Electronic signature vs. wet signature: What you need to know

The age-old practice of signing documents with pen and paper has been slowly phased out with the emergence of electronic signatures. Manual processes only lead to the struggle of slow turnaround times. So when given the option of electronic signature vs wet signatures, executives prefer to sign documents electronically as it’s easier, faster, and more convenient.

What is a wet signature, you ask? It is nothing but the traditional way of signing documents using ink on paper. Wet or ink signatures have long been the standard to signify legally binding documents or contracts. 

An electronic signature is a digital equivalent of a handwritten signature used to sign documents electronically. With immense improvement in business software in the past few decades, automated contract workflows and eSignatures offer a much faster, more efficient, and more secure alternative.

Understanding the differences between electronic and wet signatures

eSignature is speeding up the flow of commerce, and the use of wet signatures is slowing down. According to Prescient & Strategic Intelligence, the global eSignature market is expected to exhibit a CAGR of 26.6% from 2021-2030. Moreover, eSignatures have become legal in every state and territory in the U.S. where federal law applies.

Despite the growing popularity of electronic signatures, some circumstances still call for wet ink signatures. For one, people feel intimidated to abandon familiar practices for the unknown and new technology. Second, new tools and software require extra training rounds, causing downtime.

Understanding the differences between electronic signatures vs wet signatures is crucial when it comes to choosing the best option for your needs. 

1. Legality

Both electronic and wet signatures are legally binding. However, eSignatures are subject to specific laws and regulations, such as the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN Act) and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA).

2. Convenience 

Electronic signatures offer greater convenience as they can be signed from anywhere, using a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. On the other hand, wet signatures require the signer to be physically present to sign the document.

3. Security 

eSignatures offer greater security as they can be encrypted and include several layers of authentication, such as passwords, PINs, and biometric identification. Wet signatures, on the other hand, are more susceptible to fraud and forgery.

4. Record-keeping 

Wet signatures are prone to loss or damage. While eSignatures provide a more reliable record-keeping system as they create an electronic trail that can be tracked and stored easily on Cloud. 

5. Cost-effectiveness

Electronic signatures are cost-effective as they eliminate the need for printing, mailing, and storage of physical documents. While wet signatures don’t cost a thing to sign a document but involve additional expenses such as printing, mailing, and storage of physical documents, which can be costly.

What is an electronic signature?

eSignatures act as a digital fingerprint or unique identifier that allows a person to sign documents and contracts digitally. They provide a fast and efficient way of signing documents, making them ideal for time-sensitive transactions. 

Electronic signatures can be created using a variety of methods, including typing your name, drawing your signature on a touch screen or using a stylus, or even clicking on an "I Agree" button. The most basic form of electronic signatures is simply the replication of wet signatures. It involves scanning a physically signed signature and uploading it into a PDF or MS Word Document. 

No matter what method you use, they are legally binding and offer a secure and convenient way of signing documents electronically.

Advantages of electronic signatures

To stay ahead, fast-paced business accelerating efficiency and overall productivity is a no-brainer. Switching to electronic signatures offers these advantages and outweighs any advantages of collecting wet ink signatures. 

Let’s see some advantages of eSignatures that’ll help you understand why they have become the go-to choice for many businesses.

1. Convenience

eSignatures offer unmatched convenience compared to traditional wet signatures. For one, documents can be signed anytime and from anywhere, eliminating the need for in-person meetings or mailing of physical documents.

Second, businesses rely on eSignatures for better record-keeping and customer experience. Stored in the cloud databases, organizations can easily track, audit, and store all signed documents and protect them from physical damage. 

Electronic signatures further give businesses greater agility to accurately deliver documents to clients, make adjustments, and reduce friction in business transactions.

2. Speed

Paper contracts are expensive, time-consuming, wasteful, and risky. Additionally, when collecting wet signatures on paper documents, enterprises depend on delivery and courier services with holiday schedules resulting in slower processes.

eSignatures enable organizations to automate and digitize critical aspects of business workflows, delivering a faster, simpler, and more digitized business experience. Unlike paper documents with wet signatures which take days or weeks, digital documents can be received, signed electronically, and returned on almost any device every minute and hour. 

3. Cost-effectiveness

Electronic signatures eliminate paper, printing inks, shipping supplies, and delivery service expenses that can add up quickly, especially for companies that manage high volumes of documents. This ensures cost-effectiveness in document generation and acquiring signed contracts. 

Additionally, electronic signatures can reduce the risk of errors and rework, saving businesses both time and money.

Challenges with electronic signatures

Introducing new technology to an organization’s existing workflows and operations is more than likely to yield several challenges, and eSignature adoption is not an exception. 

Making a rapid switch to electronic signatures, when employees are used to paper-based signing, all the more integrating it into a company’s software might be challenging. Before you dive into using electronic signatures, it's important to be aware of the challenges and understand how to overcome them. 

1. Security concerns

With any digital document, there is always the risk of cyber threats such as hacking, data breaches, or identity theft. Businesses need to take adequate measures to ensure that electronic signatures are secure, such as using encryption and multi-factor authentication to protect sensitive data.

To overcome the security challenges of electronic signatures, businesses can use encryption and multi-factor authentication to protect sensitive data and ensure that only authorized individuals have access to the documents. Additionally, regularly updating their security protocols and software helps them stay ahead of any potential cyber threats.

2. Technical requirements

In order to use eSignatures, businesses need to have the appropriate software and hardware in place, such as a reliable internet connection, compatible devices, and digital signature software. This can be a challenge for some businesses, particularly those with limited resources. 

On top of this, there is a high need to provide exclusive training to employees, which may add to an organization’s expenses. To overcome this, businesses can partner with digital signature providers that offer user-friendly software and support services.

3. Legal considerations

While many countries and regions have laws and regulations that recognize electronic signatures as legally binding, there are still some areas where they still need to be fully recognized and accepted. It is important for businesses to understand the legal requirements and guidelines in their respective jurisdictions and ensure they comply with them. Sometimes an eSignature may be ruled inadmissible in court due to weaknesses in security, audit logs, and authentication.

To address these challenges, businesses can consult with legal experts to ensure that their documents and processes meet the necessary legal standards and partner with reputable eSignature providers that comply with the relevant laws and regulations.

What is a wet signature?

A wet signature is a physical signature made with a pen or other writing tool on a physical document, typically made in ink. It is called a "wet" signature because the ink or other substance is wet when the signature is made. 

Wet signatures are often used in legal and business contexts as a way to authenticate documents and indicate agreement or consent. 

A wet signature is either drawn by stylishly writing the name or using name seals, especially for companies and organizations. Such signatures used to be the standard to form legally binding contracts and prevent fraud.

Advantages of wet signatures

Recently, electronic signatures have been taking over the document signing process. However, wet signatures continue to hold importance in the business world. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Legality and authenticity

One of the main advantages of wet signatures is that they are widely accepted and legally binding for any transaction. A wet signature is unique for each individual, which ensures authenticity and prevents fraudulence to a greater extent. Moreover, wet signatures are still required for legal documents such as promissory notes, deeds of trusts, wills, mortgages, etc.

2. Familiarity and trust

Wet signatures have been used for hundreds of years, and most people, especially those unfamiliar with new technology, continue to rely on them. It is easy to understand and doesn’t require any unique technological process. Many people are more comfortable and confident signing physical documents with a pen or other writing tool, rather than electronically. To be on the safe side, many individuals today may still insist on using wet signatures when formally endorsing an agreement or contract.

3. Tangibility

Although electronic signatures are far faster and more effective, wet signatures require the signer to be present, usually along with signees, to sign a document. This helps leave a longer-lasting impact on the signees, and the occasion can be used for branding and other social purposes. 

Moreover, physical documents with wet signatures can be easily filed, stored, and retrieved when necessary. This can be particularly important for businesses dealing with sensitive or confidential documents that must be stored for long periods.

Downsides to using wet signatures

Wet signatures have long been a standard for businesses and document management. But today’s consumers expect business processes to be quick, easy, and seamless, which makes wet signatures irrelevant due to their many drawbacks. We cover them in this section.

1. Time-consuming

Acquiring wet ink signatures is far slower than obtaining electronic signatures. It involves printing your document, signing it, mailing it to the recipient, and waiting for other parties to do the same. Furthermore, it can take days and weeks, considering delivery services or holiday schedules.

2. Inconvenient

The manual signature process requires two relevant parties to be available at the same location to sign their contracts, sometimes along with witnesses. Simultaneously, adding more signers may make the progression more difficult. The time and travel expenses of getting each signer and witness to the same location only frustrate all parties. 

3. Cost

In addition to time consumption and inconvenience, wet signatures can be quite expensive. Signing vast volumes of documents could result in high expenses for paper and ink and delivery services. These are not the only expenses associated with wet signatures. You may also need to consider the cost of delays, potential business loss, and non-agreement between the parties.

Can electronic signatures replace wet signatures in 2023?

While wet signatures still hold a place in certain situations, electronic signatures are quickly gaining ground as a faster, more convenient, and more cost-effective alternative. 

With the continued advancements in technology and increasing demand for online document management solutions, eSignatures will continue to grow in popularity and eventually replace wet signatures in many situations. However, the adoption of electronic signatures will ultimately depend on individual industries and their respective legal requirements. For example, electronic signatures are still invalid in many circumstances, such as in cases of citizenship and migration in Australia as per Electronic Transactions Act 1999.

The current state of technology and regulations

When it comes to comparing electronic signatures and wet signatures based on the current state of technology and regulations, there are some key differences to consider. 

eSignatures rely on digital technology and infrastructure, which means they are subject to evolving technical standards and regulations. In contrast, wet signatures are a physical representation of a person’s signature, which means they are less dependent on technology and can be easier to verify.

Depending on the jurisdiction, wet signatures may still be required by law in today’s age. For instance, eIDAS, an EU regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions, mandates wet signatures in documents related to family law and inheritance, requiring notarization or court authorization and securing a property guarantee for bail.

Similarly, when it comes to eSignature, an organization needs to review its use cases and define its jurisdictional requirements. Electronic signatures now have the same legally binding impact as ink signatures in most industrialized countries. Some EU countries have also established the legality of digital signatures, electronic signatures in the form of an encrypted code, that a signer can use for its identity and authenticity.

Recommendations for choosing between electronic and wet signatures in 2023

When choosing between electronic and wet signatures, it's important to consider various factors such as the type of document, the purpose of the signature, and the preferences of the signatory. For routine or low-risk documents, electronic signatures can offer a convenient and efficient option. However, wet signatures may still be preferred for high-stakes or complex transactions due to their legal recognition and perceived authenticity.

Businesses should also evaluate the regulatory landscape and ensure they are using a compliant and secure electronic signature solution that meets industry standards and legal requirements. Additionally, it’s essential to educate employees and stakeholders on the proper use and procedures for electronic signatures to avoid any potential issues or disputes.

Ultimately, the choice between electronic and wet signatures will depend on the specific needs and circumstances of each situation. Businesses and individuals should carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each option before making a decision.

Final thoughts: Electronic signatures or wet signatures?

The debate between electronic and wet signatures continues, especially as more and more businesses move towards a digital-first approach. While both electronic and wet signatures have their advantages and disadvantages, the current state of technology and regulations has made electronic signatures a viable and increasingly popular option for many organizations.

Ultimately, the choice will depend on the specific needs and circumstances of each situation.

For now, both options remain valid and viable depending on the situation, and it's important for businesses and individuals to stay informed and educated on the topic to make the best decision for their needs.

Breaking the cycle of print-sign-mail routine, Signeasy brings to the fore an eSignature platform that will help in managing business agreements. The modern approach to switching to eSignatures begins with a comprehensive view of the document or contract management process. With advanced tracking features, Signeasy offers better document visibility and ensures high security.


1. Is an electronic signature the same as a wet signature?

No, a wet signature is a physical marking an individual makes to sign their name on a physical document. In contrast, an electronic signature is the digital version of wet signatures that makes it quicker to generate and more secure. 

2. What is the future of eSignatures?

The future of eSignatures is promising with continued advancements in technology and increasing acceptance and adoption of electronic signatures worldwide.

3. Is an electronic signature legal as a paper signature?

Many laws and regulations of eSign have been put in place in industrialized countries and regions such as the U.S. and European Union, which make it legal as paper signatures.

4. What are the types of signatures?

Three types of signatures are common in today’s business world: wet, electronic, and digital signatures.