Fingerprinting: How to Lift Prints from a Crime Scene

Fingerprint of a thumb

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 fingerprint card.

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


Many private detctives have prior experience in law enforcement and in conducting crime scene investigations.  If you have a need to check for finger prints 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.


Following are resources for fingerprinting, products and systems, and other forensic resources:

  • Cogent Systems Inc. – The world’s leading supplier of integrated system solutions using biometrics for both government and commercial customers.
  • East Shore Technologies – Automated fingerprint identification systems
  • FBI Fingerprint Overview – A fingerprint identification overview from the FBI.
  • FBI Fingerprint ID Request – An FBI Identification Record, often referred to as a Criminal History Record or Rap Sheet, is a listing of certain information taken from fingerprint submissions retained by the FBI in connection with arrests and, in some instances, federal employment, naturalization, or military service. If the fingerprints are related to an arrest, the Identification Record includes name of the agency that submitted the fingerprints to the FBI, the date of arrest, the arrest charge, and the disposition of the arrest, if known to the FBI. All arrest data included in an Identification Record is obtained from fingerprint submissions, disposition reports and other reports submitted by agencies having criminal justice responsibilities.
  • Finger Printing Books – Learn how to “lift” finger prints from crime scenes, how to take prints for forensic analysis, and the supplies and materials necessary to take samples yourself.
  • – The website where you can learn everything about fingerprinting, its history, and its present day use. Contains informative and useful articles on the subject including DNA and related products.

Books, Articles, and News

U.S. Government Resources

  • Argonne National Laboratory: Human Clone Fingerprints – If you were to clone a human, would the fingerprints of the clone and original human be the same?
  • Taking Legible Fingerprints – Information on the nature of prints and an outline on the techniques for taking legible fingerprints.
  • Human Genome Program: DNA Forensics – How forensic identification works, understanding its inaccuracies, its interesting uses, and databases such as CODIS
  • U.S. Federal Government: – Includes biometrics reference room, recommended biometric standards, and Subcommittee on Biometrics and Identity Management info.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology: Matching Up Fingerprints – Includes NIST fingerprint interactive “Solving Crimes, Improving Security” and suspect matching game.
  • Biometrics Task Force
  • U.S. Department of Defense: Biometrics Task Force – Government organization dedicated to protecting the nation through the employment of biometric technologies and capabilities.
  • U.S. Marshals: Fingerprint Information – United States Marshals website asks what type of prints do you have and why fingerprint identification?


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