Ridges and Patterns

If you look at your own hands you will see that the surface is covered with lots of tiny lines - these are called ‘ridges'. Ridges cover all of your palms and fingers and also the soles of your feet and your toes.

The skin on these parts of the body is quite different from that covering the rest of your body and is called ‘Friction Ridge Skin'. It helps us to grip things and helps our body cool down when we are too hot by sweating. This is done through tiny holes on top of the ridges called ‘sweat pores'.

Ridge Characteristics

The ridges are also subject to certain breaks or interruptions which are called ridge features or characteristics.

There are two main types of characteristics:

  • Ridge End - the ridge stops suddenly 
  • Bifurcation - a single ridge flows along, forks in two and then continues into separate ridges

Every fingerprint will contain these ridge characteristics, however it is the sequence in which these appear which makes that fingerprint unique.


The ridges of a fingerprint flow into discernable shapes or patterns that can be sorted into various types. Patterns are the first level of detail used in the identification process and recognition of the various fingerprint patterns are essential to the fingerprint officer.