I have .tiff. Part of the .tiff is a bar code. My printer is insisting the bar code be converted to 100%K - CMYK "pure black". (Their words)

A couple obstacles:

  1. The Bar Code has been scaled up. Since it got resampled in that process, the edges aren't pure black anymore. Just selecting the black area by color is tricky now, since the outermost pixels might or might not be included.
  2. The .tiff is in RGB8, and my printer wants CMYK. RGB rich black does not translate to 100% K in CMYK.

How would you go about changing this one part of the image to 100%K CMYK, to make the printer happy.

3 Answers 3


The easiest way would be to create a selection around the bar code (I assume it's got the white background), then using the Channels Panel -

Hightlight the black channel and use Levels to boost the tone to 100%. Then Highlight the C channel and fill the selection with white. Then fill the selection on the M and Y channels with white as well.

Double check the K channel again and ensure the values are 100%.

That should give you only a 100%K bar code.

The preferable method is really to use a vector bar code. There are several online barcode converters which provide downloadable .eps files. Here is a link to a good one.

  • For good measure, I converted the .tif to CMYK before pasting the bar code in.
    – baudot
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 2:17
  • 6
    Yea, even though barcodes are fault-tolerant by design, you should always generate a new barcode instead of blowing up a raster image. That's never a good idea to do on any professional project. As long as you know the code type, you can easily generate a new one, and in vector format that you can scale however you want. Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 3:16

An oldie but goody.

Part of the .tiff is a barcode.

Ouch... Well, we do not know about the final resolution of the file, the color mode of the barcode but there are potential problems here.

The Bar Code has been scaled up.

Dam. The potential problems are not potential anymore! They are here.

Depending on the real size of the barcode part, it can work or it is totally useless.

Using a TIF file implies that you are doing (or they did) the layout on the wrong program.

Let's assume the resolution is decent (we would need to analyze the number of bars, the type of code, the total pixels of the section and see how many pixels are making each bar and white space, besides checking the lineature of the output file)

Option 1

  1. Convert the RGB file to CMYK.

  2. Make a selection of the barcode and simply play with the curves or levels. Eliminate any CMY trace and darken the barcode in the K channel.

Option 2

  1. Cut the barcode.

  2. On the layout program simply paste a grayscale version of the image, with some adjustings in the levels. The same as option 1 but with only the grayscale channel.

Option 3... The correct one

Make the barcode again and use a layout program to insert it as vectors.

Making a barcode 100% K implies two things.

A. is made of only one ink (not necessary black)

B. It is not screened.

Here is an image of what do I mean by screening.

enter image description here

If the barcode is big enough this screening will have little effect on how well it is scanned...

But I really doubt you want a barcode really big... so make in vectors.


If the barcode has been scaled up, try to find the original one or use a barcode generator to create a new one.

Any manipulation of the barcode using magic wand or filling parts with color or any selection might make it unreadable by scanners, therefore useless.

Once you got your original unscaled barcode file, simply convert it to grayscale mode and then bitmap mode 50% threshold at the highest resolution you can. Ideally a minimum of 300ppi.

Then you can save it as a tif. It will be 100% black lineart and will print as clearly as a vector.

After this you can scale up the barcode, always in bitmap mode. The numbers below it will look horrible but it doesn't matter; the lines will still be intact and straight, and that's what's important for the scanner. You can always retype your numbers in your publishing software, it doesn't matter.

The printer says CMYK black 100% but a black-only lineart is a black K100%!

That's how a raster barcode should always be prepared! Don't trace it. Never use any other non-lineart format (eg. never use jpg, psd, etc.). Tif and eps in bitmap modes are alright.



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