I have this question asked a lot, and I actually thought I had blogged or written about this previously, but I can’t find it – so here we go.
1. Take a sheaf of copy paper and with a bold, black, Sharpie marker practice your signature until you have the one you want to use. It took me about twenty pages to get it the way I wanted. Carefully darken in any light areas of the signature.
2. Scan your signature with a standard flat bed scanner creating a jpg file.
3. Open the file in Adobe Photoshop Elements or CS and crop out extra space, leaving just a little around your signature. See the example below.
4. Using a selection tool, like the Quick Selection Tool or the Magic Wand Tool, select the black signature (or select the white paper and inverse your selection Select>>Inverse to the signature). Make sure you have selected all of it, get all the serifs and edges of each letter.
6. Inverse your selection (Select > Inverse) so the white background is selected. Choose the Eraser Tool at 100% Opacity and erase the entire white background so it shows the gray/white boxes (like in the example above) which signify that there is nothing there and the background is transparent.
7. Create a new layer copy of the black signature (Ctrl + J for a PC or Cmd + J for a Mac). Double click on the layer title and rename the original layer “Black”, rename the new layer “White”. See the example below.
8. With the black signature still selected (and the “White” layer active – as shown at left) choose the paintbrush tool again and choose the color white. Paint over the black signature to produce a white copy of it. Hit Ctrl + D to deselect everything.
9. If you want to add a website or other contact information just enlarge your canvas below your signature by going to Image > Canvas and increase the height amount as needed, and in the square with the arrows select the top square so the arrows point down, indicating the extra size will be added below the existing canvas.
10. Choose the Text Tool, decide on a font and size (like 8 or so), click in the image location you want to add the text and type it out. Adjust letter size and font as needed to give you the look you want. TIP – Less is more…….
11. Copy the text layer (Ctrl + J) and change the color so that you have a black text layer and a white text layer to go with the black and white signature layers. Drag the black text layer to below the black signature layer, do the same with the white.
12. Now simply merge down the Signature Layer to the Text Layer of the same color below it – select the signature and layer and go to Layer > Merge Down. Do the same with the other two color layers. Make sure they are named for their colors – white and black. You should now have two layers with both the signature and any other info you choose to add.
13. Save this file as a photoshop file (.psd) so the layers are saved with their transparent backgrounds. Call this file your Signature-Master.psd file.
14. Now comes the tricky part. Change the size of the file so it is appropriate for the size of the images it is going on. Do not use a signature file for a printed copy of the photo – it looks stupid and cheesy. Use the signature file only for images meant to be shared on the web, or on Facebook, or Flickr, etc. In my case, 150 px by 60 px is the final size, as shown here in the example below.
15. Now, rename this file: Signature-Web.psd This is the file you will open in order to drag the needed color (black signature for lighter images, white for darker images) signature onto your image.
16. TO USE: Open both the image that’s been prepared for the web (72dpi) and the signature-web file. With the signature-web image selected and it’s two layers appearing in the Layer’s Dialog Box, drag the black or white layer from the Layers dialog box on to the image you want the signature on. You will see a new layer added to that image and your signature will appear. With the Move Tool (letter V to select) or keyboard arrow keys adjust the location of the signature to your liking. Merge the two layers (Layer > Merge Down or Ctrl + E) and save your image with the -web.jpg descriptor at the end so you know the image has the signature already added.
The two photos are side by side here – the signature file and the bobcat image. Just drag the black signature layer onto the bobcat image.
You can also tweak other aspects of the signature layer as you place it on the real image. If neither the black or white signature stand out enough because of the tones, right click on the signature layer after you added it and select Blending Options. Go in an add a Drop Shadow, and manipulate the settings to brighten or darken the transparent background of the layer so the text stands out more. Fun.