How To Sign Your Painting

Branding Your Artwork

How To Sign Your Painting

  1. Do not use your regular signature.
  2. Full name? Surname only? Initials?
  3. Your signature is your brand.
  4. Designing your signature.
  5. Tidiness and consistency.
  6. Where to place a signature.
  7. Composition.
  8. Signature as logo.
  9. To date or not to date?

1. Do not use your regular signature.

Often our regular signatures are not at all legible. While your regular signature may look good on the bottom of important documents and bank cheques it might not be the best look for your art. The signature on your artwork needs to be clear, legible and unmistakable so that your fans and collectors instantly recognize your name on everything you create.

2. Full name? Surname only? Initials?

Does your name sound more impressive if you use just your initials plus surname? Or does it have a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ if you use only your surname? Maybe your parents were kind to you and carefully selected a first name and surname combination which just rolls off the tongue? Try saying your name outloud in different ways. You are bound to find some combo that works. If you got stuck with a handle like Archibald Q. Fudpucker, consider shortening it. Remember you are going to paint it many times throughout your career. Whichever you choose, just be sure to use it consistently, making sure it’s legible and doesn’t look like a fifth grader wrote it.

3. Your signature is your brand.

Everyone recognizes the swirly logo of Coca-cola or the big”M” of McDonalds. Your signature should be the equivalent of that (not literally); something that is easy to read, easy to recognize, easy to remember, and an expression of your art and personality at the same time.

4. Designing your signature.

Experiment. Write it a few hundred times on paper with multiple variations and then pick the version that feels ‘just right’ for you. When you have the result you like, practice on scraps of the different supports or surfaces until you are comfortable painting and drawing it. Try scratching it into wet paint with the end of a small brush. Practice until it becomes as natural as writing your regular signature, so that you can instantly sign your completed artworks and body parts of adoring fans with a confident flourish.

5. Tidiness and consistency.

All too often I see artworks that look brilliant but I’m disapointed by the signature. It can be distracting by being too huge, in brilliant white or some other out of place nuclear colour, sloppily written, sloping awkwardly, too close to the edge of the canvas, mount or frame or just plain hard to see. Take the time to consider your signature and carefully plan the placement. I sometimes mark a light line on the painting and sign on top of it so that my signature is level. Don’t rush to sign an artwork just because you want it to be finished. Take your time and get it right. Of course for some artists, a sloppy signature is part of the appeal, but do sloppy with style (even if it doesn’t look like it).

6. Where to place a signature.

Usually it resides on bottom left or bottom right, with enough room to sit away nicely from the edge of the page or canvas, and taking into account any framing and mounts. Most frames have a 1/8” rabbet for the painting to sit in. If your signature is too low it can get partially covered by the frame and will look awkward. Some artists like to hide their signatures in other locations, but remember the bottom of the artwork is where interested collectors will look first. Don’t make them work too hard.

7. Composition.

I like my signature to be placed in just the right spot and at just the right size. Too big can be awkward and if it’s too small it can be missed entirely. Most times I consider the composition of the signature as part of the artwork. Have a big blank area at the bottom of the painting? By placing your signature there you can stop the viewer’s gaze from falling out of the painting.

8. Signature as logo.

Hand your favourite version over to a graphic designer for conversion into a logo or if you can, convert it yourself. Your signature can then be used for promotional purposes on exhibition invitations, catalogues, signage, merchandising and web sites.

9. To date or not to date?

Some artists like to date their work. (ex. R.F. Sploonberry 1988). I must admit that going into a museum and seeing a signature with a date has an appeal, but most gallery owners don’t appreciate it. Art doesn’t have a shelf life but it can be harder to sell work that is stale and dated ten years ago. Imagine what the buyer might be thinking… “Why hasn’t this sold?” Save the date for the back of the painting.

I promise you, no matter how good you get and how proficient you are at signing your painting there will be times you’ll still have to wipe it off two or three times to get it right.

Your friend in art,

Doug.

P.S. Email me with any questions or leave a comment below.

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