TAKING LEGIBLE FINGERPRINTS
|Section I. Introduction |
purpose of this program is to provide information regarding the nature of fingerprints
and outline techniques for taking legible fingerprints.
can be recorded on a standard fingerprint card or digitally. Obtaining quality
fingerprint impressions can be a matter of using proper techniques. Even though
the methods of recording fingerprints may differ, the techniques for obtaining
quality fingerprints are very similar.
Fingerprint Pattern Types
Loop, Whorl, Arch
Basic Fingerprinting Equipment
Ink, Paper, Live Scan
Steps for Fingerprinting
5. Worn Fingerprints
II. Fingerprint Pattern Types |
are the result of minute ridges
and valleys found on the hand of every
In the fingers and thumbs, these
ridges form patterns of loops, whorls and
|Each of the three pattern
types have focal points which are used for classification.|
|In the Loop pattern
there are two focal points: the Core, or the center of the loop, and the
delta. The Delta is the area of the pattern where there is a triangulation
or a dividing of the ridges. When recording fingerprints, the delta and the area
between the delta and the core must be completely recorded.|
|A Whorl pattern
will have two or more deltas. For a whorl pattern, all deltas and the areas between
them must be recorded.|
|The Arch pattern
has no delta or core; but, it too, must be fully recorded so that its individual
characteristics can be readily distinguished.|
III. Fingerprint Impression Types |
are two types of impressions involved in taking fingerprints. The upper ten impressions
are taken individually, thumb, index, middle, ring, and little fingers of each
hand. These are referred to as the "rolled" impressions because the fingers are
rolled from one side of the fingernail to the other, in order to obtain all available
impressions at the bottom of the card are taken simutaneously without rolling,
printing all of the fingers of each hand at a forty-five degree angle and then
the thumbs. These are referred to as "plain," "slapped," or "flat" impressions.
The plain impressions are used to verify the sequence and accuracy of the rolled
IV. Basic Fingerprint Equipment |
can be recorded with any of the following materials:
Ink (Black Printers Ink or Porelon Pad) and Paper (Standard Fingerprint Card,
Criminal Card or FD-258 Applicant Card). A Porelon Pad contains a
Chemicals and Paper (Standard Fingerprint Card)
Livescan. For a list of FBI certified Live Scan and Card Scan devices see the
FBI Certified Equipment
List at www.fbi.gov.
V. Steps for Fingerprinting |
recommended height for the fingerprinting device (Card or Live-Scan) is approximately
thirty-nine inches from the floor. This will allow the forearm of an average adult
being fingerprinted to be parallel to the floor, at which position it is best
to roll and record fingerprints. If the fingerprinting device is not at this height,
care must be taken or the finger tends to rise off the device. If this happens,
the technician will fail to capture the
lower portion of the first joint and
necessary ridge detail will be missing.
Fingers to be printed must be clean and dry. Wiping the individual's fingers
an alcohol swab and then drying them should prevent perspiration from
a problem. If the individual's occupation has caused a wearing down or
surface on the fingers, use lotion to soften the fingers (be sure to wipe
lotion off before printing).
The individual being fingerprinted should be asked to stand in front of and
a forearm's length from the fingerprinting device. The individual
stand to the right and rear of the person taking the fingerprints.
Encourage the individual being fingerprinted to relax. Ask them to look at
distant object to distract them from what you are doing.
Grasp the individual's right hand at the base of the thumb with your right
hand. Cup your hand over the individual's fingers, tucking under those fingers
being printed. Guide the finger being printed with your left hand.
If using the ink and paper method, roll the finger on the inking plate or
Porelon Pad so that the entire fingerprint pattern area is evenly covered with
ink. The ink should cover from one edge of the nail to the other and from
the crease of the first joint to the tip of the finger. Using the right amount
ink is of vital importance. Too little ink and the impression will be too
Too much ink and the fine details will run together.
In taking the rolled impression, the side of the bulb (see illustration above)
the finger is placed upon the paper fingerprint card or the fingerprinting
and the finger is rolled to the other side until it faces the opposite
Care should be exercised so the bulb of each finger is rolled
from tip to below the first joint. Generally, the weight of the finger is
the pressure needed to clearly record the fingerprint.
In order to take advantage of the natural movement of the forearm, the hand
should be rotated from the more difficult position to the easiest position.
requires that the thumbs be rolled toward and the fingers away from
center of the individual's body. This process relieves strain and leaves
fingers relaxed when rolling so that they may be lifted easily without
of slipping which smudges and blurs the fingerprints.
Roll each finger from nail to nail in the appropriate space taking care to lift
finger up and away after rolling, to avoid smudging.
If using the ink and paper method and a rolled impression is not acceptable,
may use an adhesive re-tab to cover the fingerprint in its space. (No
than one re-tab per finger block is permitted.) For live scan, the
can be deleted and retaken.
Plain impressions are printed last, at the bottom
the card. The technician simutaneously
the individual's four fingers (on the right
keeping the fingers together, on the
of the fingerprint card or the fingerprinting
at a forty-five degree angle in order to
all four fingers in the allotted space (see
Repeat this process for the left hand.
both thumbs simutaneously in the plain
thumb blocks (to ensure that they
the proper spaces).
|Please Note: Never
place a fingerprint impression on the back of a|
If using the ink and paper method, complete the information at the top of the
card (masthead). If using live scan, complete the required
VI. Special Situations |
attention must be given when fingerprinting an individual with abnormalities
the fingers, thumbs or hands. Special situations include:
Bandaged Fingers or Hands
• Worn Fingerprints
• Webbed Fingers
amputation exists when an individual has one or more fingers, thumbs or hands
This condition should be noted in the appropriate block of the fingerprint
Total amputation should be designated using the following notations:
• Amputation (AMP)
• Missing at Birth (MAB)
|Please Note: The
term "Missing," is not interpreted as amputation by|
|Bandaged Fingers or
If the individual has a bandage or cast on a finger, thumb or hand,
notation, "Unable to Print" or "UP" in the appropriate finger block.
exists when an individual has permanent tissue damage to finger, thumb
and when only pattern areas that have been totally destroyed or the ridge
appears distorted. These fingerprints should be taken as they exist. The
can be noted as "Scarred," but it is not required.
deformity may exist as a result of an injury, birth defect or disease. An attempt
be made to fingerprint the individual with the techniques outlined
although special equipment (e.g., a fingerprint spoon) may be
needed when fingerprinting
individuals with deformities. The equipment can
be found in the "Postmortem
Kit" and consists of:
Black Printers Ink
• Fingerprint Card Strip Holder (Spoon)
Fingerprint Card Strips
How to Use the Fingerprint
Place a fingerprint card strip in the fingerprint card strip
Using the spatula, ink the finger (starting with the right
and be sure to apply ink from nail to nail.
Place the inked finger on the fingerprint card strip
(curved area) and press down. Do not roll
finger. The curved shape of the holder will serve
same purpose as rolling the finger.
Cut out the finger block from the card strip and paste
the corresponding block on the standard fingerprint
Repeat these steps for each of the remaining fingers.
sure to record the correct finger in the correct finger
|Please Note: A
strip of fingerprint re-tabs can be substituted for the|
fingerprint card strip
|If utilizing Live-Scan
equipment, the use of a Fingerprint Spoon is not an option. You|
may want to
fingerprint the individual on a standard fingerprint card using either Black Printers
Ink, Porelon Pad or the Chemical method so that a Fingerprint Spoon may be used.
Then either scan the fingerprint card and submit electronically, or mail the card.
If Live-Scan is the
only option, then the finger block(s) should be left empty with a notation of
"Unable to Print" or "UP." However, the number of finger blocks without fingerprint
images should be kept at a minimum (no more than five).
An individual may, by the nature of their work or age, have
very thin or worn ridges
in the pattern area. Light pressure and very little
ink are used to record these types
of fingerprint impressions. A technique
known as "milking the fingers" can be used
to raise the fingerprints prior
to fingerprinting. The technique involves applying
pressure or rubbing the
fingers in a downward motion from palm to fingertip.
In a situation of dry,
flaky fingers, simply add a small amount of hand lotion or
ridge builder prior
If an individual has more than ten fingers, the thumbs and the
next four fingers
should be printed. When a subject with more than ten fingers
has an intentional
amputation performed, it is invariably the extra finger
on the little finger side
that is amputated.
|Webbed FIngers or Split
An individual may have two or more fingers webbed or grown together,
making it impossible
to roll such fingers. Such fingers should be rolled as
completely as possible, and a
notation made to the effect that they are joined
VII. Quality Checklist |
verify that the fingerprint impressions meet the FBI's requirements, please use
Is there a fingerprint impression in each finger block? If there is a missing
impression, is there a reason noted in the finger block (e.g.,
missing at birth, unable to print, etc.)?
Are the fingerprints rolled fully, from nail to nail?
If the fingerprint impression is a loop, are the delta and core present?
the fingerprint impression is a whorl, are all deltas present?
Are the fingerprint impressions clear and distinct?
Are the fingerprint impressions uniform in tone and not too dark or light?
Are the four finger impressions and a thumb impression in the plain
block for each hand?
Are the rolled fingerprint impressions in the correct finger blocks when
to the plain impressions?
|Please Note: If
using live scan equipment to capture fingerprint|
impressions, it is important
to clean the equipment regularly and
calibrate routinely per the manufacturers
guidelines, to ensure the
quality and integrity of the fingerprint images.