For example, the above set of prints would only need to be compared to other sets of fingerprints with a value of 3.

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The most popular systems used the pattern class of each finger to form a key (a number) to assist lookup in a filing system.

Classification systems include the Roscher system, the Juan Vucetich system, and the Henry Classification System.

Latent prints are often fragmentary and require the use of chemical methods, powder, or alternative light sources in order to be made clear.

Sometimes an ordinary bright flashlight will make a latent print visible.

The recovery of fingerprints from a crime scene is an important method of forensic science.

Fingerprints are easily deposited on suitable surfaces (such as glass or metal or polished stone) by the natural secretions of sweat from the eccrine glands that are present in epidermal ridges.

A friction ridge is a raised portion of the epidermis on the digits (fingers and toes), the palm of the hand or the sole of the foot, consisting of one or more connected ridge units of friction ridge skin.

These are sometimes known as "epidermal ridges" which are caused by the underlying interface between the dermal papillae of the dermis and the interpapillary (rete) pegs of the epidermis.

Manual classification systems were based on the general ridge patterns of several or all fingers (such as the presence or absence of circular patterns).