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How Bar Codes Are Printed
(For how barcodes are read, see the Bar Code Readers Page)

There are three ways to print a barcode symbol. One, you can print the barcode yourself using a computer and a computer printer. Two, you can contract with a company that specilizes in printing barcode labels. Three, if you are printing the barcode on product packaging, you can let the printing company do it.

Printing Bar Codes Yourself

Barcodes can be printed using most computer printers. The simpliest way to print a barcode with your computer printer is to use a barcode font. You install the font on your computer just like any other font, and you can switch to the barcode font the same way you switch to any standard font. Visit the Bar Code Fonts Page for a list of free and shareware barcode fonts. The main problem in using fonts to print bar codes is your word processor will try to print the code no matter what point size type that you specify. However, the smaller the point size you use, the higher resolution your printer must have to render the code properly. If you are using a 300 dpi printer, don't select a point size for a bar code font less than 24 point.

If you want to print a large quantity of barcodes with data from a database, you can use a barcode font and mail merge software to do it. However, a more industrial approach is to use barcode label printing software. Bar code label printing programs will prevent picking a barcode size that is too small for the printer (a problem when using barcode fonts). Most programs will not print a code unless a narrow bar is at least three dots wide. Visit the Bar Code Label Printing Software Page for a list of these products.

Ordering Pre-Printed Bar Code Labels

A company can also order labels preprinted with barcode from vendors that specilize in printing barcodes. The advantage over printing labels yourself is the vendor has the responsibility to print a readable barcode rather than you. Pre-printed barcode labels have the disadvantage that a inventory of labels must be maintained. To find out more information about this option, visit our Pre-Printed Bar Code Label Page.

Printing Bar Codes On Product Packaging

Finally, if the barcode is a UPC or EAN barcode, it is usually printed during the printing of the product's packaging. Generally, you will have to obtain a barcode film master from a vendor that specializes in this. However, some printing companies can also do the barcode film master.

If you use graphics arts sofware to produce a file for your printing company, the sofware may be capable of also adding a barcode. If you generate the barcode yourself, be sure to have the printing company verify that the barcode symbol is within specification and contains the correct product number during the proofing process.


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