Common Barcode Mistakes to Avoid

Over the years, we’ve encountered several common issues with barcodes. Here are the top five mistakes often made when integrating a barcode into product artwork files. We strongly advise reviewing this list before finalizing your product artwork. If you have any uncertainties about a design or artwork proof, please don’t hesitate to contact us, and we’ll guide you in the right direction.

1. Inverting the Barcode

Avoid inverting the barcode, where the background is black and the bars are white. Infrared scanners used in retail require sufficient contrast between a light background and dark bars. Inverted barcodes are invisible to these scanners, causing issues with product scanning, even for smartphone scanners. Stick to optimal color combinations, such as black bars on a white background.

Refer to our color guide for suitable combinations.

The barcode has been inverted and will not scan with a handheld retail scanner.
This barcode is correct.

2. Placement

For easy scanning, place the barcode on a flat surface. Common placement mistakes include:

  • Putting the barcode around packaging corners, causing it to curve.
  • Placing the barcode too close to the packaging’s edge, risking the loss of quiet zones.
  • Placing the barcode on a curved surface; consider the ladder orientation for optimal scanning on curved objects like drink cans.
  • Placing the barcode behind plastic shrink wrap, which may interfere with scanning.

3. Size

While barcodes can be printed small, the recommended minimum size is 80% magnification. Barcodes as small as 10mm x 20mm at 90 DPI can still scan, but larger sizes are preferable for better compatibility with scanners. Ensure that your packaging accommodates the optimal size for scanning.

4. Removing Quiet Zones

Maintain the quiet zones, the white space on either side of the bars. Some may mistakenly assume that the barcode starts and ends at the bars, but the quiet zones are necessary for scanners to identify the barcode’s boundaries.

The quiet zones have been cut off. This barcode will not scan.
The quiet zones are completely intact so the barcode will scan.

5. Poor Print Resolution

Check for poor print resolution or excessive ink bleed, as these can cause scanning issues. Ensure that the barcode lines are sharp and crisp in the printed proof. If blurry lines persist, verify the print resolution, recommending a minimum of 300 DPI for clear barcode images.

The barcode is too blurry causing scanning issues.
The barcode has sharp crisp lines and will scan.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can enhance the effectiveness of your barcodes for seamless scanning and accurate product identification. It is critical to avoid these if your product is required to pass a Barcode Verification Report. See: Barcode Verification