Feb 02, 2017

How To: Make Custom Art from Your Own Fingerprints

created at: 02/02/2011

It's nearing Valentine's Day, and though my sweetheart and I don't usually do gifts, I wanted to make her something special. We're not big on the whole Hobby Lobby, scrapbook-y, shrine to ourselves approach to artwork, but I did want to incorporate a personal element. I recalled the custom DNA portraits I'd seen, and when searching, found the fingerprint prints offered by the same company. While I wouldn't even begin to understand how to go about visualizing DNA, I figured the custom fingerprint approach was probably pretty achievable.

And...it was.

I even figured out a way to make it seem a bit more handmade than the cold, tech-ier versions offered by the online companies. And, it only ended up costing me $6.00 USD. (I'm so thankful I've got someone who would be proud of me for creating an inexpensive DIY route, rather than impressed by how much I spent.)   

Materials and Tools

  • Inkpad and paper
  • Scanner
  • Computer and graphics software
  • Printing method (see below)

created at: 02/02/2011

1. Begin by inking your fingers and making several prints on paper. Don't go for the roll-y effect they do at the police station (it was for a job, I swear), but the oval versions like you made in kindergarten. Don't worry about getting it too dark; it's more important that the friction ridges and negative space are separated rather than high contrast. Take several prints, re-inking your figures multiple times and making lots of prints. Be sure to label which prints belong to whom.

created at: 02/02/2011

2. Select a print you think will work the best. Scan it at the highest resolution you can get, at least 600 dpi, but preferably 1200 or 2400. If your scanner can't do hi-res, go to the local copy shop and have them do it for a few dollars. Be sure you only select one or two prints, as resolutions this high can make for very large files.

created at: 02/02/2011

3. Once your have your print in bitmap mode, play with it in your graphics software to clearly define the lines. I'm using Photoshop, but you could try the freeware alternatives available. [See this link for options] Play around with contrast, levels and curves, or even the filters (like stamp or posterize) to get as much contrast as possible, minimizing the gray between the friction ridges. You might need to go in and manually erase any bleed.

created at: 02/02/2011

4. When your satisfied, you'll want to convert your image to a vector file, so that you can scale it to any size you want. If you're not going for a huge final printed piece, you might be able to get by with just the hi-res scan, but it's worth playing around with the vector conversion, as it will continue to clean up your fingerprint. I imported mine into Illustrator and used the Live Trace functions, but there are free online raster-to-vector options like VectorMagic or Raster to Vector Converter that will work. One of your friends probably has Adobe suites, or your local print shop will as well, so you might be able to ask nicely and have them convert it for you.

created at: 02/02/2011

5. At this point, you can style your artwork in whatever way you please. I decided to put both of ours on one sheet, added some color and some paper-cut style text, but you could go for the cropped look as in this example and have two framed pieces hung side-by-side. (That's called a diptych - impress your friends!)

Printing options are up to you. You could do something as easy as printing it at home, or get all fancy and make a screen print. I opted to go to my neighborhood print shop, and had them make a giclee print for $6, which is an archival ink-jet option that's much less costly than four color offset printing. It's not guaranteed forever - around 60-75 years, but that's good enough for me. Be sure to save your file at 300dpi!

See how fun that was?! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at [email protected] If you give it a shot, we'd love to see a photo.

Good luck!


This ManMade post originally appeared on February 2nd, 2011. We're sharing it again because it's almost Valentine's Day!


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machinesembroidery on Sep 23, 2017:

Thank you for a great explanation. I was looking online for a similar idea and really appreciate it

Jean on Mar 30, 2017:

I love how you did the fingerprints. I do have a question that I need help with, my son passed away and I have his fingerprints from when he was six years old, I want to cut them out with vinyl but I don't know how to get the lines to show up better, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Jean on Mar 30, 2017:

I love how you did the fingerprints. I do have a question that I need help with, my son passed away and I have his fingerprints from when he was six years old, I want to cut them out with vinyl but I don't know how to get the lines to show up better, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

bruno on Jan 09, 2015:

@anonymous - hah! Good catch. Although I think in this case it's just artistic license.

Anonymous on Jan 09, 2015:

Very cute! As a former fingerprint examiner your upside down print is killing me! ;)

MS4leaf on Jul 26, 2013:

I just stumbled upon this and REALLY want to do this. I'm thinking "You + Me = He" to include our son. Now I have to come up with a plausible reason for fingerprinting my guys. ;-)

Jules on Mar 11, 2013:

this is PERFECT for my science fair project on fingerprint patterns. thank you!!

Abigail's Mommy on Feb 04, 2013:

Then you could do = with the childrens. 

CorrinnaP on Nov 30, 2012:

Brilliant! Stumbled across your post via pintrist and have planned out a version to give my hubby for Christmas which will include our daughter...coincidenetally the initals of our last names spell PS (something I put to good use)  so I'm thinking of including that. I'll come back when done and share my image. Thanks!!

Gina Ana on Mar 14, 2012:

Está genial. Voy a hacer uno parecido, pero del tipo "you+me=(child's name)". Me encantó la idea.

Viviene on Jan 31, 2012:

So Cute! Found this on pinterest... I want to do this =D

Alex Gomez on Dec 15, 2011:

This was a great idea. I loved it and made my own little copy. All props to you though. Thank you!

Lucy on Jul 10, 2011:

Super cute idea, especially since I'm a former fingerprint examiner and never ran across a fingerprint I didn't see as a piece of artwork.  However, you may (or may not) want to know that the first fingerprint is upside down, so be sure to not only label who the print belongs to, but add which way is "up."  It is something that may matter only to those of know how to read prints, but think of it this way: one of you may go missing some day and you'd want to have an accurate fingerprint for identification ;^)

Shari on May 27, 2011:

@Bruno Thanks for posting the link for me. The link icon wouldn't highlight when I put it in. :-)

Victoria on May 27, 2011:

This is so cool!! i love it! be sure i'll do it, its gonna be a lovely present to my boyfriend :)

Shari on May 10, 2011:

Thank you for this! I can totally do this! My scanner even does up to 2400 dpi, woo hoo! Thanks for the awesome instructions... this will make an awesome piece of artwork in our apartment. 


Kym on Apr 23, 2011:

Chris, what a wonderful gift idea and a great way to personalise your home. Thanks for sharing. (It would also make a great anniversary gift.)

It would also be lovely if you had kids to do a second one with "=" and their names and fingerprints to hang side by side in a family room. 

For Father's Day a couple of years ago I did a frame with our kids footprints in (each child's photo is above the print mounted in a separate box within the frame) and have been thinking about doing one with my husband's and mine to hang beside it. Now I want to do fingerprints too!!

Chris on Apr 13, 2011:

@Chirai - She's learned not to ask. I'm always secretly measuring stuff and telling her, "You'll find out soon enough." Thankfully, she loves surprises in gifts, and isn't a guesser. That's my job.

Chirai on Apr 12, 2011:

This makes an excellent gift idea! The only question... how do you get the other person's fingerprints without them knowing what it's for, lol? Or did she not ask?

Will on Mar 07, 2011:

I like it! and so does my probabtion officer ;)