Proper Ways for Graphic Artists to Sign Work

An artist's signature can be in print or cursive.
i Images

You spent hours on your artwork, so you deserve recognition for your masterpiece. Adding your name to a piece of artwork is more than just a signature, it's a way to take credit for your work. If you work for a company, your employer typically owns the rights to your artwork and there isn't usually any reason to include a personal signature. As a self-employed graphic artist, you should sign your work so you can prove original authorship of the piece. A signature is also a positive way to establish your identity in the industry.

Legible and Distinguishable Name

A proper artist signature is legible and distinguishable. That doesn't mean every letter has to have perfect form, but the signature does need to be readable so others can quickly and accurately differentiate your work from others'. Use the same signature on all of your artwork, including prints, posters, paintings, drawings and typeset. Practice writing your signature before you put it on any completed artwork so you can use the same form repeatedly. There are no legal requirements on where to put your signature, but the bottom center or right-hand corner on the front side are common locations.

Consistent Signature

Sign your name with the same medium you used to create your work. For example, sign a watercolor in watercolor, an acrylic in acrylic, and an oil painting in oil paint, according to Art Consultant Alan Bamberger at When you sign in a different medium, you risk someone questioning whether you actually created the art or you added a signature after the fact. When creating computer-generated artwork, scan your original, handwritten signature and insert it into your artwork, or draw your signature using design software. Save your computer-aided signature so you can use the same one on all your work.

Trademark Possibilities

Legally trademark your signature if you want to ensure other artists don't use it. You'll likely have trouble trademarking your signature if your surname is common -- such as Smith, Jones or Johnson -- so consider a pseudonym or a one-word original name if you want something that qualifies for a trademark. A first initial and a last name are also difficult to trademark if your last name is relatively common. You can also trademark an original logo in addition to or in place of your name if you prefer to use a symbol to represent your work.

Important Details

The most significant aspect of signing your artwork is to remember to put your name on it somewhere. Some artists never sign their drawings, posters, paintings, prints, or electronic artwork and risk other artists claiming or copying their work. Without a signature, you might run into legal problems if someone uses your art for commercial purposes and you can't prove you were the original creator. Plus, you want future generations to revere your artwork and acknowledge your skills.

the nest