An Introduction to Gel Inks: History and Analysis


  • Darlene C. Florence Research Microscopist, McCrone Associates
  • Heidi H. Harralson Spectrum Forensic Consultants, Tucson, Arizona
  • Joseph G. Barabe Senior Research Microscopist, McCrone Associates



EDS, Polarized light microscopy, History, Instrumental analysis, Raman spectroscopy, Gel ink


With the increasing use and variety of gel pens on the market, forensic document examiners may encounter problems identifying gel pens from other common pen types. This study discusses the initial findings of an investigation into the history, technology, and properties of gel pens. Microscopical (visual) and chemical methods were also evaluated as ways to characterize and identify gel inks. The results of the study demonstrate that the presence of a gel ink can often be determined, but that some gel inks resemble other types of pens, especially roller balls, upon visual examination. Further, chromatographic methods used to characterize traditional dye-based inks may be less useful with gel inks; for these, other spectrometric methods including Raman spectroscopy and energy dispersive x-ray spectrometry (EDS) were evaluated and proved useful.

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How to Cite

Florence, D. C., Harralson, H. H., & Barabe, J. G. (2019). An Introduction to Gel Inks: History and Analysis. Journal of Forensic Document Examination, 28, 105–124.