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Written signatures

Posted on 2013-11-02
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Last Modified: 2013-12-24
I need to change the of a scanned copy of my written signature, and transform it into a transparent file.

There has to be a better way!!  Suggestions are greatly appreciated.
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Question by:frugalmule
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by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39619177
Use a pen and tablet (Wacom's are good, if you have a friend that owns one, but pretty much any graphic tablet will work) to make your signature in a vector drawing program (Illustrator, CorelDraw, Inkscape etc), then export it as eps.

That will allow you to import the signature and place it over colored backgrounds in Word, Acrobat etc.

HTH,
Dan
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by:Scott Fell, EE MVE
ID: 39619252
Or "sign" with your mouse but it is not easy.  Otherwise, use a sharpie and scan that.  From there you can use photoshop or gimp and convert the white background to transparent.  Make sure you use white paper and black ink.  If you use a ball point pen it will be harder to work with.
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by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 39619328
If you just need to convert your current signature, most graphics programs will let you save it as a GIF or PNG with a transparent background.  Irfanview will do the easy ones and you can use Photoshop for the more difficult ones.
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39625631
Hi frugalmule,
Your original question says that you already have a scanned copy of your written signature. So while the comments from Dan and padas about creating signatures via pen, tablet, and mouse are good ones, I'm going to follow-up on Dave's excellent suggestion and write an article that describes in detail how to do what you want by using IrfanView on your existing (already scanned in) signature. I'll post the link to the article here as soon as it is approved/published by EE. Regards, Joe
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by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39626404
@Joe: Yes, you can use a scanned signature and IrfanView/Photoshop/Paint.Net/etc to convert that to a png with transparency.

The question is: is it worth the time? The end result and the time you spend getting to that end result will greatly depend on the quality of the pencil/sharpie, paper and scanner. For a first try at least 30 min.

An OK tablet with pen is $75: http://www.amazon.com/Wacom-Intuos-Small-Tablet-CTL480/dp/B00EN27TCI

With it you can make your signature in about 1 min. And since, from frugalmule's other questions, he needs to make several signatures, the tablet will very quickly pay for itself.

Just my 2¢.

PS: you can use a Samsung Galaxy Note 1/2/3 to do your signature. It won't be vector, but it will be good enough so you can quickly remove the background in IV/PS/whatever.

Dan
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39626457
Hi Dan,
I finished writing the article and submitted it for publication a few hours ago (I'll post the link here as soon as it's approved). I just used a stopwatch to time the steps outlined in the article, and from launch of IrfanView to creation of the transparent PNG (from a non-transparent JPG) took 17 seconds. This assumes, of course, that the scanned JPG signature has already been created.

You may well be right that a pen tablet (like the Wacom) is the way to go if you have to make several signatures, but my reading of this question is that frugalmule simply has a scanned copy of his written signature that he wants to transform into a transparent file...more precisely, to make the white background transparent.

As far as the quality of the end result, I've been pleased with the result from a typical desktop document scanner, using black ink (a plain ballpoint pen) on white paper, scanning at 300-600 DPI monochrome (B&W/1-bit). Also, I don't think it should take 30 minutes to achieve a good result, even including scanning time (and multiple attempts), but even if it did take that long, for most folks, it's likely a one-time effort.

Just my two cents to go along with your two cents. :)   Regards, Joe
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Author Comment

by:frugalmule
ID: 39626464
I'll try re-scanning and see how that goes.  A website that would allow me to do a good job with my finger and save the transparent file might be another alternative short of a tablet.
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39626470
Why do you want to try re-scanning? If you have a good quality JPG scan, IrfanView will be able to turn it into a good quality transparent PNG in less than a minute.
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by:frugalmule
ID: 39626480
Would you be able to post a link to a techsmith.com/jing video showing me how?
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39626497
My article will likely be published here in the next 12 hours or so...the EE Page Editors are usually very fast in reviewing and publishing articles. If you can hang on that long, it will give you step-by-step, detailed instructions, including screenshots, showing you how to do it. If you want to get a head-start on the process, download and install IrfanView: http://www.irfanview.com/

At the URL above, click the Download link on the left to download IrfanView and click the PlugIns link on the left to download the PlugIns, which are needed to give you PDF capability. Installing the PlugIns is optional – required only if you want PDF support (and the other features that come with the PlugIns). Install IrfanView first, then install the PlugIns. Although I recommend adding the PlugIns to get PDF support, that's for general, future usage. For this situation, you don't need them, unless your scanned signature is in a PDF file, in which case you do need them. Regards, Joe
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by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39626505
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Software/Photos_Graphics/Q_28283955.html

Here is the thread, started by frugalmule, where paulsauve already shown how to transform a scanned signature to a transparent png, using GIMP.

You do need the extra cleaning after you select the transparent color, or the signature will have a white halo when placed on a dark background.

And the end result is still inferior to the one obtained when using a vector drawing softare :)

Dan
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39626519
> Here is the thread, started by frugalmule,

Haven't read it yet...on the to-do list for tomorrow...it's getting into the wee hours now. Thanks for the link.

> You do need the extra cleaning after you select the transparent color, or the signature will have a white halo when placed on a dark background.

Hasn't happened here...with neither the test image in the article nor my real signature that I use on real documents.

> inferior to the one obtained when using a vector drawing software

Probably true, but I've never had anyone refuse a document with my non-vector drawn signature. :)
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Author Comment

by:frugalmule
ID: 39626541
Joe,

With all respect, I have taken great pains to try everything I can asking two different questions about it.  I just don't get the same result you guys seem to. Joe, if you think you can show how to do that "in less than a minute" in fact, then please share.  It is no where near as easy as you guys seem to think it is.
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Scott Fell,  EE MVE earned 500 total points
ID: 39627341
In photoshop, I start with a signature.  This can be from something you scanned.  
Step 1
Then set the magic wand to a tolerance of 1 and remove the background outside of the signature, then remove the background inside of any loops like the P and D.
step 2
Again, starting with a good marker will work better then a pen because you will end up removing some unwanted pixels.   As suggested, if you can use a device like the wacom or any tablet, it will be easier because you can draw right on a transparent document.  If you don't want to spend the $$ on the tablet, you can use your mouse but I find it is very difficult.
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39627437
frugalmule,
I didn't say that it would take less than a minute to write a 500+ word article that describes the process thoroughly, including capturing, saving, and uploading numerous screenshots...something worthy of publication based on EE's publishing standards. In fact, that took hours, which I did yesterday. What I said is that performing the process described in the article would take less than a minute (I timed it at 17 seconds).

The article was reviewed, approved, and published by EE. Here is the link to it:

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Software/Photos_Graphics/Images_and_Photos/A_12380-Signature-Image-with-Transparent-Background.html

If you have any problems, let me know and I'll be happy to try to help. Regards, Joe
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39630331
> then please share

frugalmule, did the instructions that I shared in the article work for you? Regards, Joe
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by:Paul Sauvé
ID: 39630666
To all who have commented on this question, frugalmule asked a second question on this same subject which I answered in detail using the GIMP rather than IrfanView, since that was the app he used to attempt to clean up the signature!
Trouble cleaning a signature
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39632878
Hi Paul,
I didn't try the clean-up steps, but I did make a transparent signature with GIMP (v2.8.6). I think it's easier in IrfanView, but it certainly worked in GIMP. I generally find the GIMP interface to be complicated and non-intuitive, perhaps due to its robustness, or maybe I'm just used to IrfanView, which I usually find to be simple and intuitive. I suspect that GIMP is more robust than IrfanView, but I don't push either to its limits. Anyway, thanks for that post over at the other question. Regards, Joe
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Author Closing Comment

by:frugalmule
ID: 39635175
thank you!

photoshop did the trick better than any other option
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by:Paul Sauvé
ID: 39635215
Jeeze Louise - it sure would have been nice to know you were using Photoshop when you asked the original question! I'm sure you would have received definitive answer in a much shorter time...
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Author Comment

by:frugalmule
ID: 39635218
I wasn't.  I was using Gimp.  I much prefer the photoshop method so now I have photoshop.  Thank you VERY much.
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39635219
Paul,
You got that right! Well, at least all the time I spent writing that article helped another EE member. Regards, Joe
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by:frugalmule
ID: 39635231
Yes sir it did.  I should have known I needed to bite the bullet with photoshop on this one. What a pain that was.  Next time it won't be so bad :)
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Author Comment

by:frugalmule
ID: 39635233
I still can't help but think there has to be some device like an electrified stylus that lets you use your touch pad as a mini tablet.
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by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39635237
Maybe go a little further and think of your smartphone as your tablet...
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Author Comment

by:frugalmule
ID: 39635256
You have the same problem with using a smartphone as a signature tablet.  It's really designed for your finger only.

The reason your finger works on a laptop is that it emits an electrical impulse. I'm just really surprised that nobody has made a pen that you can use with it.
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by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39635304
I'm quite happy with my Note 2. The stylus works ok for drawing, and it can be used for writing/signing.

And from what I read, the MS Surface Pro work great with a stylus too.

There might have been a time when a pen that works with the touch pad had a market. Now, with the new touch sensitive screens, especially in tablets, I don't see one.
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Author Comment

by:frugalmule
ID: 39635312
I think a pen that works with a laptop touchpad still clearly has a market for anyone in an office that needs to sign documents.  There has to be something out there for this.
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by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39635321
The problem is that signing documents with a scanned/vector signature is NOT secure.

If you send a document with a signature applied, there's technically nothing stopping your recipient from using your signature on any number of documents.

That's why the recommended secure way is with a certificate, like the one your bank uses.

You can actually get a free email certificate from Comodo, that you can use also for signing documents, and is way more secure than applying a digital ink signature.

Or, if it's for your company, get a regular/paid certificate that will guarantee that document was signed by you.

HTH,
Dan
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Author Comment

by:frugalmule
ID: 39635323
I understand. but I still think there is a need.

I think a pen that works with a laptop touchpad still clearly has a market for anyone in an office that needs to sign documents.  There has to be something out there for this.
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by:Scott Fell, EE MVE
ID: 39635577
I use frugalmule's method a lot.  I refuse to fax and when I receive documents that need a signature I use this very method.  I attach my signature where you are supposed to sign and create a pdf and then email the pdf.   I have acrobat pro and that makes this  process easier.  

As far as a digital (encrypted) signature, there are still plenty of places that are not familiar enough with them and will not accept them.
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by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39635834
I used to do that but then I became a bit paranoid: you only need Illustrator and 10 seconds to extract a signature from a pdf and then apply it to another document.

So nowadays I do both: place a vector drawn signature and sign with a digital certificate. That way if I see a document only with my written signature I know someone is trying to impersonate me.

This has the advantage that it works in both new and old document management systems.

HTH,
Dan
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