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Embedded Signatures for Prints
By James M. Theopistos

An area sometimes overlooked is the artists or photographers signature on prints. Signing a print is important for any limited edition print but most artists and photographers settle for the embedded signature within the image file for open edition prints. Since we mostly produce open edition prints I am going to talk more about the embedded signature.

First, what is an embedded signature? An embedded signature is merely the visible name or initials of the person creating the work and is usually seen in the lower left or right corner of the image. With artists, this is a painted signature and part of the painting. With photographers or digital artists usually a graphic or text is added as a layer over the image in the lower corner.

The other type of signature would simply be an actual signature or initials written directly on the print in the margins or in proximity to an embedded signature. It is mostly done with a pen, marker or pencil. Obviously if you are going to have your prints shipped direct to your customer from us, this is not going to be a viable option but if you have the prints shipped to you then you can easily add this. There is no rule on how big your signature be, where to include it or even the type of utensil you use to write this. It is mainly used as a way to imply you as the artist or photographer are singing off on this print as coming from you.

So what is the big deal about embedded signatures? There are two issues I think all photographers or artists should be aware of when including an embedded signature: make it completely visible if you include it and keep it subtle.

Making sure it is visible

What I am going to address here is the issue of making sure your signature is visible or not include it at all. Almost every day we see people’s prints in which no consideration is given for that embedded signature. The artist or photographer uploads their image, selects a size and orders the print. Sometimes they have us ship it direct to their customer and sometimes they have us ship it to them. I won’t call it a pet peeve of mine but all too often I see these embedded signatures partially cropped. Usually this is in the form of only part of the signature visible but because the size of the print does not quite match the aspect ratio of the original work the signature gets partially clipped. In my opinion this makes a print look like a cheap copy and like no real concern or effort was made to provide the recipient with a quality print. If you are an artist or photographer this can ultimately reflect on you if you are selling these prints. We as the printer will print what we get and there are many of our customers who are not that concerned with this but if you are, then make sure you give this some thought when you are setting up your print. If you have to adjust the positioning of your image in the print setup system we offer, do so. If you are concerned about it causing you to loose other elements in the print because you had to reposition the image in such a way so the full signature is visible then perhaps try not including the signature at all. I think a print looks better without the then with a partially cropped signature. While instances of an artist’s customer deciding they do not want a print due to a partially cropped signature is extremely rare, I can definitely say I have never heard of an instance in which the artist’s customer was upset because no signature was visible.

Make Your Signature and Image Consistent

Another area of concern (this pertains more to photographers and digital artists who include either text or graphics they placed in the corner) is matching the rest of the image. In this case I am referring to resolution. Occasionally we see images in which it was obvious the photographer or artists enlarged it in Photoshop then added their signature. The image looks a little soft or possibly pixilated but the signature is crisp and sharp. A little softness can be okay with large prints since they are usually looked at from a few feet away or more. The average person won’t even notice anyway but if you do have a slightly soft image as a result of blowing it up and have signature which is crisp and sharp, then it becomes more noticeable since the signature’s clarity contrasts with the clarity of the rest of the image.  Here the solution is simple. Just make sure you add your signature first. Make it subtle part of your image rather than something the viewer’s attention is drawn to.

While signatures in a print does tend to be the last thing many people consider, I think these two area are worthy issues for any artist or photographer selling prints of their work.

Category: An Artist's Guide to Digital Printing
Created: Sunday, September 18, 2011, Last Updated: Sunday, April 22, 2012


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About James Theopistos Aside from being an enthusaistic promoter of the visual arts field as it relates to individual artists' success, he also serves as the acting Chief Development Officer for, an online color print lab for artists and photographers.
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