The deep thermal field in the continental lithosphere varies significantly depending on the age of the lithosphere, its tectonic setting and the time since the last tectonic event. Accordingly, orogens with a thickened radiogenic crust will be hotter in their crust than cratonic areas that had billions of years time to equilibrate after the last tectonic event. Areas affected by continental rifting and passive margins also may be characterized by specific lithospheric configurations and a distinct geothermal fingerprint. Using data-integrated models of different continental areas we evaluate the first-order controlling factors of the related threedimensional temperature distributions. We find that the resolution of subsurface heterogeneities and the consideration of the appropriate heat transport mechanisms are key in predicting the characteristics of the deep thermal field. Accordingly, the superposed effects of varying thermal conductivities, contributions of radiogenic heat and variations of the thermal lithosphere thickness together result in setting-specific background 3D thermal fields. These effects are superposed by the effects of coupled fluid and heat transport in the the upper few km of the crust. Knowing the first-order characteristics of the local thermal fingerprint is key for geothermal exploration but also for estimating the expected mechanical thickness as well as the nature and magnitude of seismicity.