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The performance of a fingerprint matching system is affected by the nonlinear deformation introduced in the fingerprint impression during image acquisition. This nonlinear deformation causes fingerprint features such as minutiae points and ridge curves to be distorted in a complex manner. A technique is presented to estimate the nonlinear distortion in fingerprint pairs based on ridge curve correspondences. The nonlinear distortion, represented using the thin-plate spline (TPS) function, aids in the estimation of an "average" deformation model for a specific finger when several impressions of that finger are available. The estimated average deformation is then utilized to distort the template fingerprint prior to matching it with an input fingerprint. The proposed deformation model based on ridge curves leads to a better alignment of two fingerprint images compared to a deformation model based on minutiae patterns. An index of deformation is proposed for selecting the "optimal" deformation model arising from multiple impressions associated with a finger. Results based on experimental data consisting of 1,600 fingerprints corresponding to 50 different fingers collected over a period of two weeks show that incorporating the proposed deformation model results in an improvement in the matching performance.