• Barcode Ireland Team

Guidelines for barcode printing

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

Optimising your product barcode labels.

UPC-A barcode number, image and incorporated artwork.

Now that you have your authentic barcode numbers, it's time to put the barcode image onto your product. For this next step, you will need to familiarise yourself with the process of barcode printing.

The barcode image is a graphical representation of your barcode number. Each product and variation in product has a unique barcode number which in turn has a unique barcode image that accompanies it.

Barcode images for retail products have a distinct layout that is different from other barcodes in the manufacturing process and in the supply chain. It's important to adhere to the dimensions and printing requirements of retail barcodes to ensure they are able to be scanned correctly.

We at Barcode Ireland make the printing process easy for you by including images in our barcode packages that are in the correct dimensions and quality ready to print. Simply print the barcode image files as they are and place them on your product as preferred.

Basic printing steps

You have two options to get the barcode image onto your product:

• Either by embedding the barcode image in your packaging or by printing your barcodes on a label that is then placed on your product. A graphic designer can incorporate the barcode image into the product design, along with the title, company information, ingredients, allergens etc. Resizing the barcode image is possible to suit the product packaging.

• If the product packaging has already been produced (without the barcode image embedded in the design itself) or if the material used in the product does not allow a barcode to be directly incorporated, such as stationery or clothing, swing labels may be used. The barcode image in this instance is printed on the label, which is attached to the product as desired.

Identifying the retail barcode image

Make sure your barcode image has the correct number of digits, that is, 12 for the UPC-A (Universal Product Code) and 13 for the EAN-13 (European Article Number).

EAN-13 and UPC-A barcode numbers and images.

Common customer concerns and problems

Which barcode do I use in retail?

The general rule is for products sold in Europe, Asia and Africa, use EAN-13 barcode numbers and images and for products sold in the US and Canada, use UPC-A numbers and images. However, with modern scanners, either barcode can by read in most countries.

Will the digital barcode image included in my barcode package be able to be scanned?

The short answer is yes. If you do not change the digital artwork and print at a resolution of 300 dpi or higher, your barcode will be scannable.

For those who print large batches of barcodes on labels, we recommend that you do a test scan first to ensure that the printer is correctly printing the image on the label. If it does not scan in this instance, it's a printing error or the dimensions or quality of the barcode has been compromised.

Be sure to adhere to the guidelines in this article to maintain the integrity of the barcode. If the barcode has printed correctly but is not yet scanning, there is likely to be a hardware problem with the scanner. In this case, the scanning device simply needs to be configured correctly.

Common errors

Printing companies that generate their own barcode images from barcode numbers may prefer to print their own barcode images instead of using the barcode images we provide you. If they are not knowledgeable about retail barcodes, they may print the wrong barcode image.

EAN-13 barcode numbers have a defined structure that is different from other barcodes. Most notable are the 'rails' that appear to the left, right, and centre of the barcode image.

When delivering your barcode files to a printing company, it's recommended they use the barcode image files that we include in your barcode package. Alternatively, if they have the correct barcode software, they can generate their own images, but they must be in EAN-13 format.

Be aware that this is different from generating the actual barcode number - the unique GTIN number that is assigned exclusively to your product. It's only the image that is recreated based on these numbers.

Not adhering to size requirements, colour printing standards, or print quality standards may result in scannability issues.

Standard barcode dimensions are as follows:

Width 3.88 cm (1.528 inches), height 2.6 cm (1.023 inches).

Your barcode images may be printed larger or smaller to suit your product (see in Dimensions below).

The colours of the bars and lines and the background should have sufficient contrast between them. Black and white colours are often used to ensure that the highest level of contrast is created. Because paper is generally white and the most common ink is black, we use less ink and the cost is more efficient when printing black bars and lines on a white background.

Print quality will be guaranteed at 300 DPI.


The barcode images in your barcode package are sized correctly and ready for printing. Standard dimensions: width 3.88 cm (1.528 inches), height 2.6 cm (1.023 inches).

We find it easy to remember an approximate size of "1.5 x 1" (inches), which is 38.1 mm x 25.4 mm. When printing on labels, we suggest leaving some space on the edges on the left and right sides - about ¼" or 6.35 mm will suffice.

The size of your product will be a crucial factor in determining the size of your barcode image and the choice of label size when printing the barcode image on a label. Maximum and minimum sizes as follows:

Recommended minimum height: 22.85 mm; width: 31.35 mm.

Recommended maximum height: 25.93 mm; width: 37.29 mm.

Books and magazines generally opt for a 2 "by 1" label with an ISBN barcode used with a UPC-A barcode.

When redimensioning your barcode image, be sure to adhere to the size standards described above. In your barcode package, we provide jpg and eps versions of barcode numbers. If you want to adjust the size of the barcode image, we advise you to use the eps file, which is designed so that the adjustment of the dimensions does not result in loss of image quality (professional editing software such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop can help you with this).

Colour combos

Black bars and lines on a white background are the standard colour scheme for retail barcodes although you do have other options for colour printing. The contrast is higher with dark, bold colours on a white background. Some strong colours also have a good contrast in yellow. Light pastel colours may also work.

It's important to note that the colour contrast between the bars and lines versus the background should be high. Colours with grayscale equivalents that are closest have less contrast and therefore will be harder to read with a scanner. Creating a grayscale of the barcode image helps determine the colour contrast.

As the scanning laser is made of red light, an important colour that is NOT used in the barcode image is red.

Barcode print quality

Print quality will be guaranteed at 300 DPI or higher. The barcode images in the barcode package sent to your email are a high quality version and ready to print.

Getting creative

In addition to the barcode image, some producers have chosen to make their barcode appearance more attractive by incorporating additional artwork into the image. This does not affect the scannability of the barcode because the main part of the barcode remains intact within the larger work of art as in the image at the head of this post.

Printing and equipment software

Most modern printers and software have options for barcode label printing. You could simply print on label paper, sheets or rolls. See or handy guide to barcode printers and labels https://www.barcodeireland.ie/post/barcode-printers-and-labels-a-basic-guide .

Specific third-party software can be used to generate the barcode images, but be sure to use only authentic registered GS1 barcode numbers assigned to your products. These may be sourced directly from GS1 or reputable barcode resellers such as Barcode Ireland. Creating your own UPC barcode numbers is not only illegal but can quickly put you in conflict with other businesses that own, or as in the case of GS1 barcodes, lease these numbers.


Labels are often used on products where it is undesirable to have the barcode image printed directly on the merchandise itself. A common example is retail clothing items. Here swing labels can be attached using string, a plastic tag or a plastic or metal pin.

A retail swing barcode label.

For further information on labels and label design see our comprehensive posts, Barcode printers and labels - a basic guide https://www.barcodeireland.ie/post/barcode-printers-and-labels-a-basic-guide and Product label design https://www.barcodeireland.ie/post/product-label-design.

How do spreadsheets and labels differ?

Print machines print on spreadsheets or rollers. The thermal printing process is used when printing on rolls. The laser printing process is used on sheets. Your choice depends on the desired print quality, cost, and user application process.

Additional useful tips for barcode printing

1. Notice how products similar to yours are already being barcoded and sold in stores. Pay attention to the size of the barcode and where it is placed.

2. Make sure your barcode package comes complete with images that are ready to print. Buy your high quality barcodes here https://www.barcodeireland.ie/buy

3. Choose a Printing company that has experience in printing barcodes or has a dedicated barcode printing machine.

4. Print a test sheet first and verify that it's being scanned correctly. The barcode number will appear on the system. Product details are entered manually.

5. Resize or choose different colours only when needed. Do not make a simple process more complicated.

We at Barcode Ireland pride ourselves on making the barcoding process as simple as possible. Our barcode package comes complete with everything you need for your product's barcode.

Our barcodes work internationally. Head to our Buy page www.barcodeireland.ie/buy, or contact us on info@barcodeireland.ie or through the contact form on our website www.barcodeireland.ie/contact and let Barcode Ireland help you.