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What are Fingerprint Cards?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2016
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Fingerprint cards are pieces of printed paper that are often created for the sole purpose of providing a way to keep track of a person's fingerprints. In the past, the cards were printed prior to fingerprints being added to them. With modern equipment, the cards and the fingerprints may be printed at the same time, especially if digital imaging technology is used to take the fingerprints instead of ink. These cards are often standard among many different law enforcement agencies.

Typically, fingerprint cards provide an area at the top for information such as the name, age and location of the individual being fingerprinted. Each card will then have spaces for each of the five fingers separately. Another, larger space is provided for all four fingers on each hand. Each space is marked with an identifier, such as "left thumb" as one example.

The main purpose of fingerprint cards is to provide a common way for fingerprints to be taken. If the cards are uniform among nearly all law enforcement agencies, there is less confusion about which finger is which. Thus, it makes the researching of fingerprints for comparison purposes somewhat easier. In the past, these cards may have been kept in a centralized file. Now, physical cards are slowly becoming obsolete, as digitized fingerprints and centralized databases are becoming the new standard.

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Often, the ink on fingerprint cards will be two different colors. The non-fingerprint portions, such as the grids, identifying information and other information, will be in blue. The fingerprints themselves will often be in black, which is often preferred for the purposes of scanning. Black ink is common whether doing child fingerprinting or adult fingerprinting.

Though fingerprints do not generally change throughout life, it may be best to have a child get a new fingerprint card after the age of seven. At this age, the child's fingerprints will be better defined, thus showing more detail on the fingerprint cards. This could help make child identification easier, in the event that it becomes necessary to do so.

Fingerprint cards are often printed on heavier paper than the typical printer paper used in common applications. This is because the paper may need to last a long time, and may be handled many times over the course of time. Therefore, a heavier card stock that absorbs ink without distorting it is a vital component to any good fingerprint kit. If treated properly, these fingerprint cards should last for decades.

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