Digital Forensic Investigation >> Questioned Documents >> Ink Examination

Ink Examination

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The visual appearance of inks is only one clue to their composition. Sometimes two inks can look identical to the naked eye but further tests may be able to distinguish between them. Where possible non-destructive tests are used. For example inks can be examined using infra red or ultraviolet reflectance at various wavelengths or using visible light but examining emissions from the ink in the infra red area of the spectrum (infra red luminescence). Our examiners use an instrument known as a VSC 2000HR to carry out non-destructive specialised lighting examinations. Inks may also be distinguished by other more complex chemical tests but these are likely to be destructive to some extent. EUROFINS FORENSIC SERVICES is fortunate in having the backing of its world renowned analytical chemistry section. This means that we can use high end techniques to examine inks such as Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry.

Differentiating inks can be important in cases where a document is suspected of having been altered. A classic example is where a zero is added to a cheque making the value ten times as much.


The 'dating' of inks is a hugely complex area and depends to a large extent on the conditions used to store the document that bears the ink. Many factors affect the apparent ageing of ink including: exposure to light, heat, humidity and thickness of ink line. For these reasons a direct dating of ink lines is seldom carried out by this Laboratory.