You don’t need any sophisticated tool or powder to make fingerprint powder at home. In this post, I will be going to state how you can make your own fingerprint powder from materials and household things.
Only one caution, these hand-made powders (non-conventional method) are not authentic fingerprint powders that are used for fingerprint development. So, the information should only be used for learning activities (not for official work).
- Most of the common household powders can be used for fingerprint development.
- Finesse is the key to the superior development of latent fingermarks.
- Powder performance is measured based on the roughness and stickiness of fingermarks.
- Smooth and non-porous surfaces yield better development.
- Older prints developed fainter prints because they lack stickiness.
- Most DIY fingerprint powders (in the list) impart more color with moisture/water. So, avoid using moisture or water.
- Non-conventional powder methods cannot be used for fingerprinting on clothes, or other fabrics.
How To Dust Fingerprint with DIY Fingerprint Powder?
- Take a small amount of DIY fingerprint powder on a fingerprint brush.
- Remove the excess fingerprint from the brush by taping.
- Gently move the brush over the fingerprint. Try to be gentle as much as possible.
- Fingerprint become visible in a few strokes of the brush.
- Once the fingerprints get developed, remove the excess fingerprint powder by brush.
- If prints are on a smooth surface, lift the fingerprints using fingerprint lifters.
- If prints on paper, tape it with clear fingerprint tape (you can even use high-quality clear tape).
15 Things that Can be Used as Fingerprint Powder
Following are the 15 proven ways to develop fingerprints at home. In Forensics, it is called non-conventional fingerprint powder. That’s why they can’t be used for analyzing or developing them in any official cases.
DIY Fingerprint powder– start with graphite. It is a good carbon-based substitute for commercial black powder and can produce remarkable details on non-porous like fingerprints on plastic, and wood tables to semi-porous like paper.
Take a pencil and sharpen its blade or sharpener. I would recommend going with a sharpener that can sharpen about 6mm of pencil (more graphite powder). One of my recommended ones is the AFMART Artist pencil sharpener.
Collect graphite and using a fingerprint brush gently move it around.
2. Charcoal/Wood Coal
You definitely have stocks of firewood or charcoal if you love to grill. In either case, you can use charcoal or wood coal (from leftovers in your grill), to make your own fingerprint powder.
- Take some charcoal or wood coal and just put it into a thick plastic bag.
- You can either start jumping on the thick plastic bag or crush it with a wood slab.
- Grind enough to make smaller pieces.
- Takes a sieve and removes the bigger chunks.
- You get your charcoal powder.
3. Turmeric (Curcumin) Powder
Want something different other than black powder?– Try Turmeric. I recently got a research paper where the author was able to develop fingerprints using turmeric. Because of the yellow color, it can be used on a light background surface
They are able to develop clear details on smooth surfaces such as fingerprints on polished wood or glass surfaces. However, I tested and was able to develop fingerprints on paper also.
Tip: Organic dried curcumin powder gives the best result.
4. Talcum Powder
Talcum powder gives good prints on non-porous substrates and partial prints on a semi-porous substrates.
Many studies have been conducted to test the effectiveness of talcum powder for fingerprint development and it has given good results on surfaces like polished wood, glass, plastic, aluminum foil, and graphite.
You can even enhance the talcum powder performance by adding half the amount of charcoal or graphite powder.
5. Cocoa Powder
A brown-colored fingerprint using cocoa powder. The colored powder can also be used on a light background to give contrast and visualize the latent prints.
In a study conducted, cocoa powder was proven to be effective for fingerprint development on porous surfaces as well as non-porous surfaces including plain paper, currency, card sheet wood, glass, mirror, ceramic tile, and even fruit peel all gave good results.
6. Soot (DIY Fuming Chamber for Fingerprint)
The incomplete burning of wood is the main reason for black smoke called soot. When these soot particles interact with the stickiness of finger residue, they can develop fingerprints.
As the soot particles are quite smaller than most of the other DIY fingerprint powders, they can be considered the most effective method for fingerprint development on non-porous surfaces.
For this, you need a fuming chamber which can be anything that is able to hold the smoke for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Take a tin box and place firewood or coal.
- Add some corn flour or wood chips.
- Close the tin box lid to make a saturated environment of soot particles.
- Wait for 5, so there is no oxygen for the fire and the fire diminishes.
- Place the paper with a fingerprint on the mouth of the tin box and cover it with a wooden surface.
- Wait for 10 mins, until the soot particles get absorbed into the finger residue.
Note: Avoid using this method because it requires additional safety and proper guidance.
It is a suitable powder for a light background and can be lifted using adhesive tape.
7. Corn Flour
In the same research as that of cocoa powder, corn flour gave positive results for most of the surfaces. It showed effective results for both porous and non-porous surfaces.
However, the effectiveness of the powder was challenged by the lack of color contrast. This greatly hampered their use on light background substrates.
8. Baking Powder
Baking powder is a fine powder that can be used for fingerprint development. Along with giving effective fingerprint impressions on non-porous surfaces such as fingerprints on plastic, it is one of the few household powdered items that also gives good results on semi-porous surfaces like paper.
The result also depends on the type of paper used. Prints on chart paper were developed completely while prints on currency notes were partial.
9. Salt and Brown Sugar Powder
A combination of types of salt and brown/simple sugar can be mixed to obtain a unique color DIY fingerprint powder that can develop fingerprints on dark background surfaces. This is effective on a number of substrates ranging from non-porous metal surfaces, electronic device surfaces, and porous paper substrates.
Procedure: Take an equal amount of salt and brown sugar and grind it to fineness using a kitchen grinder.
10. Rice Powder
A study conducted used rice powder to develop latent fingerprints on various surfaces. A suitable brush like an ostrich feather brush is used for this purpose. Rice powder yielded results on a variety of surfaces ranging from plywood surfaces to sofa surfaces along with non-porous surfaces.
11. Face Powders
Using face powders a good ridge of detailed fingerprints can be developed. You only have to take a small amount of face powder and moved it over the fingerprint area. You can also use the makeup brush for the same but make sure the brush should have very smooth hair strands.
Instead of face powder, if you have hair volume powder, you can you the same. The process is the same as applying any other fingerprint powder.
A study also concluded that these cosmetic powders can yield the best result on smooth surfaces while if the fingermarks are on paper or cardboard the resultant developed fingermarks are not had fine details because of porosity.
Common household color powder whose name is nothing to do with the city Vermillion of South Dakota can be found in major shops. The texture of the powder varies with the region due to its composition.
The vermillion powder can be used on light to dark background colored surfaces. It gives a clear impression on non-porous surfaces but on semi-porous surfaces, like paper, the print lacks ridge details.
13. Fuller’s Earth
Amongst the different DIY fingerprint powders for non-porous substrates, Fuller’s earth has been crowned as the best choice if you dealing dark colored surfaces.
Before writing this, even some researcher uses it to develop fingerprints. But it fails when it comes to multi-colored wood surfaces and semi-porous substrates like paper.
The research conducted by Aayush et.al. uses limestone to develop fingerprints on aluminum surfaces. The presence of calcite and dolomite in the limestone composition help in the development of ridge details in fingermarks.
Though study conducted on it are only on non-porous surfaces and no sufficient details of its effectiveness on porous surfaces are known.
15. Red Pepper Powder
The last DIY fingerprint powder is RED Pepper. They are hot and very spicy. So, when you’re using it make sure you wear proper glasses and gloves.
So, for development, it is dusted over non-porous surfaces to give a colored imprint. Due to its bright color, it can be used in contrast against a number of surfaces with dark and light colors. It gives a faint impression on semi-porous surfaces like paper but no details can be obtained.
- New visualization agents to reveal the hidden secrets of latent fingerprints [SpringerOpen]
- Development of Fingerprint on Different Surface by Non-Conventional Method [Research Paper]
- New Visualizing Agents for Developing Latent Fingerprints on Various Porous and Non-Porous Surfaces Using Different Household Food Items[Research Paper]
- Using Salt & Sugar Powder to Development Hidden Fingerprint Impressions at the Crime Scene [IJFS]
- A New Powder Method for Development of Latent Fingerprint [ResearchGate]
FR Author Group at ForensicReader is a team of Forensic experts and scholars having B.Sc, M.Sc or Ph.D. degrees in Forensic Science. We published on topics on fingerprints, questioned documents, forensic medicine, toxicology, physical evidence, and related case studies. Know More.