How should I sign my painting?

How should I sign my painting?

“A man’s kiss is his signature.” – Mae West.

Always consider your clients. When creating your art, one’s signature is part of the composition and therefore it affects the whole aesthetic. It’s not an afterthought. It’s the final brushstroke to say, “yes, I’m done!” In Mae West’s words, kiss your painting!

It’s about … Presentation. Presentation. Presentation.

These things should be taken into account when signing:

  • Graphic
  • Legibility
  • Size
  • Colour
  • Position
  • Rotation
  • Consistency
  • Date
  • Medium

The Graphic

Signatures differ drastically from one person to another. Some can be printed, scrawled or be extremely decorative: embellished with curlicues, dots and hearts. Does your signature suit your style of art?

What signature variation will you use:

  • initials only
  • initials and surname
  • first name only
  • first name and surname
  • surname only

Practice your signature to find out which one will suit you.

The Legibility

My usual signature is a scribble which is completely illegible and differs from one signing to another. I have practiced my ‘art’ signature so that I can trace it onto my paintings before painting it so that I have something that’s vaguely legible (for marketing) and that looks presentable. Your signature is your brand, be proud of it.

The Size

One’s signature should be proportionate to your artwork. If your signature is large and screaming out at the viewer it will overshadow the art. If you’re not yet famous, you’re selling your art, not your signature.

The Colour

Choose a colour that compliments the painting. Avoid always choosing black, because in some instances black may be too harsh.

The Position

Your signature is part of your composition, make sure it’s in the right place.
Suggestion: Photocopy your signature at different sizes onto a piece of plastic acetate and move it around your painting to see what size and position works best.

The Rotation

Your signature does not always have to be horizontal. On certain paintings it may look better in the vertical position. If you are going to rotate it, always have your signature ‘running up’ rather than down which has negative connotations.

The Consistency

Your signature is your brand, your logo. It should be similar and recognisable in all your artwork. Your style may change over the years but your signature should remain reasonably constant.

The Date

Do you add the year after your signature? That’s up to you. I prefer the ‘signing’ to be as understated as possible. One can always write the date on the back of the frame.


Avoid using a koki pen as they fade very quickly over time. Use your paints. Choose a colour from your palette that suits the painting. Use a small brush and if necessary, give your signature two coats. I have on occasions re-painted my signature several times in different colours to get the one I think is best. Take your time. Remember … it’s kiss! 🙂

Sum It All Up

Make a name for yourself. Treat your signature with respect. It’s your logo. It’s your brand. It’s your marketing tool. Use it well.

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  • “I always thought signing was an artist’s honour and a guarantee of authenticity.” – Robert Genn

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