Creating and distributing documents that require signatures is one of many timesaving uses for PDF files. Digitally signed PDFs are considered just as valid as manually signed originals by most companies and government agencies. Creating and using digitally signed PDFs saves the time, energy, and expense of sending signed documents back and forth—and many people can sign the same document.

Here’s how to create, customize, and use a digitally signed PDF to submit W-9 Federal tax forms to all your paying clients. If like me, you hate paperwork, you’ll love this method of distributing these forms and may find many similar ways to use your digital signature.

Step 1 Download and Open the W-9 Form
Download the W-9 form from www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw9.pdf. Open this form in Acrobat 8.

STEP 2 Fill Out the W-9 form
The W-9 is an interactive PDF form, so all you need do is click in the Name field to begin typing in the appropriate information. Tab through to access the needed fields. Note: You can view all the form fields by simply activating the Tools>Advanced Editing>Select Object tool.

STEP 3 Create Image for Digital Signature
You can use a graphic image along with your digital signature, so select an image you’d like to use as your PDF signature image. Save it from Photoshop as a PDF file. It should be approximately 150×200 pixels at 100 ppi (high quality). A zoomed-in headshot is appropriate for use here because the image will appear in a small area onscreen (and in a printout).


CREDIT: TAZ TALLY

STEP 4 Assign Graphic to Digital Signature
Choose Acrobat>Application>Preferences (PC: Edit>Preferences) and scroll down to Security to access the Digital Signatures dialog. Click on the New button to open the Configure Signature Appearance dialog and fill in the Title field with your name followed by “Image Signature.” In the Configure Graphic section, check the Imported Graphic button and under Configure Text, click on all fields. For Text Properties, click Auto. Now click the Import Graphic from File button, locate the PDF image you created in Step 3, and click OK.

STEP 5 Create a Text-Only Digital Signature
Back in the Digital Signatures dialog, click the Duplicate button to duplicate the image-based signature you just created. Select the copy of the signature and click the Edit button. In the Configure Signature Appearance dialog, change the Title to: “[your name] Text Signature,” change the Configure Graphic option to No Graphic, and then click OK to create your second signature. Now you have a choice of using either an image or a text-only signature when you digitally “sign” your PDF documents.

STEP 6 Assign Advanced Digital Signature Preferences
In the Digital Signatures dialog showing the list of your two newly created digital signatures, click Advanced Preferences. Read through to see your Verification options (we used the default values). Now click the Creation tab and read the options. As you can see, we opted to turn on all options. These fields will then appear in your digital signature dialog when you sign a document. Click OK twice to close these dialogs.

STEP 7 Select a Signing Method
Click on the Sign tool and choose Certify with Visible Signature. You may also select Place Signature. The difference is that the Certify option allows you to use a third-party Adobe Digital ID (see Step 8), and also lets you control/prevent any changes from occurring to the document after you’ve signed and certified the document. If you choose the Without Visible Signature option, your signature will still be present and viewable in the Signature panel (see Step 13), but there will be no visible signature on the actual document.

STEP 8 Select/Acquire a Digital ID
If you’ve selected Certify with Visible Signature, the Save as Certified Document dialog appears. Read it, and if decide if you’d like to Get Digital ID from Adobe Partner, click this button. This will take you to a Digital ID website where you can acquire a third-party digital ID. This isn’t necessary for this example of signing our W-9 form; however, having and using a third-party digital ID may be useful if you’re distributing signed documents to a group of people who may not know you personally.

STEP 9 Place your Digital Signature
Once you’ve selected your signing tool, zoom in on the area where you’d like to place your digital signature. If possible, choose an area with enough white space to allow your digital signature image and its related copy to be clearly visible. In the W-9 form, click-and-drag to create a digital signature area on the right side of the signing area on page 1 of the W-9 form.

STEP 10 Configure Your Digital Signature
When you’ve completed your signature placement, the Certify Document dialog appears (or the Sign Document dialog if you’ve elected the Place Signature option instead). Complete the dialog as follows: Your Digital ID—select a third-party ID if you acquired one in Step 8 or simply use your default internal Digital ID; Password—use the password that is already associated with the Digital ID that you selected; Appearance—your name and image signature; Reason—I am the authorÂ…; Other Information—fill in as you like; Permitted Changes after Certifying—No Changes Allowed. When you’re finished, click the Sign button.

STEP 11 Name and Save
Once you click the Sign button, you’ll be asked to create a new signed version of your PDF document. I used “W-9_iSign_07” to name the document as a reminder that this is an image- rather than a simple text-signature document.

STEP 12 View Signature
Zoom in on your new digital signature on your W-9 form. You’ll see your PDF image as well as the information, including the date of your signature. You can also click on your digital image to access the Signature Validation Status dialog. Then click on the button to activate the Signature Properties tabbed dialog.

STEP 13 View Signature Panel
In Acrobat, you can click on the Signature panel icon (located on the left side of the Acrobat window) to view information about the location and content of you signature. This is a quick way to locate any digital signatures in a document and is handy when viewing an especially long document with signatures. And, if many people have signed the document, all their signatures will appear in this panel.

STEP 14 Create Alias/Shortcut of Your Signed W-9
Now that you’ve created a digitally signed W-9 tax form, create an Alias (PC: Shortcut) and place this in an easily accessible place, such as your Favorites folder. Now, any time one of your clients wants you to send them a signed W-9, you can quickly access and attach this W-9 PDF to an email. Note: If you want to add further protection to your signed W-9 PDF, you can create a security envelope (Secure>Create Security Envelope).

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  1. Liz McIver (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    In your opening paragraph you state that multiple people can sign a document. I have tried this and while I can get multiple signatures in the document the icon changes to a yellow triangle with an exclamation mark in it. This is showing that the document has changed but the only change is the signature. Is there a way to get multiple signatures into the document without this warning?

  2. Latha (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    how to change the default Adobe logo at digital signature.
    How to add my own logo at background?Please help me.

  3. S.Sivalingam (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    Thanks for such a wonderful explanation… Really it helps me a lot…

  4. gregg (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    I forgot my password!!! what do I do to create a new one.

  5. charles Michie (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    What should I do if I’ve forgotten my password required to sign digitally

  6. six3890 (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    Yes, I too forgot my password and it will not let me access my signature or my newly created graphic signature. Help!!!!!!

  7. Gloria Jones (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    I do not understand why we need to complete an American IRS form when we are in Canada just to sign a PDF

    I have used digital signatures for many years with older versions and there was never such a requirement

    Please help me understand and accomplish…I don’t know how to do this in Canada

  8. ghanshyam (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    how to place signature on all the page at a time ?

  9. Talyas (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    Great, I have a signed w-9 form. But as far as I know IRS refuses to receive electronic w-9 forms…

  10. Taz Tally (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    You can send these electronic/PDF w-9 forms to clients who want to send you 1099′s at the end of the year … big time and hassle saver!

  11. cabre heiro (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    HEY ALL – Big Question:
    I’ve set this up and used it once a couple of months ago. Now I tried to do it again, and it asked me a Password to sign. Point is: I don’t remember the passwort I set.
    There seems no way to go on without that. Even new Signatures I set up ask for the same mysterious password all the time.
    Where & how can I change that?
    Thanks in Advance for your help.

  12. moromeerajbangshi@yahoo.co.in (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    i want to create my own digital signature being a IT

  13. cmptechdude (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    I seem to have the same problem a lot of people are having, but I don’t see answers posted here. I’ve forgotten the password that was used when the signature was first added, now I can’t delete or create a new one. Was a solution ever found for this?

  14. John Tait (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    If you’ve forgotten your password you have to get a new certificate. A digital signature would be pointless if there was a back door to reset the password for your certificate. It would be too easy for someone to copy your certificate from your computer then impersonate you.

  15. Wanda Nieters (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    I also forgot my password, so I created a new digital ID with my same information. When I clicked “save,” Adobe warned me that my new digital ID was a duplicate of an ID I already had and then asked me if I wanted to replace my old ID. Of course I said “okay,” and it replaced my old digital ID with my new ID and password.

    • cbinflux (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

      PERFECT

  16. Gary (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    Wanda, it worked. Thanks. I would not have figured it out. Now I will hang onto yet one more password. This is really the last one I will need in life, right?

  17. Nguyen Hoang (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    When I placed a signature on .pdf file. I received the question mark with the popup signer’s identity unknown. I also see the question mark when I opens the .pdf file that someone signed and sent to me. Please let me know how to fix this issue.

  18. Kevin (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    I have created a multiple proposals with adobe and have assembled the binders into a package. It requires my signature in multiple locations and I am only able to put it into one location. Is there a work around for this?

  19. sealfishes (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    Under ADVANCED, select SECURITY SETTINGS; on the left of the window Expand the DIGITAL IDs, then select WINDOWS Digital IDs. You should see your Digital ID in the main window. This way I created a new ID but could not delete the old ID…i just let it sit there

  20. Wahaj (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    Hi,

    I haven’t so far found the ability to sign multiple documents in Adobe. For those who are finding it hard to digital sign many PDF ( in hundreds or more) document do try PDF Sign&Seal which lets you to right click as many PDF and then select sign option to digital sign all PDF documents. You can even apply signature on all of the pages. On top of this you can customize the signature appearance with its built in signature appearance editor.
    Has a built in viewer too.

    You can download from here: http://www.ascertia.com/Products/pdfsignseal/Default.aspx?m=menudocsign&s=pdfss

  21. Alexandra (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    Hello everyone

    This website is really great. Thanks to your explanation, I managed to sign my Acrobat form very easily !!

    But, you forgot a step between step 9 and 10 for those who don’t have any digital identity yet: a page opens when you place your digital signature (step 9): here you have to click on ” create a self-signed digital ID for use with Acrobat “(I use Acrobat 8 Pro), then you choose between “new file” and “Windows certificate store”. You fill in the required fields (name and email address are compulsory fields) and then you can choose a password and your file location.
    In any case, I have done like that and it worked, I hope it will help future visitors of this website.

    PS: I am French so sorry for the mistakes, if any…

  22. Dave (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    Your instructions are terrible. They are inconsistent with the commands in Adobe Pro 8.1. Very confusing. I just want my non-secure signautre on the bottom line of Word and .pdf documents. There’s got to be a better way!

    The French guy is smarter than Taz Tally (What kind of a name is that?) Looks like a Florida mortgage broker.

  23. WinchesterWing (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    This Life, which seems so fair,
    Is like a bubble blown up in the air
    By sporting children’s breath,
    Who chase it everywhere

  24. seo (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    I really liked your blog! It helped me alot…

  25. Janel Rulpo (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    Thanks for putting this out. Helpful info !!

  26. davesink (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    I went through steps 1-9, but Acrobat crashes every time on step 10 after setting up the ID and drawing the square to place the signature. I set up the ID I using the same name as the one in Step 4. Maybe that’s the problem? But when I tried starting over, the same thing happens.Where does the ID file reside? Can I delete it manually? Using Acrobat 8 Pro on Mac OS 10.5.8.

  27. samuel (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    I have created a signature on my PDF, the problem is i want to edit my name because i left some of my names out. Your earliest responds will be much appreciated.
    Thanks

  28. Arslan Zaidi (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    in case you forgot password, there is no way to recover it. however create a new id with the same name as of the previous one. adobe will ask you to set the new password. set the password and save the id, adobe will ask “an ID with the same name already exists, do you want to replace it? ” confirm by clicking YES.

  29. Paul Davidson (Reply) on Wednesday March 19, 2008

    I mostly use PDFfiller to fill out and esign a document. It also allows you to erase in a pdf, efax, add logo and pics to pdfs, create fillable pdfs and more. Its pretty easy to use and its pretty cheap. Here is a link http://goo.gl/FmPOsx where you can digitally sign your document. This site also has some instruction forms and various blank tax forms in case you need to fill out one. I think you can get a free trial if you ask for it.



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