Nowadays many job applications are sent in digital form as PDF. We use of course LaTeX to create such. Usually you add a cover letter to your CV and credentials. If you sent this as print-out by classic mail you sign this letter (at least in Germany), but what (and how) do you do for an online application?

I would say either:

  1. leave it empty
  2. add your name in the usual font as normal text
  3. add your real signature as scanned image
  4. add your name in a special font so that it look more like a signature (but you can still see that it isn't a real one)

I'm planning to go with the last method and I'm looking for suitable fonts for it which I can use with PDFLaTeX (XeLaTeX and LuaLaTeX answers are fine too, but will be taken as non-competitive). I would also be happy to get some style guidelines if I should not got with an other method (with a rationale to avoid subjective opinions).

I already had a look at Good Style of Creating a Signature all within LaTeX which is similar but still too different. I don't need or want any rule and the shown font in the accepted answer are looking too real.

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    PS: Please no discussions about digital signatures (PGP, GPG, etc.). That's a complete different topic. (I don't think someone should sent signed applications around as long as it wasn't requested.) Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 18:26
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    In terms of "style guidelines", I've gone with option (3) in the past, and used autotrace to provide a vector-based version of the BMP signature. It looks authentic since it duplicates your actual handwriting "exactly".
    – Werner
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 18:28
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    In my mind, the best practice is to scan your real signature, remove the white background and turn it into transparent. This way you can easily include it in the document and even have a nice overlaying effect over your printed name. Even better, use some input device which generates a vector graphics of your signature. Otherwise it is like not having signature at all, merely the name printed.
    – Dror
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 18:29
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    In my opinion option 3 is a really bad idea. By signing one's correspondence regularly with an easily copied stamp/image one transfers the burden of proof that it was not oneself who signed a given document. Couldn't find a link atm that explains this more in depth...
    – Unapiedra
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 18:15
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    @Unapiedra The same is true of signing on hard copy. It is just as easy for somebody else to scan your signature and use it as it is for you to do so. Avoiding the use of a scanned image places an obstacle in the way of somebody who wants to forge your signature, but it is such a small one that I doubt it would deter anybody who actually wanted to do this in the first place. (Wanting to impersonate you is not like identity theft where even a minor obstacle may make you a less attractive target. Somebody who wants to fake your signature has already identified you as a target for some reason.)
    – cfr
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 15:20

5 Answers 5


Here is a play-by-play of how one can do it using potrace. It is similar to autotrace and provides a command line functionality/interface.

  1. Download potrace. It is available for virtually every distribution out there.
  2. Unpack it.
  3. Provide a signature in (say) BMP high resolution format (click to enlarge and see the quality):

    enter image description here

  4. Store this file signature.bmp in your potrace folder.

  5. Execute from the command line:

    >potrace signature.bmp -b PDF -o signature.pdf

    to create a PDF of signature.bmp. Alternatively, just executing

    >potrace signature.bmp

    would yield signature.eps that can be converted using epstopdfsignature.eps. This uses the default potrace settings/options and produces as output (click to enlarge and see the quality):

    random person PDF

    Other tracing options are also available. See the potrace usage page for details on the type of options you can specify.

  6. Include it in your document...

    enter image description here

    \usepackage{graphicx}% http://ctan.org/pkg/graphicx
    \setlength{\parindent}{0pt}% Remove paragraph indent
    Random Institute \par
    Random City 1000 \par
    Randomia \par
    To whom it may concern: \par \bigskip
    Hire me, it'll be worth your while. \par \bigskip
    Sincerely, \par \medskip
    \includegraphics[height=1.5\baselineskip]{signature} \par
    Random Randofsky \par

potrace also forms part of Inkscape's trace bitmap functionality, allowing you to use it in a GUI environment as well.

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    Ah, that's a very proper way to do it!
    – Jake
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 5:36
  • Isn't it more common to flush the signature block to the right? Doesn't it look better? Lastly, how can you do properly?
    – Dror
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 13:21
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    @Dror: It varies. For pushing the content to the right, I would set it using \null\hfill\begin{tabular}{l@{}} ... \\ ... \end{tabular} (\null may not be required). If you don't want it flush right but starting midway on the page, then use \null\hfill\begin{tabular}{p{.5\linewidth}@{}} ... \\ ... \end{tabular}. The tabular structure will keep the signature together with the printed name around a possible page break (and perhaps the closing as well, if you include that).
    – Werner
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 16:16
  • Very good design. However, is it easier to use \rightline instead of a minipage following a \hspace?
    – Limina102
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 1:17
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    @mika: If the output meets your needs, then use it. However, since \rightline sets its content inside an \hbox, it doesn't work with multiple lines; minipage on the other hand, does.
    – Werner
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 3:04

I’m not sure if this is an answer or a comment …

In my opinion your number 4 is the worst solution—sorry. In my eyes this looks like “Oh he likes a real signature but isn’t able to scan/include it” or “Why not set the whole document in Comic Sans” and I don’t think this creates a professional appeal.

I’d prefer to set the name only in the normal text font or adding a (vector) graphic of your handwritten and scanned signature.

  • And, weirdly, that's a REAL option provided for Adobe Sign users.
    – Limina102
    Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 10:45

I am not sure what you mean by "online application", but if you mean a letter you are sending as an attachment to an email, the answer is, it depends.

If for example you are referring to an informal letter you sending to colleagues inviting them to attend a conference or a presentation then I think it is best to send it without a formal signature, but having a signature block, which is similar to that you use to sign your emails.

    Martin Scharrer
    Chief Engineer
    TeX and Co. 

If you are sending a letter representing some form of official correspondence, you should sign it, scan the full signed letter and then email it as an attachment. A signature represents the authenticity of the letter. You are confirming that the letter has been send by you. Even better to then hand deliver or post the original.

Now for a letter signed with a font this in my opinion deserves the same fate to direct marketing letters. They are impersonal and look and feel fake and both destined to death in a recycle bin.

  • I meant sending my CV and credentials by email instead as a hard-copy by mail. Most German companies I spoke last and this week are fine with that. Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 6:37
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    @MartinScharrer I get a massive amount of applications for posts, via email, which is fine. No one expects to get CVs via post anymore. My suggestion is that you make your elevator pitch in the email. Personally most times, I don't even read the letter only the CV to screen the applicants, but the email always catches my attention. If you drop a letter by hand (always a good idea, you learn a lot about the Company by just hanging at the reception for a few minutes and talking to the receptionist), then include a letter as I suggested above.
    – yannisl
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 7:13

This is what I once did. I signed a piece of white paper then scanned it and by using Inkscape and Potrace, I traced bitmaps making it a vector graphic, then converted it to PDF as an image and finally included it in my LaTeX document.


I go with option 3, but to reduce the impact of unauthorized use, I have a 3 different images. I have one image I use for banking and other things that I am confident about the security of. This image matches my typical signature in real life. I have another I use exclusively for signing forms for students. This one has my full first name, unlike my real life signature, has no middle initial, and my degree after my name. The third is one I use for correspondence (e.g., cover letters) and official university forms. It has my full first name, my middle initial, but no degree. Signatures 2 and 3 are also intentionally written differently from my natural hand writing. The differences in "names" lets me easily identify which one I am looking at.

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    Hm... I am not a lawyer, but I doubt that your approach makes any difference from a legal point of view. If the signature on a document somehow matches your name and some handwriting of you, you have signed the document.
    – Daniel
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 18:30
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    It may or may not make a difference from a legal view. I can assure you that my department and university do not always take the legal vantage. Being able to quickly, and more or less, definitively be able to say whether or not I provided an electronic signature helps to reduce the impact of unauthorized use.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 19:23
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    But you can't say, on seeing version 2 or 3, 'I did not provide an electronic signature' because that is one of your electronic signatures, right? So how exactly does this help? (I'm sure it does or you wouldn't do it. I just don't quite understand.)
    – cfr
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 15:25

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