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UPC Bar Code Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Bar Code?

A bar code is simply a non-human readable symbol used to convey data.

What is a UPC Code?

UPC stands for Universal Product Code and is a standardized identifier. Technically the term UPC Code is redundant but it is commonly used when describing the UPC barcode on a product. A UPC consists of three components; a UPC Prefix licensed to individual brands, an Item Number, and a calculated check digit (12th digit). As the name implies, a UPC is accepted by retailers and marketplaces around globe. The UPC is part of the GS1 global standard of identification.

What is a GTIN?

GTIN describes a family of GS1 (formerly EAN.UCC) global data structures that employ 14 digits and can be encoded into various types of data carriers. For additional information, visit GTIN.info.

What is a Company Prefix?

The company prefix uniquely identifies your company and is used in other barcode marking and communication requirements for most retailers. Every company using the UPC system should use their own prefix to avoid compliance fees from retailers.

How do I Assign Product Numbers?

Every unique item requires an individual item number. GS1 recommends that companies do not put logic into their number assignment, but rather use serial numbers to guarantee uniqueness.

What is the Data Hub?

The Data Hub is a tool included with your GS1 membership and uses your GS1 Company Prefix (the number that uniquely identifies your company) to create GTINs to uniquely identify your products. A key benefit of the Data Hub is that some retailers (and Amazon) use this tool to validate UPC ownership. For new members, GS1 US offers training webinars for the Data Hub for $79. Companies who use the GS1 Barcode Service are not required to purchase the webinar since UPC management and Data Hub uploads are included. Please call us at 800-662-0701 x250 or visit GS1 Barcode Service.

Can I Order Another Company Prefix if I Use All of My Provided UPCs?

It is very common for companies to license additional Company Prefixes when they need additional GTINs. There is an option during the GS1 application process where companies can request to license an additional Company Prefix.

Can I reuse a UPC Number?

Aside from assigning company prefixes, the GS1 creates the global standards for item and logistical bar coding. The GS1 General Specification covers all the rules for allocating numbers. As of January 2019, GS1 guideline do not allow for UPC (GTIN) reuse. Click Here To Learn More.

What Type of File formats Should be Used for Digital Bar Code Artwork?

EPS is a file in vector format that has been designed to produce high-resolution graphics exclusively for print. EPS files essentially contain a series of instructions for how a printer should reproduce an image at the maximum resolution. These files are the print industry standard format and can be imported or inserted with most graphic applications. Although they are the best format for barcode images to be printed, EPS files cannot be used for web graphics. Conversely, web graphics, such as PNG files, should not be used for print production. They are solely suited for online display and note that the Data Hub provides these file formats for reference only. For detailed information on various barcode files types, please visit Image File Formats.

Are there Location Requirements for UPC Bar Codes?

Aside from assigning company prefixes, the GS1 creates the standards for item and logistical bar coding. The GS1 General Specification covers all the location guidelines for UPC/EAN marking. Access to this standard is included with your GS1 US membership.

What are the Sizing Requirements for UPC Codes?

The standard magnification for (100%) UPC symbols requires a total area of 1.46″ x 1.020″. UPC sizes can range between 80-200%. Symbols less than 80% (1.1875″ x .813″) may not scannable by retailers.

Can Bar Codes be Printed in Color?

Bar codes can be printed in colors other than black and white. The bars of a symbol should can either be black or blue. Acceptable colors for space can be white, yellow or red. Please refer to our Guidelines for Color Selection at UPC Color Guide.

Do Certain Product Types for Industries have Additional Requirements?

UPC (GTIN) identification is used by a variety of industries and in some cases there may be minor alterations and requirements associated with barcode marking. For example, certain states have specific requirements for expanded product data for CBD products.