• forensic;
  • ink;
  • document;
  • pigment;
  • dye

The ability to discriminate between inks is important for forensic document analysis. Here, Raman spectroscopy (RS) and surface-enhanced RS have been compared to the traditional document examination techniques of video spectral comparison and thin layer chromatography on a population of blue and black-coloured liquid and gel inks. It was found that in most cases, the Raman techniques provided a similar or better discriminating power than the conventional methods. Importantly, this study allowed us to determine whether the same underlying changes in composition were being exploited by the different methods to discriminate between samples. It was found that there was indeed a high degree of commonality in the sample pairs being discriminated by the various techniques. This work can therefore underpin introduction of Raman methods into standard operating procedures for ink analysis since it not only measures the extent of discrimination between samples but can also explain the origin of the spectral changes that are used to distinguish between them. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and Crown copyright