Can the Barcode parallel lines be coloured lines viz Red, Green, Blue etc i.e. other than Black & White?

Can we use contrasting colours other than black & white?


If No, Why?

Can there be technical challenges in designing & manufacturing a Universal Colour Barcode reader / scanner device?

  • 3
    For the actual question: Presumably the main reason to choose black and white is to have maximal contrast between what is and isn't a black bar.
    – SEJPM
    Nov 11, 2020 at 19:24
  • Thanks. You mean contrasting colours. learn.g2.com/color-contrast
    – Prashant Akerkar
    Nov 11, 2020 at 19:25
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    A barcode reader does not see the world the way you do. So just because you see it. The barcode reader may not.
    – joojaa
    Nov 11, 2020 at 21:02
  • 1
    It probably could - but why go to all that trouble just so you can use non-standard bar codes? A standard exists, it's black on white. There would probably be prismatic effects too - a lot of barcode readers work in a kind of pseudo-3D vision, so you can wave your product vaguely in the direction of the pair of spinning mirrors & be read in 3D space.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 12, 2020 at 8:50
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    @Scott - why did you delete your answer? I think it's still relevant. Although using coloured barcodes may indeed be possible, I think your general advice NOT to use them is still good. Why mess with something that definitely works, and why risk potential scanning problems especially at a time like this when speed through the checkout is desirable? Pretty sure shop owners have enough problems to deal with these days.
    – Billy Kerr
    Nov 12, 2020 at 13:27

2 Answers 2



NOT a good idea.

Have you ever seen a colored barcode? Even one that's a single color other than black?

There is a very important reason all barcodes are black on white. They aren't even black on top of a color most of the time and include a surrounding white background area.

Barcodes need to be read by scanners. By altering the value of the stripes (or the background color) you could very well alter how the code is read entirely.

Every scanner may not be the same... What if one scanner has trouble picking up green and those lines get read as narrower than they are. Or skipped entirely?.. but another scanner overcompensates for green, thickening those lines as it's scanned, changing the product it thinks is being scanned?... it's rife with pitfalls.

It is not wise to set a barcode in anything other than black with a white background.

For some things function is far, far more important than form.

According to comments....

Apparently some colors are okay. Although I wonder if that's more a European aspect as opposed to a US aspect. In the US, I can't ever recall seeing a colored bar code. But perhaps in European/Asian countries it's okay. I honestly don't know about international aspects. All I know is in the US.. use black.

  • 1
    Well you can use some colors like brown on yellow or black on red works also and is used a lot. But not black on greens and blues, because red laser scanners cant see them. You always risk having problems though, and certainly do not use colors that halftone.
    – joojaa
    Nov 11, 2020 at 21:03
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    Actually all color is unadvisable. Color may work for one scanner.. but not every scanner.
    – Scott
    Nov 11, 2020 at 21:06
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    brown and blue on yellow is pretty common in my local stores. Tried to read one with 12 different scanbers no problem.
    – joojaa
    Nov 11, 2020 at 21:07
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    Pics or it didn't happen. 😀 In 50+ years I've never seen a non-black/white barcode.
    – Scott
    Nov 11, 2020 at 21:09
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    I've made a few blue (Pantone 072) barcodes (and a few other dark colors I think). Otherwise we would have to add a black ink just for the barcode. Never had any complaints. Here is a link to a random page about barcode colors. Don't know that site really, but many sites tell the same story. (But I generally agree with the "better safe than sorry" strategy.)
    – Wolff
    Nov 12, 2020 at 0:02

In most cases a multicolor barcode is a bad idea.

  1. If your barcode is to be reproduced by offset, flexography or gravure printing, there is always some amount of random misregistration between the different colors. A multicolor barcode would be hyper sensitive for that.

  2. Barcodes scanners need sufficient contrast and are often based on red lasers (that is why blue-on-white, green-on-white, black-on-pink or polished-metal on white is sometimes acceptable. But red on white would be invisible for such a scanner.

  3. Just being-readable-by-the-majority-of-scanners is often not good enough. Many retailers set their own rules and/or require a minimum readability-score from a quality control scanner.

Actually, there exist special barcode types that are multicolor by design and always read by RGB cameras. But I assume you refer to more common barcodes, such as EAN-13.

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