Matching Basics

The analysis of fingerprints for matching purposes generally requires the comparison of several features of the print pattern. These include patterns, which are aggregate characteristics of ridges, and minutia points, which are unique features found within the patterns. It is also necessary to know the structure and properties of human skin in order to successfully employ some of the imaging technologies.


The three basic patterns of fingerprint ridges are the Arch, Loop, and Whorl. An arch is a pattern where the ridges enter from one side of the finger, rise in the center forming an arc, and then exit the other side of the finger. The loop is a pattern where the ridges enter from one side of a finger, form a curve, and tend to exit from the same side they enter. In the whorl pattern, ridges form circularly around a central point on the finger. Scientists have found that family members often share the same general fingerprint patterns, leading to the belief that these patterns are inherited.

The arch pattern

The loop pattern

The whorl pattern

Minutia features

The major minutia features of fingerprint ridges are: ridge ending, bifurcation, and short ridge (or dot). The ridge ending is the point at which a ridge terminates. Bifurcations are points at which a single ridge splits into two ridges. Short ridges (or dots) are ridges which are significantly shorter than the average ridge length on the fingerprint. Minutiae and patterns are very important in the analysis of fingerprints since no two fingers have been shown to be identical.

Ridge ending


Short Ridge (Dot)