Digital document signing isn’t new and has been done by many progressive companies for years. But only now has it taken off thanks to a recent world-spanning event that unfortunately limited physical interactions. PDFs have also been the de-facto digital document standard for a couple of decades now, and it only makes sense that digitally signing them become widely accepted. Businesses would have to make concessions based on the fact that the intent to sign is what’s important, so long as it can be traced. With that, this time, we discuss how to sign PDF with digital signature certificate.
How to sign PDF with digital signature certificate
Knowing how to sign PDF with a digital signature certificate is quite important as this method of signing is a bit more secure than say, pasting an image of one’s signature onto a PDF document. That’s because the digital signature we’re discussing here is certificate-based, meaning there’s some additional security behind the signature image which will be pasted on the document. And what’s more, this signing method is free, because the only tool needed is Adobe Acrobat DC and possibly any Paint program.
First, download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader DC if you don’t already have it on your system. A small installer file will be downloaded but the rest is online. Simply run it and follow as instructed by the installer.
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Step 1. Create a Digital ID in Adobe Acrobat Reader
1. Open Adobe Acrobat Reader DC.
2. Proceed to create a required digital ID. A digital ID contains information like your name, email address, name of the organization that issued it, a serial number, and expiration date, which should be enough digital information to establish the signatory’s identity. That information becomes known to the document’s recipient upon delivery through email or ordinary file transfer.
3. In Adobe Acrobat, digital IDs are used to certify documents or add digital signatures to documents. In Acrobat Reader, click on the Edit Menu, and select Preferences.
4. In the Preferences Screen, click on Signatures among the list of options on the left. On the right, click on the More button for ”Identities and Trusted Certificates”.
5. Select “Digital IDs” on the left, then click the Add ID icon on the right. Its appearance is that of an ID card with a plus sign on top.
6. On the next screen, choose if you want to create a new digital ID or import an existing digital ID file from your PC. We’ll create a new digital ID.
7. Next, enter all information requested on the fields such as name, organizational unit, name of the organization, email address, country/region, and leave the key algorithm and digital ID purpose fields as default. Then click on Next.
8. The next screen then requires your password to protect your digital ID file. Prior to that, take note of the file’s location on the File Name field. You may specify a different name and location of the file. This digital ID file will remain useful in the future until its expiration date. It will also be usable when transferring to another device, instead of creating a new one.
9. Once done with filling up, click Finish. The digital ID has been created. You can now use this ID to certify or sign a PDF.
Step 2. Create an Image File of your Signature
To add more weight to it, you will need an image file of your signature. To create it, open any PDF file.
1. Click on the sign icon on the top toolbar, which looks like the tip of a fountain pen. Then click ‘Add Signature’.
2. On the next screen, click on Draw. Then draw your signature onto the lines with a mouse pointer. If you have a touch screen, it would be better to sign with your fingers or a stylus, then click Apply.
3. Place the signature on a blank space and take a screenshot. Paste the image on MS Paint or another paint program, then crop the image until the signature is left. Then save the image file as JPG.
4. Then convert the JPG file to a PDF by selecting Microsoft PDF Printer as the printer.
Step 3. Customize the Look of your Digital Signature
Now let’s customize the look of your digital signature.
- Open Adobe Acrobat Reader, click on Edit, then select Preferences, and then back to Signatures. Then choose ‘Creation and Appearance’. Create a new appearance.
- Enter a title for your signature. On the Configure Graphic section, click on the Imported Graphic item and click on the File button. Select the PDF image file you created earlier. Then click Ok.
- In the Configure Text section, choose which information you wish to appear on your digital signature. Items include name, date, location, reason, adobe version, Adobe logo, and labels. Leave other settings as default. With that, you now have a digital signature ready.
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Step 4. Sign a PDF with Digital Signature Certificate
Next is to actually place the digital signature itself on a PDF document. So, open any PDF file, preferably one that needs to be signed.
- Once the file is open, click on the Adobe Tools Menu and select ‘Certificates. The Certificates bar will be activated. Click on the ‘Digitally Sign’ button.
- Scroll down to the area of the PDF that needs to be signed. Then with your mouse pointer, draw a small rectangle, the size of the signature you wish to appear. After drawing, choose the digital ID you want to use. You can create several different IDs if you wish using the previous steps. After selecting the ID, click Continue.
- Select the appearance you created earlier. If you are the only, or last of the document signatories, it’s recommended to click on the ‘Lock Document After Signing’ option to prevent further changes to the document.
- Next, enter the password of the digital ID you created earlier. Finally, click on the Sign button.
- Adobe Reader will then prompt you for a file name for the document’s signed version. Provide any filename you wish and click on Save. You will then see your digital signature on the document.
Remember that by selecting the Lock option, the PDF document you signed becomes read-only for everyone including the signatory. So make sure you retain the unsigned copy just in case.
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