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Bar Width Reduction for Accurate Barcodes

Updated: Jun 10

Shoppers looing at barcode

When it comes to product labeling, barcodes are critical for identification. As such, the width of the bars in a barcode is important and needs to be precise to ensure they will scan properly. To ensure accurate scanning every time, we will apply a Bar Width Reduction (BWR) to your barcode before sending your label to print. But why do we do this?

What is Bar Width Reduction?

If you draw a line with a marker on tissue paper, the ink will likely spread making the line wider than intended. The same thing can happen when you print a barcode. Ink spread, or "dot gain" or "press gain," may increase the width of the bars of the barcode and make it difficult to scan. This primarily applies to traditional printing methods rather than office printers. However, factors such as ink, substrate, press condition, room temperature, and other variables also come into play.

By narrowing the width of each bar in the barcode, we can compensate for this ink spread, ensuring the barcode can scan properly. BWR is this adjustment to the barcode bar thickness.

How do I know what BWR value to use?

If you are sending a job to us to print, you do not need to worry about adjusting your BWR! We know our presses and our prepress department will adjust the barcode accordingly. Be sure to let us know if you have already applied a BWR so we do not accidentally over-adjust your barcode.

If you print your labels in-house, your BWR will depend on your printer type and ink. For most types of digital printing, including desktop laser printers, you probably won't need any BWR. Most barcode design software provides for press gain compensation. If in doubt, do a test print and check that your code scans properly.


Overall, Barcode Width Reduction can help ensure your barcode prints accurately for your product labeling. But no matter how you send your artwork to us, we will ensure the best quality print every time!


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