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2 min

Updated on May 10, 2024

Published on Jul 6, 2022

Electronic signatures vs scanned signatures: what are the differences?
[+ infographic]

scanned signatures vs esignatures
Pauline Dubois

Pauline Dubois

Content manager @Yousign

Illustration: Gawon Lee


Want to give your workflow for signing administrative or commercial documents a boost? Then we bet that this question has been playing on your mind!

  • What is the difference between an electronic signature and a scanned signature?
  • What legal value does each have?
  • Which one is right for your needs?

Let us clear things up for you!

💝And as a little extra...a graphic summing it all up.

Electronic signature 🔝

☝️Synonym: digital signature

Electronic signature, or eSignature, is a technical and legal process enabling individuals to express their consent and approval of digital documents.

The context?

The advent of digital technology.
The French Law of 21 June 2004 on Confidence in the Digital Economy accelerated the process by imposing a number of obligations designed to regulate digital interactions.

An electronic signature is legally binding: it is covered by the European Union’s eIDAS Regulation, transposed into French law in Articles 1366 and 1367 of the Civil Code.

In other words, an electronic signature is authoritative in the event of a legal dispute, as it makes it possible to:

  • identify the signatory;
  • establish proof of the signatory’s consent;
  • guarantee suitable conditions to preserve the integrity of the document and the signature.

Security levels

The above-mentioned European Regulation defines three levels of signature:

simple electronic signature (SES)

advanced electronic signature (AES)

qualified electronic signature (QES)

These are distinguished by their respective security levels and the stages involved in validating the signatory’s identity, which are less thorough in the first case.

Side note: Simple electronic signature is nevertheless the most widely used type in most cases. It offers a sufficient level of security for signing most documents.

It is up to the user to determine the most appropriate level based on their security needs and usage practices.

Speaking of security, how does it work?

eSignature uses a public key cryptography process that links an electronic certificate to the signed data.

➡ Want to know more?

Check out our article on the three levels of electronic signature.

If you have any questions about your company's use of eSignature, the Yousign team can advise you ‍♀️

Just get in touch with one of our experts!

Scanned signature 🖨

☝️Synonym: digitised signature


As its name suggests, a scanned signature is a digital image of a handwritten signature.

It is obtained by scanning a paper document that has previously been signed by hand and converting it to digital format (doc, pdf, etc.).

🚨 A scanned handwritten signature has no legal value for several reasons:

  • It is impossible to identify the signatory;
  • It is impossible to prove their consent to the obligations arising from the document.

Security level

In security terms, that means it is easily forged.

A document signed by hand and then scanned does not constitute an original and must be considered as a copy

Written question No. 12890 from Mr Christian Kert, Questions to the French National Assembly

Indeed, in the absence of proof, a scanned signature is considered to be a copy, and not an authentic signature! It is therefore not legally valid, particularly when contractual documents are concerned.

Side note: even if you add a stage to authenticate the signatory’s identity (via an SMS code, for instance), a scanned signature remains dangerous, as it does not guarantee the integrity of the signed document.

Key points

To guarantee legal validity and security, the only viable form of signature is eSignature.

As promised, here is a reminder of the major differences between these two types of signature ⬇

This document is provided for information purposes only. We do not guarantee their completeness, nor do we guarantee that they are up to date and compliant with the applicable regulations. It is not a substitute for legal advice.

Electronic signature vs scanned signatures

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