How to Position your Barcode on the ProductBarcode Orientation Guide

Barcode orientation depends on the curvature of the packaging

If the barcode is going on a flat surface (e.g. a cardboard box), the preferred orientation of the barcode is “picket fence” (where the barcode bars are like a fence, and the barcode number is at the bottom).

If the barcode is going on a curved surface (e.g. a bottle), the preferred orientation of the barcode is “ladder” (where the barcode is rotated so that the bars are like a ladder). When a barcode is printed onto a curved surface, sometimes the extremes of the barcode disappear around the curve and can’t be read by a barcode scanner – rotating the barcode, so it looks like a ladder avoids this issue.

Please note that the printing process can determine barcode orientation. Depending on the printing process you use, you may find that you get a much higher printing quality if the bars of the barcode run in the direction of the print (“web direction”) – in this situation, it is best to print the barcode in the direction of the print if possible.

Place barcode on a smooth surface

Make sure the barcode is placed on a smooth surface so that no part of the barcode is on a crease or edge in the packaging. The barcode should not wrap around a corner. No staples should go through the barcode. Don’t print on perforations, seams, folds, or absorbent paper.

Ensure there is sufficient space around your barcode

Ensure there is sufficient space around the barcode symbol and that other symbols or text don’t encroach on it. A retail (EAN-13 or UPC-A) barcode has a 2mm-3mm “quiet zone” (blank margin) on both the left and right sides. Make sure that these quiet zones are left and aren’t cropped off or overlapped with other symbols/text.

If you have small packaging or limited space for the barcode symbol, you can reduce your EAN-13 (or UPC-A) barcode down to 80% of standard size – i.e. down to about 30mm wide x 20mm high. We don’t recommend reducing your barcode size any further than this.

Avoid printing too close to the edge of a product. This is where the checkout operator may hold the item and so block the barcode. 8mm from the edge is the official recommendation, and no closer than 5mm from the edge.

Books and Magazines

Book ISBN barcodes should be printed on the lower right of the book’s back cover.