a Pen: Locating a pen and signing a contract manually can take unnecessary time out of your day.
  • Printing and Scanning: The need to print and scan documents adds hassle and consumes more time.
  • Transporting Documents: Carrying paper documents across the city to a client can be cumbersome and inefficient.
  • Convenience of eSignatures: Using online documents and eSignatures allows for signing on the go with just a phone or tablet, simplifying the process with a few clicks.

We found that businesses looking to send out quick non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) find eSignatures the most straightforward way of achieving this. All you’ll need to do is create a digital document – perhaps using a template like ours – and then send the contract off to the other party. 

SignHouse allows you to simply just drag-and-drop your eSignature into any document on any device! Rather than wasting your time, our service just works with no hassle and no stress!

Efficiency

Leading on from this, eSignatures are just far more efficient than wet signatures. Rather than having to print and sign, then scan, you can easily just drag and drop your electronic signature into documents using a service like SignHouse

No fuss, no weird programs to download — SignHouse works in your browser, and only requires a few clicks!

Using eSignatures also makes correspondence much quicker. Studies show that eSignatures can lead to an 85% rise in efficiency and an 80% reduction in the errors made when signing documents.

Rather than having to go through that whole process of printing and signing, you can just do everything with a few simple clicks. This means that naturally, everything gets done quicker! 

In industries like real estate, quick and efficient signing of contracts is key to quickly completing deals. Sending documents like a commercial lease or tenancy agreement for signing has never been easier than with SignHouse.

Some of our customers use SignHouse to get a freelancer contract signed, helping avoid any delays in getting projects started!

So, there’s no wonder why businesses are rapidly switching to eSignatures, with so many added workflow benefits!

Is an eSignature ‘Real’?

People often question the legitimacy of eSignatures, so wet signatures are often favored.

But eSignature has been legally recognised for a long time. In 2000, the ESIGN act allowed Americans to use eSignatures and have them be legally recognized.

  • eSignature providers such as SignHouse have developed robust security measures into their platforms. T
  • hese security features – including certificates of completion and tamper-proof digital seals – make eSignatures a safe and trustworthy form of authentication.

Consequently, companies have been taking eSignatures more seriously. This has led to eSignatures quickly becoming the industry standard.

So, yes. eSignatures are real and legitimate for legally binding documents.

How do I make an eSignature?

Making an eSignature with SignHouse is easy and free!

Our system is built around simplicity and ease of use, which is why so many businesses are making a move over to our drag-and-drop system.

SignHouse's page for uploading documents
  1. Sign up to SignHouse!
  2. Click through to be able to create your own eSignatures.
  3. Once created, you can drag and drop a PDF/.doc/.docx file into the upload field, or click on the field to browse your computer to locate the file.
  4. Fill in who will be signing the contract.
  5. Drag and drop your signature into the file!

And, you’re done! That’s the whole process, from registering to having your first signed contract ready to be sent off.

If you’re struggling with making a contract, why not try one of our templates? Our contract templates make the process of creating contracts for your clients easier and quicker. Just decide which contract you’d like to use, download it, and fill in the details! It’s just that simple!

SignHouse is here for all of your digital signature and contract need. Our free plan is incredibly feature-packed – you don’t even need to enter your credit card information!

With no strings attached, there’s no better time to get started.

Embrace Digital Signatures with SignHouse

Hopefully, this article has helped you learn about the differences between wet signatures and eSignatures! The wet signature is quickly becoming obsolete.

So, why not take a step into the future and get started with SignHouse today? We’re the easiest way to get started with eSignatures, and our free plan allows you to give us a try for yourself! 

With tons of businesses making the move over to SignHouse, there’s no question that we’re the best in the business when it comes to digital signatures and contracts!

So, check out SignHouse’s free service, and get started today!

FAQs

Are your electronic signatures legal?

Our signatures are 100% legally binding, as SignHouse is built around US and International Laws concerning digital signatures. SignHouse eSignatures are on par with paper signatures, from a legal point of view!

Signing papers digitally started being equal to physical, handwritten signatures in the U.S. eSignature Act of 2000 (U.S. Federal Act) + the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA). As a consequence, laws in other countries have followed suit. SignHouse is built around these laws.

Can a signature be typed?

Your signature 100% works and is 100% legal if it's typed, if you're using an electronic signature software!

Why? It's validity is given by other factors: 

  • As per the eSignature (2000) and UETA (2000) Acts passed by the US Government, alongside other requirements (explained in-depth by us here), one of them is this: “Attribution. The signature has to be uniquely identified to the signee and only linked to them”
  • Using an electronic signature software such as SignHouse automatically handles that, as such apps easily attribute signatures with identifiable details (e.g. account information, location, IP, etc)
  • Another requirement for a digital signature to be valid: “Retention. The documents must be stored for future reference, available to be viewed, reviewed, edited, etc. by both parties”
  • SignHouse takes care of this aspect as well.

Therefore, typing your signature makes it valid, due to the aspects that an eSignature software handles for you.

Can a signature be your initials?

Yes, it absolutely could be! Why: your electronic signature is not defined by how it looks. It could even be a glyph.

Your signature's validity is given by other aspects, as explained in this article of ours:

  • As per the eSignature (2000) and UETA (2000) Acts passed by the US Government, alongside other requirements (explained in-depth by us here), one of them is this: “Attribution. The signature has to be uniquely identified to the signee and only linked to them”
  • Using an electronic signature software such as SignHouse automatically handles that, as such apps easily attribute signatures with identifiable details (e.g. account information, location, IP, etc)
  • Another requirement for a digital signature to be valid: “Retention. The documents must be stored for future reference, available to be viewed, reviewed, edited, etc. by both parties”
  • SignHouse takes care of this aspect as well.

So yes, your signature can be your initials!

Can I put my signature on a photo without Photoshop?

Yes, you can create and add your online signature to a photo without Adobe Photoshop.

Create your eSignature with our software and then drag and drop it on the photo. It's 100% free!

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About the author

Ch Daniel is the co-founder of SignHouse and chairman of the CH Group. Daniel is leading the development of SignHouse's product, as well as strategising how else the company can reach its main mission: empowering 100M+ to use the world's most efficient document organisational tools.