Open Source Everything


Skim: A free and easy way to sign a PDF without a scanner

Every few months, someone sends me a PDF document to sign. Miraculously, we've survived without a printer or scanner in our house for 2+ years now without really minding, but this particular flow is always difficult, especially when people need things returned quickly.

Generally, I would crack open the PDF with photoshop, extract the page I wanted, and sign it with the brush tool, etc. It does the job, but when faced with a long document that had tons of pages to sign, I needed something better.

Enter Skim.

It's meant for annotating scientific documents, but with a few quick tweaks it functions as a great tool for quickly signing a PDF and sending it back.

  • Set some preferences
    • Under Skim -> Preferences (all of the options below can be done through the point & click interface under preferences)
      • Change the Text color to 0 opacity
      • Change the freehand color to black (or dark grey, if the scanned doc is a little faded looking, and you don't want your signature to obviously stick out)
      • Change the freehand line to 1px
      • Change the Text line (border) to 0px
  • You can now zoom in on sections where you need to sign and use the freehand tool to hand-sign your docs.
    • To select the freehand tool, you may need to hold the mouse down on the rightmost element of the "Tool mode" toolbar
  • If you need to enter text, use the text tool (again, hold down the rightmost element of the "tool mode" toolbar to select it). Click the spot on the document where you want to type, enter your text, and adjust the control points to make your text fit.
  • Save your document
    • IMPORTANT! Your saved document might have annotations attached, but unless you export in a certain way, they will not be viewable in standard PDF viewers by default.
    • File -> Export -> PDF with embedded notes
      • This will generate a file that has your signature and text visible and printable.
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