Magnetic Powder

January 2020

ForensiKit: Printing with Magnetic Powder box contents

The ForensiKit: Printing with Magnetic Powder box includes
  • One magnetic applicator wand
  • One 1-oz vial of magnetic powder
  • One pack of 2×6-inch fingerprint lifting tape
  • 25 latent fingerprint cards
  • One dust mask
  • One pair of Nitrile gloves
  • Four sample practice surfaces
    • Glass
    • Unpainted wood
    • Primed wood
    • Paper toe tag
  • One activity insert (Download another copy [PDF])
  • One set of directions (Download another copy [PDF])
  • One packing list (Download another copy [PDF])
Contents of the ForensiKit: Printing with Magnetic Powder box

Want another Magnetic Powder activity?

The Hot Breath Technique

This method is most often used in dry, desert climates and is rarely necessary in humid environments.

When crime scene techs encounter a “dead print” in which all the oil and moisture has evaporated, they employ this technique to temporarily re-humidify the print so it can be collected and preserved.

💡 Remember
➡ Use an empty plastic bag or tarp to protect your work area.
➡ Wear a breathing mask and gloves when applying fingerprint powder.

  1. Put several fingerprints on a disposable plastic surface and wait for them to dry out.
    • How long the drying process takes will depend on the humidity where you are.
  2. Working with one print at a time, “huff” breath on the print from approximately six inches away.
  3. Give it a moment, and then apply magnetic powder to the print.
    • Timing is critical here. Applying the powder too soon can destroy the print, and waiting too long can allow the print to dry out again.
  4. Repeat the process with each fingerprint on the plastic, refining your technique each time to identify the appropriate moment to apply the powder and capture the print.
    • Note: The length of time you need to delay between applying the hot breath and applying the magnetic powder will vary from surface to surface and from day to day depending on conditions.
  5. Throw away the plastic when you’re finished.

For more information, see Magnetic Powder at Crime & Clues.



If you’re in Phoenix, visit the Crime Scene Store where we have a permanent magnetic fingerprinting display that lets you see magnetic fingerprint powder in action.

You can also see all the other professional forensic supplies we carry and even take your own mugshot selfie.


Tips for printing with magnetic powder

  • As soon as you see a latent print, stop dusting. Continuing to sweep the magnetic applicator wand across the print will remove more of the magnetic powder, reducing the visibility of the print.
    • The only exception is if you have a very greasy print which initially shows up as a solid blob. Making additional sweeps with the applicator wand may remove enough powder to reveal a usable print.
  • The magnetic applicator wand is less effective when used upside down. For best results, always use it with the magnet end down.
  • When creating fingerprints to dust for, you want a fresh, “greasy” print. Rub the side of your nose, forehead, or hair to coat your finger with sebaceous oils, and then touch the surface where you want to leave the print. Don’t press down.

Need more powder?

Magnetic Fingerprint Powder

Fingerprint powder

Need another applicator?

Magnetic Applicator Wands

Magnetic Applicator
Want to level up?

Latent Fingerprint Kit, Magnetic

Latent Fingerprint Kit, Magnetic

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