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Not sure if this should be in the equipment forum, I'm sure it'll get moved if so.

Does anyone know more than the obvious about barcodes? I'm trying to research whether a multi-coloured barcode will work (be read properly). I know a single colour other than black can work as it's kind of read in binary — it's either white or not white, but I'm wondering if a machine will still be able to successfully discern a white background from different coloured bars. I'm guessing maybe not pure yellow, but what about other colours?


Staff member
depends, are you on about the striped type or the newer square options.

If it's the latter there is a colour alternative to QR codes (more common name) from microsoft called TAG but these do require specific reader software.

Not sure on the usual striped ones, I've only seen them in black and white even when I was working in a supermarket. They do use IR to read them so I would expect colours may have more issue being read due to it's limited colour range (look at IR photography).


Staff member
it's not so much the ink being invisible, it's the range of colours that can be picked up by the sensors and the way the colours reflect light.

traditionally black and white has a high and low absorbency of light respectively so would give superior contrast. Yet if you were to use say a blue and a red they could end up with the same reflectivity/absorbency or IR light etc.
Thanks Mike, that was a helpful link. Looks like it ain't gonna work. One colour maybe, but multi-coloured bars looks like an emphatic no.


Alex L

Senior Member
I'll tell you what I know from working in a shop.

It does not have to be black on white. We do green on white for some products.

Also look at the barcode on Yorkies, they have an orange gradient behind the black bars.

A barcode reads the space between the bars so in theory, multicoloured barcodes should work as long as there is enough contrast, however they may need to be so dark it isn't worth it.