Forensic arts

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Forensic art is any art used in law enforcement or legal proceedings. It helps law enforcement focus on the visual aspects through a witnesses description or video footage.[1] Within this field are such skills as composite drawing, crime scene sketching, image modification and image identification, courtroom drawings, demonstrative evidence, and postmortem and facial approximation aids. Not every forensic artist uses all of these skills.[2] Here is a breakdown to show the meanings and differences of all the different skills:

  • Composite Drawing: The main objective is to help investigators generate leads. This is usually done drawing by hand. An artist who is trained in interviewing victims and witnesses, take the information and draw what is described [3]
  • Image Modification: Is used to change and enhance a photograph in order to help an investigator and/or trial attorney. Some examples include; age progression and suspect alterations.[4]
  • Image Identification: Is recording a persons distinguishing features for future references. Investigators can use this tool when suspects try to change their appearance to evade capture, as well as cold cases.[4]
  • Crime scene Sketching: Is a drawing of a crime scene. In the sketch, an investigator shows measurements and dimensions to aid in displaying the layout of the scene. This helps back up the information when paired with photographs.[5]
  • Demonstrative Evidence: Any visible evidence used in legal proceedings. These are used to demonstrate, reconstruct and event, and illustrate what happened. There are two categories of Demonstrative evidence; court displays and investigative aids.[4]
  • Postmortem Drawing: When an artist either looks at a deceased persons photograph or the remains to help identify who the person is. This helps most in cases that the body is too damaged by an accident as well as crime scenes.[4]
  • Age Progression: useful to determine what the person will look like after a period of time. Typically used for missing children or deceased body.
  • Forensic Sculpture: This is used to create three dimensional models from skulls. Other body parts are added such as fake eyes and wigs. It is later photograph and used like postmortem and composite drawings.
  • Collaboration: Forensic artist, anthropologist and other profession are used to determine the age, sex, and race of an identified skull.[6]

Most forensic artists do the job as a collateral duty to their "regular" job in law enforcement, such as police officer, crime scene tech, etc. Such forensic artists perform their work while on a fixed salary and are not compensated extra for artistic duties. There are extremely few full-time forensic artist jobs avilable. Most full-time artists work in large cities, or in state or federal agencies. "Freelancing" in forensic art is a difficult career path, as ties to law enforcement are a necessary part of the job, and agencies have limited budgets to pay outside contractors.

The skill of facial approximation is closely associated and related to forensic anthropology in that an artist specializes in the reconstruction of the remains of a human body. Generally this discipline focuses on the human face for identification purposes. The forensic artist can create a facial approximation in a number of ways to include 2D (drawing), 3D (sculpture) and other methods using new computer technology. Forensic artists generally can add greater character and make their subjects come back to "life".

Methods of Manual 3d construction

  • Anthropometric was a method developed by krogman in 1946 .[7]
  • Facial muscles are recorded by a highly trained professional. This job is very tedious which is why most do not use this method.
  • Computerized 3d forensic facial reconstruction- manual model clay techniques are used within this method. Computer systems vary in where some computerized systems used 3D animation software  to model the face onto the skull while other system used virtual sculpture system with Haptic feedback[7]
  • Haptic Feedback- The ability to feel the surface of the skull during analysis and also provide important skeletal details for facial reconstruction such as muscle attachment strength, position of eye, position of malar tubercle etc.[7]

Face model creation

When creating a face model, the forensic artist looks at whether the person is masculine or feminine, as well as their skin tone, age, wrinkles, freckles, shadow of the beard, and attractiveness. There are three segments that they examine:

  • Face shape: Round, narrow, heart shape, high/low cheeks, high/low chin, double chin, distance between lips and nose.
  • Eyes: round, upwards/downwards, distance of eyeballs, eye color, thin/thick eyebrows, high/low arch brow, distance between both eyebrows, distance between eyebrows and eyes.
  • Hair: The 3d models have not been program to be used with hair therefore hair can not be used the same way as facial attributes . A profile and frontal image of a person is used where 5 to 15 different key features of each hairstyle are selected. These different hairstyles features are from a database used by these professionals. The styles are put into the system where the algorithm automatically estimates the structure of the face. The system is also able to depict different shade of color.[8]

Becoming a Forensic Artist

  • Have at least 80 hours of IAI-approved forensic art training[9]
  • Have at least 40 hours of related workshops, lectures, and short program training
  • Have at least 2 years of experience as a forensic arts
  • At least 30 forensic art examples that include age progressions, composites, and reconstructions
  • Have a portfolio that demonstrates their forensic art techniques (must include at least 10 forensic art images that were prepared for law enforcement investigation cases)[10]


  1. ^ "What is Forensic Art? - Forensic Faces Institute". Retrieved 2017-11-06. 
  2. ^ "History of the I.A.I. Forensic Art Discipline". 
  3. ^ "Forensic Art Defined and Explained". Forensic Magazine. 2004-12-01. Retrieved 2017-11-06. 
  4. ^ a b c d
  5. ^ MAYO, KRISTI. "Evidence Technology Magazine – Documenting the Crime Scene". Retrieved 2017-11-06. 
  6. ^ Taister, Karen T. Taylor, Taylor, Michael A. Taister,. "Book Review of Forensic Art and Illustration (by Taylor), by Taister (Forensic Science Communications, January 2001)". FBI. Retrieved 2017-12-04. 
  7. ^ a b c "What is Anthropometric Measurement? - Tools, Purpose & Methods – Video & Lesson Transcript". Retrieved 2017-12-05. 
  8. ^ "EBSCOhost Login". 
  9. ^ "Forensic Artist Job Description, Education Requirements and Salary Expectations". Retrieved 2017-12-05. 
  10. ^ "Forensic Artist Job Description, Education Requirements and Salary Expectations". Retrieved 2017-12-04. 

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