Barcode Server: Format Details

This page is a "crash course" in the traditional UPC / EAN barcode formats.

Each digit of a barcode consists of two bars and two spaces, taking a total width of seven times the width of the thinnest possible bar or space. There are three different possible representations for each digit, used depending on what side of a two-sided barcode the digit is used on, and to encode checksum or other information in some cases. The three forms are related. Taking as the "base" form the pattern as seen on the right-hand side of a UPC-A barcode, the other forms are the inverse of the base (that is, bar becomes space and vice versa) and the mirror image of the base. Still confused? Here's a complete table, where 0 means space and 1 means bar:

   Left-A   Left-B   Right
   -------  -------  -------
0  0001101  0100111  1110010
1  0011001  0110011  1100110
2  0010011  0011011  1101100
3  0111101  0100001  1000010
4  0100011  0011101  1011100
5  0110001  0111001  1001110
6  0101111  0000101  1010000
7  0111011  0010001  1000100
8  0110111  0001001  1001000
9  0001011  0010111  1110100

A UPC-A barcode consists of six patterns from Left-A on the left-hand side, six patterns from Right on the right-hand side, a guard pattern of 01010 in the middle, and a guard pattern of 101 on each end. The 12th digit checksum is calculated as follows: Take the 1st, 3rd, … 11th digits, sum them and multiplying by 3, and add that to the sum of the other digits. Subtract the final digit from 10, and that is the checksum digit. (If the last digit of the sum is 0, then the check digit is 0.

An EAN-13 barcode is just like a UPC-A barcode, except that the characters on the left-hand side have a pattern of Left-A and Left-B that encodes an extra first digit. Note that an EAN-13 barcode with the first digit of 0 is exactly the same as the UPC-A barcode of the rightmost 12 digits. The patterns to encode the first digit are as follows:

   Digit Position
   1 2 3 4 5 6
   - - - - - -
0  a a a a a a
1  a a b a b b
2  a a b b a b
3  a a b b b a
4  a b a a b b
5  a b b a a b
6  a b b b a a
7  a b a b a b
8  a b a b b a
9  a b b a b a

The checksum for EAN-13 is just like UPC-A, except the 2nd, 4th, … 12th digits are multiplied by 3 instead of the other way around.

An EAN-8 barcode is just like a UPC-A barcode, except there are only 4 digits in each half. Unlike EAN-13, there's no nonsense about different left-hand side patterns, either.

A UPC-E barcode contains 6 explicit characters between a guard of 101 on the left and 010101 on the right. The explicit characters are the middle six characters of the code. The first and last characters are encoded in the parity pattern of the six characters. There are two sets of parity patterns, one to use if the first digit of the number is 0, and another if it is 1. (UPC-E barcodes may only start with a 0 or 1.) The patterns are as follows:

   First digit 0     First digit 1
   Explicit Digit    Explicit Digit
   Position          Position
   1 2 3 4 5 6       1 2 3 4 5 6
   - - - - - -       - - - - - -
0  b b b a a a       a a a b b b
1  b b a b a a       a a b a b b
2  b b a a b a       a a b b a b
3  b b a a a b       a a b b b a
4  b a b b a a       a b a a b b
5  b a a b b a       a b b a a b
6  b a a a b b       a b b b a a
7  b a b a b a       a b a b a b
8  b a b a a b       a b a b b a
9  b a a b a b       a b b a b a

(Note that the two sets are the complements of each other. Also note that the first digit 1 patterns are mostly the same as the EAN-13 first digit patterns.) The UPC-E check digit (the final digit encoded in the parity pattern) is the same as the UPC-A check digit for the expanded form of the UPC-E number. The expanstion is as follows, based on the last explicit digit (the second to last digit) in the encoded number:

UPC-E form  UPC-A form
----------  -------------

All UPC/EAN barcodes may have an additional two- or five-digit supplemental code just to the right of the main barcode. The supplement starts about one digit-length (that is about seven times the width of the thinnest bar) to the right of the main code, beginning with the guard pattern 1011. After that comes each digit, with a guard pattern of 01 between each, but not at the end. The digits are encoded using the left A and B characters to encode a parity pattern.

For two-digit supplements, the parity pattern is determined by the lower two bits of the numeric value of the code (e.g., 42 would use pattern 2):

Lower 2 bits  Parity Pattern
------------  --------------
0 (bin 00)    a a
1 (bin 01)    a b
2 (bin 10)    b a
3 (bin 11)    b b

For five-digit supplements, the parity pattern is calculated in a similar manner to check digit calculation: The first, third, and fifth digits are summed and multiplied by 3; the second and fourth digits are summed and multiplied by nine; the parity digit is the sum of those two numbers, modulo 10. The parity pattern is then the last five patterns from the UPC-E final digit 0 table for the corresponding digit.