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Hands-On Science

forensic science

Fingerprints

No two fingerprints are the same. Find out what kind you have!

Materials

  • Non-toxic ink pad
  • Light-colored balloon (you also can use paper)
  • Magnifying glass (optional)

Directions

  1. Roll your finger from side to side in the ink pad.
  2. Press your finger, flatly and firmly, on the deflated balloon. Lift your finger off without smudging the ink.
  3. Blow up the balloon.
  4. Examine the ridges of your fingerprint, which has expanded on the balloon. You can use a magnifying glass to get a better look. Compare your fingerprint to the examples below to see if you have a loop, whorl, or arch.

Loop

The loop is the most common type of fingerprint. The ridges form elongated loops. Some people have double loop fingerprints, where the ridges make a curvy S shape.

Whorl

In a whorl fingerprint, the ridges form a circular pattern.





Arch

Arch fingerprints have ridges that form a hill. Some arches look like they have a pointed tent shape. Arches are the least common type of fingerprint.

Extension

Make prints for all your fingers. Do you have the same type of fingerprints on each finger? Are any of your fingerprints hard to identify?

Visit the FBI kids' website for information, games and activities.

Background information

Your fingerprints are unique. No two are the same, not even on the same person or on identical twins. Not only do your fingerprints help to identify you, but the patterns made of tiny ridges in your skin that help you to hold on to things.

Sweat and oil from your hands leave behind a copy of your fingerprints when you touch objects.