A guide to understanding barcodes

Quite often clients want the ‘look’ of the barcode without understanding its function and benefits. I can understand that. It makes any product look more main stream if there is a barcode present. Barcodes are used for tracking purposes. They tell us how many have sold, when to reorder, what to reorder, how fast they sold, and on and on. They are scanned at the register to quickly show a regular price or sales price.

A UPC-A barcode (Universal Product Code) is the most common barcode used in the U.S. It is also called a GTIN (Global Trade Item Number). A UPC-A is comprised of 12 digits. The digits represent the manufacturer and the item itself. The first few digits of a barcode are called the Block ID number or GS1 company prefix. They are sort of like a license plate on your car because they’re specific to your company and no one else’s. The rest of the digits (except the last digit) are for your item. The best advice is to start a spreadsheet with the numbers and what they equal. The last digit is called a check digit. It’s generated by a mathematical calculation based on the first 11 digits. It’s not something you can add. An actual barcode can be created once you have all 12 digits. That’s where we come in. We have the software and printers to generate barcoded tags and labels for your items.

For new or smaller clients wanting to create a custom hangtag and are not sure of how to incorporate a barcode, my advice is to create a tag that has your artwork on the front and then leave space on the back side for a barcode, retail price, style number, etc….

Custom joker hangtags with additional UPC stickers

Once your goods are sold to a retailer they may require a barcode to be on the items.  We can then be able to print an additional sticker with the variable information and stick it on the back. It will allow you to order less of the hangtags without having to stock tags for every single item. For large manufacturers, the barcode and other variable data can be imprinted at the same time your custom tag is created.

We can also print other types of barcodes on clothing labels. QR (quick response) codes are becoming very popular and can be used effectively on our one color printed labels. Read more about them here. We can offer woven cloth labels with a barcode for apprearance only. A barcode is too sensitive to be woven and made to scan effectively.


To obtain a GS1 company prefix visit http://www.gs1us.org/get-started/i-need-a-gs1-company-prefix

To use a check digit calculator visit:


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