Matching algorithms are used to compare previously stored templates of fingerprints against candidate fingerprints for authentication purposes. In order to do this either the original image must be directly compared with the candidate image or certain features must be compared.

Pattern-based (or Image-based) algorithms

Pattern based algorithms compare the basic fingerprint patterns (arch, whorl, and loop) between a previously stored template and a candidate fingerprint. This requires that the images be aligned in the same orientation. To do this, the algorithm finds a central point in the fingerprint image and centers on that. In a pattern-based algorithm, the template contains the type, size, and orientation of patterns within the aligned fingerprint image. The candidate fingerprint image is graphically compared with the template to determine the degree to which they match.

Minutia-based algorithms

Minutia based algorithms compare several minutia points (ridge ending, bifurcation, and short ridge) extracted from the original image stored in a template with those extracted from a candidate fingerprint. Similar to the pattern-based algorithm, the minutia-based algorithm must align a fingerprint image before extracting feature points. This alignment must be performed so that there is a frame of reference.

It is important to note that an actual image of the print is not stored as a template under this scheme. Before the matching process begins, the candidate image must be aligned with the template coordinates and rotation. Features from the candidate image are then extracted and compared with the information in the template. Depending on the size of the input image, there can be 10-100 minutia points in a template. A successful match typically only requires 7-20 points to match between the two fingerprints.