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There are several different types and their use depends upon the surfaces and conditions. Two commonly used ones are: Carbon Black, and a powder made of very finely ground metal filings.


Wikipedia indicates the following powders can be used (differnet colored powders are required to show prints in different colored surfaces)


  • Haddonite White (titanium dioxide 4 parts, kaolin 1part, French chalk 1 part or titanium dioxide 60%, purified talc 20%, kadin lenis (light) 20%).
  • Lanconide (zinc sulfide 4 parts, zinc oxide 4 parts, barium sulfate 4 parts, titanium dioxide 4 parts, bismuth oxychloride, 4 parts, calcium carbonate 1 part)
  • Mercury-chalk (hydrargyrum-cum-creta) now no longer used, as it represents a serious health risk.
  • Titanium dioxide
  • White tempera (starch, titanium dioxide)
  • Chalk


  • Charcoal
  • Graphite
  • Dactyl black (Graphite, lampblack, gum acacia)
  • Dragon's blood (powdered resin of the Daemonorops Draco plant)
  • Haddonite black (lampblack 70%, graphite 20%, powdered acacia 10%)
  • Lampblack
  • Photocopier toners


  • Aluminium powder
  • Metal powders
  • Lycopodium
  • Magnetic powders
  • Fluorescent powders
  • Anthracene
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Q: What type of powder is used on which type of surfaces to find fingerprints?
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Can fingerprints be traced on paper?

Yes, fingerprints can be traced on paper surfaces using various methods, such as dusting with powder or using chemical treatments. The quality of the prints and the chances of successful tracing depend on factors like the type of paper and the conditions in which the prints were left.

How are fingerprints collected at a crime scene?

First, the detective locates something the suspect may have touched, for instance, his laptop, the doorknob to his bedroom, etc. Next, the detective carefully dusts fingerprint powder over the area. When a fingerprint is revealed, the detective takes a clear, clean plastic sheet and press it onto the fingerprint, therefore collecting the specimen. The fingerprint is then carefully taken to a lab to be tested.

Does finger print stay on paper?

Yes, fingerprints can potentially stay on paper depending on factors such as the type of paper and how it is handled. Fingerprints are made up of oils and sweat from the skin which can transfer easily onto surfaces like paper.

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What is a controlled variable in fingerprints?

A controlled variable in the context of fingerprints refers to factors that are kept constant during an experiment or comparison, such as the method of collection, the surface on which the fingerprint is deposited, or the type of powder used to enhance the print. By controlling these variables, researchers can ensure that any differences or similarities observed in fingerprints are due to the specific individuals rather than external factors.

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