This article provides information about fingerprints and the fingerprinting process. In addition, you’ll find a list of helpful resources, including websites, books, and supplies.

A fingerprint is an impression of the friction ridges of all or any part of the finger. A friction ridge is a raised portion of the epidermis on the palmar or plantar skin, consisting of one or more connected ridge units of friction ridge skin.  These ridges are sometimes known as “dermal ridges” or “dermal papillae”.

Fingerprints may be deposited in natural secretions from the eccrine glands present in friction ridge skin (secretions consisting primarily of water) or they may be made by ink or other contaminants transferred from the peaks of friction skin ridges to a relatively smooth surface such as a card.

The term normally refers to the impressions transferred from the pad on the last joint of fingers and thumbs, though cards also typically record portions of lower joint areas of the fingers (which are also used to effect identifications).

What are fingerprints used for?

Fingerprints are often used as a method of identifying people. They are especially useful in forensic science and crime scene investigation. No two prints are alike. Prints are used by crime scene investigators and coroners to help positively identify a criminal or identify a body when the identity of the individual is unknown.

Various types of prints are “lifted” or taken from crime scenes and the results are analyzed and electronically compared to national databases to determine a possible match. Many people think that fingerprints are the only prints that are left at a crime scene. Other types of prints include lip, hand, mouth, and more.

Fingerprinting Books, Equipment, and Supplies

If you’re interested in learning more, the following books provide information on the history, processes involved, and how the techniques are currently being applied to investigate crime scenes. These books will help you learn how to:

  • Understand how prints are lifted from a crime scene and how they are preserved for future evaluation and analysis
  • Learn how prints are analyzed and linked to a person through the use of software and database technology
  • Understand the various types of prints that might be left at a crime scene such as lip prints, handprints, mouth prints, etc., and how they are used to identify and convict the guilty
  • Learn the types of equipment, technology and software used such as ink, pads, forms, and scanners

The story of a scientific breakthrough that solved one of the most brutal murders in England’s history and forever changed the criminal justice system. This book tells the story of how technology found its way into the criminal justice system. 

Well-researched, this book traces the art and science to its present-day applications and explains why the unique tracks we leave with our fingers continue to be one of the most important means of identifying criminals.

Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification (Paperback) – This book tells the history of fingerprints and how we shouldn’t have blind faith in the technology that defines our individuality.

DNA Fingerprinting – This book explains how modern identification techniques are used in the courts to convict the guilty, free the innocent, and even inspire legal treachery.


The following supplies are available through Private investigators use various specialized equipment and supplies to take prints at the scene of an investigation.

Cards, Applicant FD-258, 50 pack – This is the standard FBI card, form No. FD-258 is used by the FBI, Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and many police agencies for noncriminal printing such as for employment clearances or immigration purposes. Perfect for classroom use. Cards come in packs of 50. These are the most recent version of the FD-258 cards, with the new privacy statement.

Lee Products Inkless Pad (S03027) – This “Inkless pad” produces crisp finger imprints on any paper.  The pad is specially formulated to not dry out.

Fingerprint Pad for roll – This fingerprint pad is 3.5″ X 4.5″, and is a rub-off Ink Pad (best used for roll printing). The pad is made of a Porous Polyethylene pad with a smooth surface that allows you to gather clean, true black prints. Results produced by this product are accepted by the FBI for classification, search, and retention. No messy never dry capacity 5,000 impressions. It is suitable to use for local, state, and federal government background checks.

Other Resources

The following are resources including in-depth articles, supplies, equipment, and reference books for more information.

  • – The website where you can learn everything about the process, its history, and its present-day use. It contains informative and useful articles on the subject including DNA and related products.

What do Private Investigators Need to Know?

Private investigators may need to examine and/or lift impressions from a crime scene during an investigation, such as while investigating a theft, or when examining the stolen property. Private investigators may also need to track down the results of an analysis with the appropriate labor agency. Many private detectives have prior experience in law enforcement and in conducting crime scene investigations.

If you have a need to check for fingerprints or to have prints analyzed, contact an investigative agency in your area. To hire a P.I. that specializes in providing these services, please visit our Private Investigator Directory.

If you have any questions about the fingerprinting process, please leave a message below.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at


  1. I need to verify that my last roommate was the reason our savings/change collection was stolen from. It’s been over two years since cashing it in, and it averaged $400+ annually. Unfortunately there was less than $200 there, and the only thing that’s changed in our home was having our transient “friend” around. I know at heart he is the culprit, but I need to verify, otherwise all I have is a sad tale about an unknown amount of unprovable stolen change. It’s a 5 gallon water jug, that “should” have my prints, my girls’, and my 3 year old daughters prints on it. And obviously one other, multiple times because I know it was taken gradually or it would have been noticed by now


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