Good Bar Code Guidelines

  axicon barcode verifier Printing a large batch of bar code labels that won’t scan can be disastrous for any company.  Bad bar codes can lead to major issues for your products at retail, problems organizing and tracking inventory, undeliverable packages, and even expensive chargebacks in certain industries.  There are many factors that should be considered when printing your bar code labels.  The following guidelines will help ensure that you print easily scannable, high-quality bar codes. 

     Choosing the right label material is the first step in creating high-quality bar code labels.  Both the color and finish of the label material can impact a bar code’s readability.  Ideally, a white label should be used for printing your bar codes.  Using a background color other than white reduces the contrast between the bar code and the label material, which can potentially result in failed readings with certain scanners. 

     Regarding the finish of the material, you will want to avoid metallic foil, ultra-glossy, and clear finishes. Label material with any type of reflective finish will greatly reduce the odds of a successful scan. Keeping your printer properly maintained is also vitally important to printing high-quality bar codes.  To achieve universally successful scans your bar codes will need to be crisp, well defined, and printed at a high resolution.  After printing, if you notice defects such as fuzzy, splotchy or blurry printing, or even instances of faded or missing print, then there may be an issue with the bar codes being properly read by certain scanners.  Keeping your bar code printers regularly cleaned and maintained should allow you to avoid these problems, and routinely print high-quality bar codes.

     Size and position play a major role in bar code readability as well.  As a rule of thumb, you will want to print your bar codes while adhering to the standards provided by GS1.  A direct link to GS1’s standards documentation can be found below:

     Ensuring that your bar codes are being printed at an acceptable size and with the proper light margins will go a long ways towards printing bar codes that are easily scannable.  This is especially important for bar code symbologies such as UPC and EAN that are required for retail applications.

      How and where your bar code labels are applied to your products will be a major factor in their readability as well.  Bar code labels should be placed on a flat surface.  A bar code label placed onto a curved or rounded surface may experience difficulties being read.  It is very important that the bar code is laid down flatly, so that the label is not crumpled, folded, or peeling.  In addition, you should be mindful to place the bar code label in an area where it will not be obscured by another label, shrink wrap, or any other kind of packaging.

Printing and applying bad bar code labels can be a very costly mistake for a business to make.  These guidelines should have you printing high-quality bar codes in no time!


Written by Dave Carmany  President of

About is the premier resource for all your bar code labeling needs.  Whether you need 1 sheet or 100 sheets, we can accept your order because we have the largest selection of ready-to-ship blank labels for laser and inkjet printers in the world. We carry over 1,100 label configurations in stock, and if that's not enough, we can custom manufacture any label sheet configuration you require.  We offer a money back guarantee and same day shipping!

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