If Preview allows entering textboxes and drawing shapes and lines and even coloring them, why is it impossible to paste an image onto the PDF document? Isn't it exactly the same concept? Why does one work but not the other?

Edit: what I want to do is add a wet signature (signed with ink). So I have my ink written signature as a JPEG file of a scan I took of it. But no way to port it into the PDF document directly (work around would be to convert PDF to PNG and back to PDF).

Preview allows for a digital signature. But I'm not looking for digital.

  • 4
    You should ask Apple why they did not include that functionally. https://www.apple.com/feedback/ Commented May 20, 2020 at 17:23
  • All I was trying to do is add my wet signature as a scanned image on the "sign here" field of a PDF document. But apple wants it to be a pain to do this without paying Adobe.
    – WalksB
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 19:01
  • Just use the one for macOS as it is, by default, a part of it, so to speak. https://www.apple.com/feedback/macos.html Commented May 20, 2020 at 19:39
  • If you want to add your signature, Preview actually has support for this. Please edit your question to focus on the problem you want to solve.
    – nohillside
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 19:49
  • @nohillside I need a wet signature. Preview only lets me write down a digital signature. I edited the question.
    – WalksB
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 20:20

4 Answers 4


It's not the same concept. There's annotating a PDF and then there's editing a PDF.

Annotating is also known as "marking up" a document. Inserting an image is editing it. Preview isn't a PDF editor.

Think of it as a written document submitted to a teacher, professor, or a manager at work. They may take a red pen and write comments in the margin, make several comments and circle it or box it in, strike out portions, correct spelling, etc. However, inserting an image would change the whole document. The reviewer isn't going to rewrite/reformat your document so that the image would fit.

To get another perspective of this, consider the two PDF products from Adobe are:

  • Acrobat Reader (Free)
  • Acrobat Pro ($12.99/mo)

Reader allows you to do everything that Preview does from marking up, signing and even filling out and collecting responses from PDF forms. However, you can't edit the document (which includes inserting graphics). For that, you need the Pro version (if using Adobe; there are other editors available on the market).


Preview allows for the capture of signatures via the following methods:

  • Sign on your trackpad.
  • Capture with your camera
  • Capture by using your finger or Apple Pencil with your iPhone or iPad

You’ll find this on the Markup Toolbar and then selecting Sign. You can find full details on how to do this on Apple’s support document Fill out and sign PDF forms in Preview on Mac.

Acrobat Reader allows you to use a graphic image as your signature.

To sign a PDF document or form, you can type, draw, or insert an image of your handwritten signature. You can also add text, such as your name, company, title, or the date. When you save the document, the signature and text become part of the PDF.

(Emphasis mine).

Free PDF Editor

As of 18-Oct-2022, Firefox Browser (v106.0) includes a built in PDF editor

  • 1
    Inserting colored shapes is adding additional pixels to the PDF, thereby editing it. Adding an image to the document is also adding additional pixels to the PDF, thereby editing it. I don't understand how one fundamentally is different from the other. I am not changing the underlying text in either case.
    – WalksB
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 20:24
  • Its called annotating. Acrobat Reader allows you to use an image as a “stamp” (like a rubber stamp) but it’s very limited. Preview doesn’t allow you to do this at all. Inserting an image, as far as the software publishers are concerned, is called editing. I didn’t define the terminology, they did.
    – Allan
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 0:02

Preview can add signature from camera, so if you still have the original and your Mac has camera, open Markup Toolbar, click Sign button and choose Camera, then put up the original in front of the camera, click Done after Preview successfully capture it.

Otherwise here is a nifty trick posted in this forum:

  • Open your image file (in Preview)
  • Select All (Command-A)
  • Copy (Command-C)
  • Paste (Command-V)

Now you have a copy of your image pasted above your old image. This is apparently meaningless, but the new copy is an object.

  • Click on the new image (round blue corners appear, no marching ants)
  • Copy (Command-C)
  • Paste on your PDF document. The image is an object, moveable and resizable.
  • Wow, insane. Thanks for this!
    – lensovet
    Commented May 4, 2023 at 6:15

It IS possible to insert an image into a PDF in Mac OSX Preview. There is extremely non-obvious step required which had me convinced that this was not possible for a long time.

A quick summary is:

  • Open 1) the PDF and 2) the image you want to insert in OSX Preview.
  • "Select all" in the image then "Copy".
  • Then "Paste" the image back into the image file itself! This is the wacky extra step required, it turns the image into an "object" that can now be moved into the PDF file.
  • Copy the new object (that you just pasted into the image file)
  • Now select the PDF and "paste". Now, resize and position the image as required.

This can from an answer here: https://apple.stackexchange.com/a/410104/218990 with the critical commenton the hidden step: I had to read this slowly to realize that there is the extra, non-obvious step of "pasting" the source image into the source image file before you can paste it into the target file. Thank you! – Nat Kuhn

  • Aren't these steps basically the same as those in the previous answer?
    – Mockman
    Commented Apr 1, 2023 at 2:26
  • This might be more useful as edits to the original answers.
    – nohillside
    Commented Apr 1, 2023 at 5:56

Sounds like you have a good solution, but here's how I did something similar.  I opened the PDF in GraphicConverter, added the image, and saved again as PDF.

The downside is that the new PDF is saved as all image instead of text and image.

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