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Fingerprints are one of many forms of biometrics used to identify individuals and verify their identity. Record your own fingerprints using the main pad and ink as a reference for comparing with the following tests.

You will need:

  • fingerprint ink and pad
  • artist’s brush
  • powder
  • sellotape
  • different surfaces and materials (eg CD, paper, dough, plasticine). 

There are three main ways that people leave fingerprints, and they are examined in different ways:

  • Latent, where the oils from fingers are left on a hard surface like glass or a CD.  Identify fingerprints by dusting the surface to locate the print, lift off with sellotape and compare with originals.
  • Visible, where the fingers have been stained by paint, mud etc and leave a print on the surface.  This can be directly compared with the original ink print.
  • Plastic, where the print is made into a soft surface such as plasticine or dough.  This can also be compared directly with the originals.

There are three main types of fingerprint appearance, which is a starting point for identifying who the print belongs to.  These are arch, whorl and loop.  In the UK, 16 points of reference are used to determine a fingerprint match.


Make a finger print on your CD and dust lightly with one of the  powders.


Lift off with sellotape and stick on to black paper.


Repeat with other powders in turn to assess which is the most effective – you could try flour, chalk, baking soda, fine sand…