Signing a Canvas from my Video

Podcast 266 : Signing Fine Art Prints and Canvases

Many times I've been asked how I sign my fine art prints, and having received an email recently from listener Tanya Mattson from Pennsylvania, USA, I decided to go into a little bit of detail on this in today's episode. Apparently Tanya and her husband had watched the video I...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
  • David Kingham
    Posted at 15:04h, 29 November Reply

    Thanks Martin, this is great information. I didn’t sign my recent prints that were installed in a medical building because I didn’t have this info…next time I will sign them!

  • David Jenne
    Posted at 05:28h, 20 December Reply

    Martin – Just discovered your podcast and am in the process of catching up. I’m having a great time and learning a lot.

    For folks looking to purchase these pens, I have found them at jetpens.

    thanks again for all the great information and most of all, Good luck with your Exhibition !


  • Charlie
    Posted at 01:34h, 05 January Reply

    Thanks for the great post. You headed me in the right direction. There seems to be little information on the subject. Thanks David Jenne for the link. I can’t find them in Edmonton so I will order them from your link. I did find some Sakura micron ink pens which I tested out last night. They still smudge a bit on the paper after drying for a bit. Martin, did you have to leave the signature to dry for a long time when using it on glossy surfaces? I am using the felt tip micron pen from Sakura’s on Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.



    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 10:58h, 05 January Reply

      Hi Charlie,

      I never noticed any smudging, but then the only time I rub them is when testing, as you are now. Also, I use mostly matte papers, and they definitely soak up the ink more than gloss will. I would suggest waiting a while after signing, and see if it smudges then.


      • Charlie
        Posted at 12:45h, 05 January Reply

        Thanks Martin ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Adam Romanowicz
    Posted at 07:34h, 01 March Reply

    Hi Martin, great information and beautiful work. I sell prints online, but have my printing company drop ship direct to the customer. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on adding a digitized signature to the image, so the “signed” copy goes straight out to the customer. Is that cheating? BTW, mine are all open editions.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 10:40h, 02 March Reply

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for taking a look, and for the kind words.

      Digitally signing really depends on how you position your prints. There are no hard and fast rules, but an “original print” made and signed by the artist is generally more expensive and more collectable, so you should really make it understood that your prints are printed by a third party and not individually signed by yourself. As long as you are upfront about this, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in what you are considering.


  • heidi
    Posted at 18:33h, 08 August Reply

    I have been looking for pens to sign photographs that I have printed on canvas. It has not been easy to find any information on internet. The best information was on your page. Thanks for sharing your experience! Do you know if it is common to write number of prints below the signature? To me it looks better to only have the signature, but the numbering has to be somewhere. Do you have a link to those three pens that you used for the canvas? The silver, white and black? I have some prints that are very white. Maybe the silver would be good. I dont want to “destroy” the peace in the picture. Thanks again, Martin!

  • heidi
    Posted at 22:11h, 08 August Reply

    Thank you so much! It helps a lot! ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a wonderful weekend!

  • Donalda
    Posted at 07:30h, 21 October Reply

    Do the uniball signo pens write properly on canvases that are already laminated?

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 08:44h, 21 October Reply

      I think I’ve done that once Donalda, and it works, although I generally prefer to sign before laminating, to fully bond the signature with the canvas.

      • Donalda
        Posted at 21:58h, 21 October Reply

        I just started making canvases with my photos for sale at a local venue. But I don’t see them until they are laminated. This has been the most helpful information regarding signature. Thank you. Now to find these pens.

        • Martin Bailey
          Posted at 22:08h, 21 October Reply

          I see. It should be fine.

          BTW, there is a link to the pens on Amazon in an earlier post above.

  • Judy
    Posted at 01:35h, 29 October Reply

    I was wondering your thoughts on signing a canvas print after it was laminated? I have done that a few times with the Sakura Pen Touch and it seems ok and has held up on some older prints I still have hanging around. But, I have not tried a white pen on top of the laminate and wondered if you had a recommendation on this.

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 09:03h, 29 October Reply

    It’s a tough one Judy. I have only used the white pen on canvas before laminating it. They’re good pens, so it will probably be OK, but definitely preferable to do it before laminating if possible. If that’s not possible it would be good to do a test and at least check that the ink dries OK and does not come away with a bit of rubbing after a few days.

  • Morden O'Hare
    Posted at 14:26h, 18 February Reply

    Hi Martin, found this googling around for advice on fine art prints which I am on the point of embarking on. My handwritten signature is an undecipherable scribble. Would it be okay to use a digital signature from embedded in the digital file and therefore printed (and also not my real signature) for a fine art print and possible a limited run print? Would this be considered a little ‘mass production’. The advantage of it is consistency and neatness plus I don’t have to visit a print shop to sign the print before it is framed? As always your thoughts would be valued. Cheers mate.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 15:14h, 18 February Reply

      Hi Morden,

      Personally, I feel if you are selling the image as an “original” fine art print, it should be personally signed, to prove that you actually printed it. Otherwise, an embedded digital signature could be printed by anyone, anywhere, and therefore would not be an “original”.

      Whether it’s. still a fine art print or not is debatable, but you could leave it up to your customers to decide. If people buy it anyway, they don’t care. I don’t think you’d get any collectors or art buyers buying your prints with a digital embedded signature though. I guess it’s up to you.

      For a limited run, I really think you should be signing yourself. I also personally think you should be printing yourself too, rather than outsourcing that. If you outsource it, the concept of doing a limited run has almost no value, in my humble opinion. It’s totally up to you of course, but at the very least, you should make it known to your customers beforehand that they are not personally signed.

      As a final bit of food for thought, if I had the opportunity to buy a limited edition print from a photographer that I admired and found that it was not personally signed, I would not buy it. It just doesn’t feel right to me.

      Sorry I couldn’t give you a more positive answer, but that’s my honest take on it.


      • Morden O'Hare
        Posted at 15:34h, 18 February Reply

        Thanks for the advice Martin, food for thought. I don’t have a printer big enough to do the large prints I hope to sell so printing myself is not a viable option at least for prints larger than A2 (I have an ipf5100). Guess I’ll have to work on my signature! Thanks again for all the valuable info you put out – I’m reading your printing ebook again at the moment:)

        • Martin Bailey
          Posted at 22:52h, 18 February Reply

          Hi Morden,

          I see. Then you might want to still consider the outsourced prints, and even with the digital signature if it makes life easier, but be careful how you position them. I definitely wouldn’t do a limited edition on them.

          You’re welcome for the content, and thanks for reading my ebook again! ๐Ÿ™‚


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