How to Make a Writing Imprint Visible on Paper

How to Make a Writing Imprint Visible on Paper

When you were little, you did this all the time without thinking. You wrote a note on a pad, pressed hard when writing, ripped off the top piece and lightly colored over the imprint to reveal the same message as above. Today, this process is known as indented writing and forensic scientists use it all the time.

When you write on paper, you press down on the writing implement, leaving scripted markings on the paper underneath. The level of indentation depends on how strongly the writer pressed on the original document above. Although more people use computers, tablets or phones, there are procedures designed to pick up and decipher the note without having the original in place.

  • Lamp or other light source
  • Camera
  • Printer
  • Number two pencil

1 Uncovering Hidden Messages Using Oblique Lighting

First, take the paper with potential indented writing and lay it on a smooth, flat surface away from any source of direct light.

Second, at a slight, low angle, take a lighting source, and shine it across the paper in order to see the shadows left by the indentations.

Third, using a phone or digital camera device, capture the image along with the shadows created by the lighting source. To access the newfound writings, print or enlarge the digital image.

2 Uncovering Hidden Messages Using the "Rubbing Technique"

First, take the paper and place it on a smooth, flat, hard surface with the supposed image facing up.

Second, get a sharp pencil. If a pencil is unavailable a lightly held crayon or pen will suffice.

Third, using a light touch, rub the writing implement lightly across the paper. The shading from the lead will reveal the indentations making it possible to read the message.

3 How Can You Make It All Happen?

You can unveil your findings anywhere. As long as you're able to have a few popular household items that can help you in your quest to reveal indented writing, you're ready to go. You'll need paper and a writing implement, a lighting implement, and if you're creating your own, some kitchen items like lemon juice, milk or grape juice.

4 Channel Your Inner Scientist

In order to collect evidence and historical information, scientists today use varied methods to decode and decipher hidden messages. Methods include using intense lighting, utilizing an Electrostatic Detection Apparatus (ESDA) and some scanners with this reading capability.

Other types of interesting writing take the form of invisible ink. Using at home items like milk, lemon juice, grape juice and even water, there are ways to create your own writing that would be invisible to the naked eye. Using elements of science, wonder and forensic analysis, you'll be able to decipher those messages that before would have remained invisible. Whether you’re a budding scientist itching to try out a new technique or trying to reveal messages your siblings left on the kitchen pad, these interesting forms of writing can grab your attention.

Stacey Ebert is an educator, writer, organizer, and event planner. She taught high school in NY for 15+ years, advised four of the largest school clubs, was an aquatics director at a day camp for 15+ years and has traveled to over 50 of the world’s countries. She is credentialed in secondary education in both NY and CA, has a Master’s degree in Education.