How to buy an UPC

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gs1 usIf you want to buy UPC Codes, you will need to register as a member of GS1 US, to get a company Prefix. A GS1 company prefix is the only way to uniquely identify your company in the global market. It is a part of every bar code that you create. You can register online at the GS1 US website. You don’t actually buy your barcodes from GS1 US. When you join the GS1 US you get access to the Data Driver, an online tool, which can help you create, manage and print your own barcodes.


UPC Registration

Step 1: Estimate How Many UPC Codes You Need
Products can come in lots of different sizes, and package configurations. Each of these different types of products may require a unique bar code. You can use the GS1US bar code estimator to help you work this out. You will need to know how many products you currently have, and an estimate of how many products you will produce in the next three years. There is no need to worry if you do use up all of your barcodes allocation. If your company grows, you can still apply for extra GS1 Company Prefixes.

Step 2: Buy UPC Codes
The GS1 pricing plan allows you to create a company prefix for as few as 10 items, or as many as 100,000 items. In addition to the initial registration fee, you will also be required to pay an annual renewal fee.

Number of Items Needing a Barcode Initial Fee

Amount of numbers Price











Step 3: UPC Registration
Fill out the online application form, choose your prefix capacity and pay online. You can register online at the GS1 US website. GS1 will confirm your application within one working day.

Step 4: Create Bar codes Using Data Driver
The GS1 US can provide advice and recommended suppliers for all of your bar code needs. The data driver is available for free for all members of GS1 US. The Data Driver is a simple, easy to use online tool that can help you create, manage and print bar codes. It does not require any technological knowledge.

These guidelines can help you with using the data driver.

How to Choose the Right Bar Code

If you have ever looked closely at bar codes, you will notice that they are not all the same. There are actually over a 100 different types of bar codes. There is no single bar code that covers all the different types of business needs. If your bar code is for a product that will be scanned at a retail point of sale, then you will need to use an EAN or UPC bar code.

The Book Industry Communications organisation provides advice and guidelines for bar coding for books (link). If you are printing a barcode with variable information, such as expiration dates, serial numbers, lot numbers or measures, then you should use the GS1 Databar, GS1-12B, Composite Components or GS1 Datamatrix symbols.

Here is a list of the most common bar codes that you are likely to come across:

ean 8EAN-8
The EAN-8 bar code has 8 digits. It is used on smaller products, where the EAN-13 bar code would be too big. It encodes the Global Trade item Number (GTIN 8). It is used on smaller retail items, such as cosmetics. It is also used by retailers to sell own brand products, that are only sold within their stores.

ean 13EAN-13
The EAN-13 is used on retail items that are sold at retail points of sale and for general distribution. It has 13 digits and is used to the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN 13). It is used on retail items worldwide, and to identify own brand products. It is used on retail items such as magazines, periodicals, and books.


upc aUPC-A
The UPC-A is used to identify products that are sold at retail checkouts. It encodes the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN – 12).


upc eUPC-E
The UPC-E is used on smaller products and packaging, where the UPC-A would be too big. It uses a special zero compression method to compress the GTIN 12 into a 6 digit number. It is used on smaller retail items, such as chewing gum, packets of cigarettes and cosmetics.
(insert image of UPC-E)

You can find out more about the different types of bar codes from the GS1 Bar Code Chart.

How to Print Bar Codes

Most companies that need large volumes of labels, use external printers. The GS1 can provide a list of certified Bar Code Professionals, who can create and print bar codes for you. If you need a small volume of labels, then you can print them from your office or warehouse. Free software for generating bar codes in house is readily available on the worldwide web. Most dot matrix printers are not suitable for printing bar codes. The best type of printer to use are thermal transfer and laser printers. You will also need to take into consideration the durability of the image. The barcodes should last for approximately two years and they should be able to survive up to 10 scans.

How to Choose the Right Color for Your Bar Codes


Coloured UPC-Codes, image bei

Scanning of bar code images works by light being absorbed, and reflected by the colors in the printed image. Bar code scanners read color in a different way to the human eye. Bar codes are scanned in the orange-red area of the light spectrum. Bar codes must have sufficient contrast at this wavelength, to ensure that they can be scanned properly.

The ideal bar code is black bars on a white background. You can also use dark colored bars (eg. dark blue, dark green or dark brown) on a white background. You can use black bars on a colored background, if the colors are warm colors (yellow, red, orange, pink). Warm colors are suitable for the background, but they should never be used for the bars. Metallic colors, such as gold or silver should never be used, because they reflect the scanning beam at unpredictable angles.

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