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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. [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 to change and enhance a photograph 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. [5]
  • 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. [6]
  • 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.[7]
  • 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. [8]

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. They do the work on salary, and normally are not paid extra for it. There are extremely few full-time forensic artist jobs to be had. Most full-time artists work in large cities, or in state or federal agencies. "Freelancing" in forensic art is extremely difficult to build as a career, as ties to law enforcement are a necessary part of the job, and agencies have limited budgets to pay 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 by methods using new computerized technology. Forensic artists generally can add greater character and make their subjects come back to "life".

A well known (fictional) Forensic Artist is Angela Montenegro from the television series Bones.


  1. ^ "What is Forensic Art? - Forensic Faces Institute". Retrieved 2017-11-06. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Forensic Art Defined and Explained". Forensic Magazine. 2004-12-01. Retrieved 2017-11-06. 
  4. ^ "Log In - ProQuest". Retrieved 2017-11-06. 
  5. ^ "Log In - ProQuest". Retrieved 2017-11-06. 
  6. ^ MAYO, KRISTI. "Evidence Technology Magazine - Documenting the Crime Scene". Retrieved 2017-11-06. 
  7. ^ "Log In - ProQuest". Retrieved 2017-11-06. 
  8. ^ "Log In - ProQuest". Retrieved 2017-11-06. 

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