Fugitive Inks

Fugitive Ink and Fugitive Pigments: The Link Between Security Printing, Art, and Online Mobile Onboarding

Table of Contents

Fugitive inks and fugitive pigments share similarities and differences. In the document security world, fugitive inks are a solution to document tampering, counterfeits, and fraud. They come in different formulas, offering a range of ways to combat document crimes. 

Fugitive pigments, on the other hand, come from the art world. They are used for their unique transient characteristics. But as the world moves more critical transactions online, important business processes, like onboarding have proven complex and challenging. There’s a pressing need to make onboarding simpler and more secure. 

This article explores fugitive inks and pigments, covering what they are, how they work, and why they are useful. With a clear understanding of the value of fugitive inks and pigments, you’ll see how certain principles can be applied to solve online onboarding complexities, giving businesses the ability to transform how they vet new customers.

What is Fugitive Ink?

Fugitive ink refers to a type of ink specifically formulated to change, fade, or disappear under certain conditions. It is known for its ability to act as a security feature, changing under specific circumstances to prevent or indicate unauthorized use, tampering, or exposure to certain environmental conditions. This makes fugitive ink especially useful and commonly applied to sensitive legal documents. 

What Does “Fugitive” Ink Mean?

Fugitive inks are referred to as “fugitive” because of their specific characteristic of being transient or impermanent under certain conditions. When tampered with, fugitive inks change, typically by fading, running, or disappearing when exposed to specific triggers such as water, chemicals, light, or heat.

What is Fugitive Pigment?

Fugitive pigment is a type of colorant used in various mediums like paint, markers, and inks, known for its impermanence. These pigments are characterized by their tendency to change when exposed to environmental factors such as light, humidity, and temperature. 

Over time, fugitive pigments may lighten, darken, or otherwise alter in appearance. This makes them less reliable for applications where color longevity and stability are crucial.

Interestingly, fugitive pigments used in artworks were often derived from natural sources, an attribute that made preserving the original appearance of artworks challenging because these pigments deteriorate over time. Today’s fugitive pigments have been developed to include some synthetic colors that offer vibrant hues, however, are still susceptible to fading.

What are the differences between Fugitive Ink and Fugitive Pigment?

Fugitive ink and fugitive pigment share certain similarities, however, there are differences in their composition, usage, and the reasons behind their impermanence. For example, fugitive inks are engineered for their transient nature to enhance document security, whereas fugitive pigments are used in the art world for their lack of durability.

Composition and Usage

  • Fugitive Inks: Fugitive ink is formulated to change under certain conditions. It is often used for security purposes, such as in anti-fraud measures in important documents.
  • Fugitive Pigments: These are colorants used in various mediums such as paints, markers, and inks. Fugitive pigments are known for their tendency to change when exposed to environmental factors such as light, humidity, and temperature. They are often used by artists for their specific hues and effects but are noted for their lack of permanence.

Purpose of Impermanence

  • Fugitive Inks: The impermanence of fugitive ink is intentional and serves a functional purpose. It is designed to act as a security feature, changing under specific circumstances to prevent or indicate unauthorized use or tampering.
  • Fugitive Pigments: The impermanence of fugitive pigments is often a by-product of their natural origins or specific chemical composition. Their tendency to fade or change color over time is generally seen as a disadvantage in contexts where color longevity is important.


  • Fugitive Inks: Primarily used in legal, financial, and other official documents for security and anti-fraud purposes.
  • Fugitive Pigments: Used primarily in the art and design fields and chosen for their aesthetic qualities despite their impermanence.

The Different Types of Fugitive Ink

There are several types of fugitive inks, each designed to react differently under specific conditions, depending on your document and use case. Ink types include:

Water-Soluble Fugitive Ink: This ink becomes invisible or runs when exposed to water or aqueous solutions, making it ideal for documents where water exposure would indicate tampering​​​​.

Thermochromic Ink: Changes appearance when exposed to heat and can become invisible or change color at certain temperatures. It is useful for verifying authenticity or detecting heat-based tampering​​.

UV Ink: Visible only under ultraviolet light, this ink is used for covert security features that are not apparent under normal lighting conditions​​.

Solvent-Sensitive Ink: Similar to water-soluble ink, this ink type reacts to certain chemicals or solvents, smudging or running if chemically altered​​.

Coin-Reactive Ink: Changes color or appearance when rubbed with a coin or metal object, making this ink type useful when verifying the authenticity of a document​​.

How the Fugitive Ink Printing Process Works

Fugitive ink printing is a specialized process, however, it generally includes the following steps:

Ink Selection: A fugitive ink suited to specific security requirements is selected. This could be ink that reacts to water, heat, light, or chemicals, changing its appearance when tampered with.

Surface Preparation: The surface to which the ink will be applied is cleaned in preparation for ink adhesion. This could be paper, fabric, or other materials depending on the application.

Printing or Marking: Ink is applied through standard printing techniques for documents, or by using stamps or markers for manual application. The method will vary depending on the scale of the operation and the nature of the items being marked.

Drying and Curing: The ink is left to dry and cure. The duration of this step can vary based on the type of ink used and the material it’s applied to.

Quality Control: Ink application is checked to ensure that it has been applied evenly and reacts as expected under test conditions.

Documentation and Tracking: The batch of ink used and the items it was applied to are documented for quality assurance and traceability, an important step for accountability and tracking in security-sensitive applications.

Fugitive Ink’s Usability in online and mobile onboarding situations

Fugitive ink is known for its use in security printing but offers certain principles that can be applied to online and mobile onboarding use cases to enhance security and fraud prevention strategies. Similar to the various types of inks, these principles include:

Digital Watermarking: Just as fugitive ink reacts to tampering on physical documents, digital watermarking can be used in online documents. By embedding information into digital media in a way that is difficult to remove or alter without detection, much like how fugitive ink reveals alterations in physical documents, carefully reviewed watermarks can indicate tampering.

Tamper-Evident Digital Signatures: In mobile and online onboarding, digital signatures play a crucial role. Implementing tamper-evident features in these signatures can mirror the function of fugitive ink. If the digital signature is altered, the system can detect and flag it, similar to how fugitive ink reacts to chemical changes.

Visual Verification Features: Enhancing online forms by incorporating visual elements that change or disappear in response to unauthorized modifications can mimic fugitive ink’s tamper mechanism. 

Anti-Fraud Algorithms: Just as fugitive ink helps prevent physical document forgery, advanced algorithms can detect anomalies or alterations in digital onboarding processes, acting as a digital counterpart to the physical security provided by fugitive ink.

When will we need Fugitive Ink in our business?

Fugitive ink principles are already in action today and used to verify sensitive documents and streamline online mobile onboarding. They make it possible for businesses to switch from time-consuming and labor-intensive manual document verification to online, AI-managed, accurate, and highly efficient onboarding. 

AU10TIX’s Document Verification solution does just that, too. It helps businesses take charge of online mobile onboarding, and in just 4-8 seconds. It also supports multiple document verification requirements, extracts data automatically, provides biometric verification, and more. 

Learn more about document verification >>

Wrapping up

Fugitive ink is known for its use in security printing but offers a set of well-aligned principles that complement online and mobile onboarding use cases. When applied, businesses are able to transform new customer onboarding processes. It’s a shift from manual and error-prone workflows that take more time to streamlined, automated tasks with greater security and accuracy, and improved user experiences.

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