Can you use a stamp pad for fingerprints? Regular Ink Pads Vs Fingerprint Ink Pads

I’ve used stamp pads and fingerprint ink pads hundreds of times.

They appear to be the same but forensically, both are different. And you should be aware when using a regular stamp pad for fingerprint registration.

So, should you use stamp pads to register fingerprints?

Yes, but only for general purposes. Avoid using them for legal and forensic purposes because inks in stamp pads dry quickly and often result in smudged prints. Whereas, fingerprint pads use high viscous, moderately drying inks to reproduce crisp, clear, high-contrast, waterproof finger marks.

Conversely, you can develop fingermarks with anything that replicates the color over the frictional ridges, but that’s not viable for forensic and legal applications.

However, there are a number of other factors that add and subtract the quality of fingerprint development using stamp ink pads. 

So, without further ado, let me explain why I advised you to avoid using stamp pads for fingerprint registration.

Regular Stamp Ink Pads Vs Fingerprint Ink Pads

Regular Stamp Ink Pads Vs Fingerprint Ink Pads

Here are some of the differences that I discovered from researching a couple of books and research papers. 

This table also helps you understand why you should use a fingerprint pad and avoid stamp pads for fingermarks?

FeaturesFingerprint Ink PadStamp Ink Pad
Ridge DetailingsOften crips, clear, with high contrastIllegible, fine-less and non-crispy
Ink ColorUsually blackBlack, Red, Orange, Green, Blue, Purple, and Pink.
Waterproof PrintsYesNot usually seen
Fadness of FingerprintsPermanent and non-fading marksFade-ness is common
Ink Type Oil-based ink and inklessWater-based (premium ink pad uses oil-based)
Inking Residue on fingersVery little ink that washed easilyFingers are often painted with color
Inking PlateHard, rigid, and even surface Soft and pressable pad surface
Plate MaterialGlass, metal, or scratch-resistant plasticSoaked films of fibers
Ink Thickness Viscous and thickToo light and thin
AbsorbabilityModerately absorb Absorbs readily on paper
Drying rateDry moderately on paperLiquid on pad but dry quickly on paper
Inked fingerFine and even coating of inkShinny and wet
Ink BloatingNot commonly seen Quite common, mostly at core or edges of fingers
BlurrinessNot usually seenBlurriness due to readily absorbability
Federal Agencies RecommendationRecommendNot recommended

When to Avoid Stamp Pads for Fingerprint Development?

Honestly, I too used a stamp pad to register my fingerprint.

I know from my experience, there is a cost of using stamp pads, i.e. fingerprints are not very clear, fade over time, and become smudged over the paper, resulting in illegible fingermarks after a few months.

And I am sure you don’t want the same. 

Therefore, for forensic, notary, and legal purposes, I personally advise you to say “a big NO” to stamp pads for lodging finger ridges.

Here are some common practices where you should avoid stamp pads for recording fingermarks.

  1. Filling 10 digit fingerprint card (check article: How to Fill and Extract Data From Fingerprint Card?)
  2. Filling any property and legal papers
  3. Registering fingermarks for research purposes
  4. Registering for fingerprint database
  5. Fingermarks for passport, and security identification documents.
  6. Registering suspects prints

When You Can Use Stamp Pads for Fingerprints?

There is a very fine line where you can use it. These are:

  1. Self-examining your prints 
  2. Evaluation of patterns type for practice
  3. Registering prints for the use of a short period of time (as prints fade with time).
  4. Many exams use stamp pads to capture fingerprints as proof of enrolled attendance.

Also Read:

Should You Need to Buy a Fingerprint Ink Pad?

If you’re read every word till now, you may know what is good for you.

If not, here is a short answer.

You should buy or have a fingerprint pad if your work demands registering fingermarks for forensic, research, and legal purposes. 

Let me explain this. 

Forensic Fingerprint Examiner: No doubt, this is a must-have tool for them, and they know the importance of clear, permanent, and waterproof fingermarks.

A private fingerprint examiner charges hundreds of dollars to clients. And they certainly don’t want to be questioned by the court of law on their admissibility because they used low-quality prints that could easily be eliminated by investing a few bucks in fingerprint ink pads. 

Legal and Forensic Agencies: If you work or plan to work in a legal or forensic agency, it is a must-have tool. It costs around $10 and saves you a lot of time and re-registration in the case of illegible marks.

Forensic Student: So, you’re a forensic student (I was too)—Welcome to the family. You can use stamp pads for reproducing prints but try to use them only for practice.

Don’t use them for research because the majority of water-based pads produce dilutable prints that fade over time.

Plus, you don’t want to paint your finger with constant marking with inks from stamp pads.

I’m not saying buy right now. But try to own one as sooner or later you need one so better to buy one (some are listed below).  

How much Fingerprint Ink Pads Costs?

The average price of a fingerprint ink pad is 10$. However, most seller sells them in combos. So, the cost may differ from $10 to $20.

You can get very reputable brands under this price range. Most of them are waterproof, non-toxic, and reproduce clear fingermarks.

Some of My Best Picks for Fingerprint Ink Pads

These are some of the product that cuts your time for finding the best fingerprint ink pad for you.

Product Amazon Link
ExcelMark Inkless (best value)Check price
Lee Inkless Fingerprint Pad (best for paint all fingers)Check Price
Thumbprint Ink Pad Professional Finger Ink Pad (best combo offer)Check price
Fingerprint Pad for roll fingerprintingCheck price

How long do Fingerprint Ink Pads last?

It depends on how often you use it. It may be two months to two years. On average a reputable brands’ fingerprint pads last about a year of extensive use.

Even if you don’t use them on a regular basis, most fingerprint pads dry up after two to three years, resulting in grey inked fingers.

In my case, it lasts for a good of two years before black ink starts to turn grey.

How do you know you need a new Inkpad?

It’s simple, as soon as quality black inks start to turn grey. It is a clear indication that you need a refill or buy a new one.

Now, the very next question is: Should I buy a new Ink Pads or refill it?

Refilling a fingerprint pad is quite different than regular ink pads. It has a hard solid inking plate that does not readily absorb ink color. But if know how to refill, it is quite a good way to retrieve your old fingerprint pad.

Moreover, you don’t get as much quality as a new one. And the cost of refill is about $5 which is nearly the price of new. 

While buying a refill pack, try to get the same ink color and from the same company because there are several shades of black. 

And because of differences in viscosity and absorbability factors, a mixture of two different shades of black ink may result in smudge prints.

I am sure, you get your answer to what to choose; regular stamp pads or fingerprint ink pads. If you still have any questions, you can ask them in the comment section.

Also Read:


  • Scientific Examination of Questioned Documents by Jan Seaman Kelly and Brian S. Lindblom [Book]
  • The Fingerprint Sourcebook by the U.S. Department of Justice
  • Forensic Examination of Rubber Stamps: A Practical Guide by Jan Seaman Kelly [Book]

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