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In This Article...
- Adding your signature to your artwork is a bigger deal than you may think
- Why Should You Sign Your Acrylic Painting?
- What Tools Can You Use to Add a Signature?
- Where to Leave Your Mark
- Initials vs Full Signature
- What About Signing an Abstract Painting?
- Should You Date It?
- Tips for Success
- What We’ve Learned About Signing Artwork
- Which way do you prefer to sign your acrylic painting? Let me know in the comments!
Adding your signature to your artwork is a bigger deal than you may think
Have you ever wondered if there was a right way to sign your acrylic painting? And, if so, where should you put it and what should you use to write it with?
Let’s talk about everything you need to consider when you’re ready to sign your masterpiece so there is no guesswork.
Why Should You Sign Your Acrylic Painting?
Signing your paintings shows ownership and pride. It shows the world that, yeah, you painted that and it’s a total work of art!
After all of the time, attention, and creativity you put into your artwork, you should be filled with pride and, when you sign your acrylic painting, you show people that you are an artist who is happy and confident with how the piece turned out.
Not only that, it allows people to recognize your work as you continue painting more and more on your art journey. If you ever decide to sell your work, a signature is a must. People who buy a piece of art, enjoy the backstory on the piece and personal tidbits on the artist so they can make their carefully chosen art purchase a topic of conversation.
What Tools Can You Use to Add a Signature?
So, now that you’ve decided to sign your acrylic painting, let’s talk about the options you have to write your signature.
I have seen some people suggest using a regular felt tip pen but I would be very careful doing that. You could end up having issues with streaking or fading to the point of disappearing. Let’s look at some better options.
If you’ve decided that you want to be a purest, and use a paintbrush to sign your acrylic painting, the best brushes for the job are the round brush or the script brush.
Both a round and a script brush have bristles that come to a point but a script brush has longer bristles that are specifically made for writing with. That being said, I find that a script brush is a bit more challenging to use. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use one if you are a beginner, it just means you’ll have to practice more until you’re comfortable with it.
To get the most control with a paintbrush, you’ll want to hold it close to the ferrule like you would a pen. However, you won’t want to hold your brush at an angle or you won’t get the crisp shapes that make up your signature. You want to make sure that the tip of your brush is lightly touching your painting so keep your grip loose!
You also want to use the right sized brush when you sign your acrylic painting. By that I mean, your signature shouldn’t be too big or draw too much attention away from the painting. So, make sure that your paintbrush is just large enough to get the job done. It’s better to have a smaller signature than to have one that is glaringly apparent.
If you don’t feel confident using a paintbrush and are worried about messing it up, you might like an acrylic paint pen, also known as a paint marker, instead.
I have used both a brush and a paint pen to sign my paintings and both have a bit of a learning curve involved.
Paint pens need to be “primed” before they’ll work. You have to shake them and then continually press against a piece of paper until you notice paint coming out of the end.
Sometimes, a bit too much paint will come out and you might get a bit of paint splatter when you starting to sign your name. However, that could look kind of cool but would be hard to make a consistent part of your signature.
The other thing I find with paint pens is that there is a “sweet spot”. In order for them to write on a surface that has even a bit of texture, you can’t hold them straight up and down. If you press the very tip onto the canvas you run the risk of the painting skipping as you’re signing your artwork. You know how ballpoint pens will start and stop while you’re writing and leave bald spots? Yeah, like that.
Once you practice and get the hang of it, you’ll be golden!
Yes. No. Maybe? Your guess is as good as mine! It depends on who you ask.
Most artists say not to use them because they can bleed through the layers of paint and they aren’t archival (so, they will probably fade out and be illegible in 60 years, give or take).
On the other hand, there are quite a few artists who love using them for mixed media projects and love to add them to acrylic paintings to outline things that they really want to make pop.
If you would like to see “reviews”, where artists give their experience and opinions on using sharpies, check out this “Marker over Acrylic?” Reddit thread.
There are oil based sharpies you can use to sign your acrylic painting since you can use oil over acrylic but you can’t use acrylic over oil (the science of oil and water and all that good stuff)!
I would say, proceed with extreme caution if you decide to use a sharpie. Make sure to allow it to dry before adding any varnish and consider only using spray varnish so you don’t have to worry that it will smear.
Where to Leave Your Mark
Where you sign your acrylic painting is almost as important as what you use to write it. There are certain places that people expect to see a signature when they are looking to purchase. But, there are also times when you may want an alternative to signing the front of your artwork. Let’s take a closer look.
Signing On the Front
The most obvious, and popular, place to sign your acrylic painting is on the front. Typically, artists leave their mark in the lower right-hand corner although I have seen them add it to the left-hand corner and even in the middle along the bottom.
There really is no concrete rule about where you should put your signature but, as someone who worked in an art gallery for over a decade, I can tell you that people who are serious about purchasing will typically look for a signature in the bottom right-hand corner.
So, if you want to leave your mark where people are most likely to find it, placing it in the bottom right-hand corner is your best bet.
Hide Your Signature in Plain Sight
One trend is to sign your acrylic painting, in a way that it’s barely visible, by hiding it within the subject of the painting. I’ve seen signatures painted into vines, the bark on a tree, and along the stem of a flower.
I think this practice is so clever! It’s like “Where’s Waldo” the art edition. It adds an air of playfulness to your painting with the added benefit of causing the viewer to take their time looking at your artwork.
The only downside I can see to doing this is that, people who aren’t familiar with your artwork could mistake it for someone else’s work or, worst case scenario, people may not be able to find your signature and will never know who painted it.
To make sure that your work is recognized, you could hide your signature somewhere on the front and also sign it on the back so people get the best of both worlds.
Leaving Your Mark On the Back
The other way that you can sign your acrylic painting is by leaving your mark on the back. If you’ve ever seen the back of some canvas panels, you’ll see that there is a large label where you can put your name, date, the title of the artwork, and other info.
If you’re someone who doesn’t want to chance signing the front of your painting, or you just don’t like the look of it, this is a great option. I typically initial the front and then will sign the back along with the title of the piece (if there is one), the date, and what I used to create the painting.
The downside to this is that if anyone wants the full info on the piece, they’ll have to remove it from the wall to get to it, which may be annoying to people. This is why I initial the front and sign the back with all the deets. I figure the initial will remind them of what’s written on the back.
Attaching an Artist Card
One of the things we asked all of our artists, when I worked in an art gallery, was to include artist cards with each painting.
An artist card not only holds all of the information on the painting itself but will also include a background on the artist (where they’re from, what started their painting journey, why they continue to paint, any awards they’ve won, and anything else they want people to know).
An artist card can include a photo of the artist and it usually has been signed by the artist. We used to tack these to the wall next to the painting and have more on hand to give to the buyer when purchasing.
A lot of people love having all of this information so that they have the history of the painting and the artist. It creates a more intimate bond between the artist and the buyer/receiver and could potentially turn that buyer/receiver into a lifelong collector of your fabulous work.
Initials vs Full Signature
I’ve heard a lot of back and forth on the issue of using initials or a full signature and there are some valid arguments for always signing your paintings with your full name.
You wouldn’t think it would be a big deal, right? Well, if you look at it from a longevity point of view, the person who receives your painting now may not remember what the initials stand for way down the line.
I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of artwork where there are only initials on the front and that’s perfectly fine if you don’t mind losing recognition over time. And, listen, I use my initials on the front, however, I also sign the back of the painting using my full name.
Using your initials on the front is very tempting because, let’s be real, it’s much easier to paint a couple of letters rather than a whole string of them! It takes up less room, there’s less chance of making errors, and it’s less noticeable.
So, if you don’t want to use your full name, to sign your acrylic painting, on the front, mark it with your initials and then write your full signature on the back.
What About Signing an Abstract Painting?
Have you ever attempted a pour painting or an abstract? If so, you know that these types of paintings are open to interpretation and that includes which way a person wants to hang it according to their liking. This makes signing your work a bit challenging.
To allow the viewer the option of hanging the painting any way they like, you should not only add hangers on all four sides, you should sign the back. This leaves the painting free of distractions, such as an upside-down signature. Which could kind of look cool, depending on what the abstract looks like, but could also take away some of the beauty of the piece.
Should You Date It?
Again, here is where you’re going to get conflicting information. Apparently it’s an issue???
In the one camp, you have some artists who say that, if you sell your artwork, you shouldn’t date your paintings. They reason that it may stop a potential buyer from purchasing because it will be seen as old and they might question how the piece was stored, where it was stored, and if bad storage practices will hinder the painting in any way. They may also wonder why it hasn’t sold, although I don’t think this is a problem since most people realize that art is a matter of perspective and what one person doesn’t like, another person absolutely loves!
In the other camp, you have some artists who say you should always date your work. People appreciate seeing when a piece was created and see artwork like a fine wine, it ages well. The more history there is to a painting, the better it gets!
Buyers and receivers aside, some artists date their work so that they can look back and see how much they’ve grown and changed in their art journey. It really is like looking at a younger you and reminiscing over all of the accomplishments you’ve achieved along the way.
I am a firm believer in dating your work. I used to date the front with the abbreviated year but now I date the back with the full date that I finished the piece. I like people knowing when their piece was completed and I use it as the conclusion to my artwork. In books, you’ll see “The End” at the conclusion of a novel and I see dating my acrylic paintings as the same thing.
Tips for Success
The best way to learn how to sign your acrylic paintings is to practice so here are a few tips to help you along the way.
Just Add Water
When using a paintbrush to sign your acrylic painting, you will want to make sure that the paint is nice and thin so that your lines flow freely. You will basically use the same technique as when you are painting tree branches (I’ve linked to that article below, if you’re interested).
Adding water will stop you from having to go over your signature multiple times which could set you up for disaster because it will have a tendency to become thicker and thicker the more you go over it.
Make sure to hold your brush loosely. You will want to just barely touch the canvas while you’re writing your signature. Just remember, the more pressure you put on your brush, the thicker your lines will be.
After you’ve practiced on scrap paper, you may still not feel confident about signing your artwork. If you have a chalk pencil or a watercolor pencil, go ahead and sign your acrylic painting with one of those first, and then just trace over it with acrylic paint. It may still not be perfect but perfection is highly overrated and quirkiness is totally in!
Finding Your Art Signature Style
Do you want to print your signature or do you want to write it? Block letters? All lowercase? A messy scrawl or curlycues added?
While you’re practicing your signature, try out many different ways. You may find one style that is easier for you, or maybe you want to make sure that your signature is a statement unto itself. Maybe you want your signature to be more of a symbol.
Regardless of how you sign your acrylic painting, make it unique to you and something that won’t give you an anxious eye twitch every time you do it.
Finally, be consistent. Your signature will help to guide people to other pieces of your work if they recognize how it’s signed. Think of it as branding. For example, everyone knows what the big golden arches stand for or the red and white bullseye target!
What We’ve Learned About Signing Artwork
We’ve talked about a lot of things that you may not have thought about when deciding whether or not to sign your acrylic painting. You now have options on where to put your signature, what tools to use to get the job done, and tips to help the process become easier to do.
I hope you sign every single acrylic painting you create, even the ones you think suck. As you keep growing and learning, you will have a visual reminder of how much you’ve learned and how far you’ve come. That, my friend, is priceless.