Wet signature vs electronic signature: The complete guide

Signatures have long been used to execute binding contracts. The hand-written signature, or wet signature, as we know it today, was used to commemorate the creation of a new country called the United States of America back in 1776.

Inking on paper isn’t the only option for authorizing a document or transaction today. There are different forms of signatures, mainly electronic and digital signatures.

In this article, we will explain how these signature types facilitate business transactions, cover the difference between wet and electronic signatures, and more. Let’s dive right in!

What is an electronic signature?

Electronic signatures, also known as e-signatures, allow people to sign documents online. Unlike the traditional pen and paper method, you don’t need to write your e-signature manually every time you sign a PDF or Word document.

Similar to a traditional wet signature, an electronic signature is unique to every individual. Electronic signatures can either be represented by standardized digital signatures, handwritten signatures in an electronic format, or simply by the full name of the signee. 

There are several types of electronic signatures, each designed to meet varying requirements and security levels:

1. Simple e-signatures (SES) are typically used for low-risk transactions. This type of electronic signature can include typed names, scanned signatures, or checkboxes indicating approval.

2. Advanced e-signatures (AES) offer enhanced security features, such as biometric data or PIN codes, providing a heightened level of authentication and identity verification. An AES often uses a public key infrastructure (PKI) for added security.

3. Qualified e-signatures (QES) are digital signatures that adhere to strict regulatory standards and use hardware-based cryptographic devices for added security. Using Qualified Electronic Signature is prevalent in industries with rigorous compliance requirements.

Today, electronic signature technology is becoming more commonplace. Many companies and contractors are signing agreements using digital signatures since they are quick, efficient, and easily verifiable.

wet signature vs electronic signature

What are electronic signatures used for?

Now that you understand the meaning of the term “e signature”, let’s look at its usage and how it can help businesses across different industries. 

Human Resources

Using an electronic signature streamlines different processes for HR departments that involve the signing of onboarding contracts, approvals, exit contracts, NDAs, and more. Further, e-signatures can help your team save countless hours every week and complete a larger number of agreements daily.

The best part is that the top HRMS software comes integrated with an electronic signature generator tool that makes it easy for newcomers to create an account, upload, eSign, and send their first document for signing in minutes. It helps you authenticate signatures faster and more efficiently.

Legal is another sector where the use of e-signatures can make entire processes run smoother. You can capture client signatures faster and sign loan agreements, rental agreements, promissory notes, and other legal documents remotely in less time.

Besides, when you rely on delivery services or couriers, business holidays or weekends can delay the delivery of important legal notices. Sometimes, this even results in heavy penalties when you are not able to take action in time. This is where e-signatures can speed up the process and help avoid any risks. 


With such stiff competition in the market, every business is trying to close deals faster. You do not want to risk your clients changing their minds while they wait for a paper-based contract to arrive. 

You can easily avoid physically sending your paper-based agreement by simply emailing it to them using document management software with an incorporated eSignature solution. Not only does this help save paper, but you also create a seamless onboarding experience for your clients, vendors, or suppliers. 

Watch the video below to learn how Sales teams can sign documents faster using SignNow’s electronic signature:

Banking and Finance

Using an electronic signature in banking and finance helps financial institutions to provide a hassle-free experience to their customers. They can easily sign and send documents from their home, open accounts, manage investments, and much more. 

On top of that, banks can store customer signatures in their document management system, allowing for an easy authentication process from any location. This helps prevent fraudulent activities in any of their customer’s accounts while delivering a unique banking experience.


The use of eSignatures in the healthcare sector can help reduce paperwork drastically. It makes the process of collecting and signing patient intake and consent forms online hassle-free. This can speed up the process during medical emergencies and even save a patient’s life. 

What’s more, electronic signatures also allow you to settle your health insurance claims digitally and remove any roadblocks.


Even when it comes to operations, electronic signatures can help. It allows you to approve documents related to asset management, budget allocation, and policy management within a few minutes as it removes the need for printing a large number of documents to seek consent for executing any new rules or regulations.

What is a wet signature?

A wet signature is a traditional pen and paper signature that is applied to a physical paper document. Wet signatures are still more common than electronic signatures as people have relied on the traditional pen and paper method to sign contracts, agreements, and approve documents for centuries. 

Despite the growing importance of electronic signatures, certain places still require the use of wet signatures. These situations include the signing of wills, property evictions, court orders, insurance benefit claims, approval and issuance of bank loans, and the verification of identity to a notary public. In some scenarios, maintaining copies of the analog pen and ink signatures is more beneficial, particularly for people or organizations that have not adopted newer technologies yet.

wet signature vs electronic signature

What are wet signatures used for?

If you are wondering, an electronic signature has the same legal recognition and is just as valid as a traditional handwritten signature. However, in some special cases, a wet ink signature is still a legal requirement. This includes:

  • Transfer of Property: Wet signatures are used for signing documents that approve the inheritance or transfer of property or investment between two or more parties.
  • Taxation: In some countries, certain documents need to be signed using only traditional wet signatures. For instance, UK tax authorities require that documents filed with the tax authorities or land registry are signed in wet ink.
  • Accounting: According to the law in some countries, only the traditional pen and paper signature is accepted on documents such as promissory notes, deeds of trust, notarized documents, mortgage papers, and other collateral documents.

What’s the difference between a wet signature and an electronic signature?

While a wet signature is a physical signature requiring pen and paper, an e-signature is an equally legally-binding acknowledgment of an online document. 

Wet ink signatures require a physical mark over a physical document, whereas electronic signatures can be executed online and approved instantly. 

Another thing about a wet signature is that it needs to be written out every time someone signs a document. But you can easily access e-signatures online in any format for future use. Electronic signatures can be typed out, created online, or saved to your desktop by scanning a written version of your wet signature.

Moreover, electronic signatures are secure, and their authenticity can be verified. On the other hand, it may be difficult to authenticate whether a wet signature is genuine. 

Today, many companies are switching to e-signatures to sign business proposals, NDAs, affidavits, contracts and agreements, and issue payments. However, wet signatures are still used in signing documents pertaining to the transfer of property ownership, filing taxes, issuing promissory notes, notarized documents, mortgage papers, and collateral documents. 

What are the advantages of e-signatures over wet signatures?

Saves costs

A study has shown that companies can save between 55% and 78% of their average costs related to management, subscriptions, and supplies by switching from wet signatures to electronic signatures. 

With wet signatures, you need to purchase paper and ink, along with a quality printer to help you print several documents on a daily or weekly basis. With eSignatures, however, this is not the case. All you need to do is create your own signature digitally or scan your handwritten signature, and you are good to go.

Saves time

On average, it takes five or more days to get a document signed and returned using a handwritten signature. By contrast, it takes a mere 37 minutes to get your signed contract or agreement with an electronically produced signature. In fact, you don’t even need to sign every time you receive a document online. You can either use an electronic document signing software or create your own signature template and save it on your desktop for use when necessary. 

Enhances security

Unlike traditional pen and paper signatures that can be imitated easily, eSignatures cannot. With the help of electronic signatures, you can easily check and verify signer’s identity. This allows clients and companies to manage documents more effectively and close deals faster.

Centralized storage

Using electronic signing software, you can store all your documents on a single platform. You don’t need to create multiple copies of documents and manually keep track of agreements or contracts that have been signed versus those that have not. With eSignature platforms like SignNow, you can maintain a database and filter documents according to whether they have been signed or not.


eSignatures are environment-friendly since they save the need to use paper to write or print documents. With the help of electronic document signing software, all you need to do is share the documents with the necessary parties. The documents can then be signed in real-time and also allow you to track their status.

Why switch to electronic signatures?

wet signature vs electronic signature

While wet signatures were the standard earlier, eSignatures are becoming a necessity. Not only do they help save time and are environment-friendly, but they also ensure authenticity. Since an eSignature cannot be imitated or altered, it becomes easier to make sure that the documents have been received and signed by the intended parties. 

In addition, an electronic signature can take various forms — typed-out versions or scanned versions of your handwritten signatures. It can also help you track the status of your documents — whether they have been signed or not. 

Here’s how you can easily create your electronic signature in five simple steps:

Step #1: Choose an e signature solution. You can go for SignNow – it has a range of eSignature tools and built-in document templates that help you create and share your files from the platform itself. 

Step #2: Once you have signed up, the next step is to upload or create a document that needs to be signed. Most platforms accept Microsoft Word as well as PDF documents. 

Step #3: Create and save your signature. You can build your signature by either uploading a handwritten copy or drawing it with your mouse or a trackpad on the document itself.

Step #4: Insert your signature on the document. Once done, invite other signees to sign your document through email or the eSignature platform. Many eSignature apps let you track whether it has been signed or not.

Step #5: Once the documents have been signed, save them online or physically for future use.


Today, we see more and more businesses moving towards paperless offices, with e signature adoption being a part of that process. Organizations are looking to save costs in terms of physical paper management, and at the same, reduce their dependence on paper to protect the environment. 

If you are worried about the legal validity of electronic signatures, they carry the same legal standing as wet signatures. So switch to electronic signatures today to increase your working productivity. You will be surprised at how much time you save while drastically improving your customers’ experiences. 

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