Printing Barcodes with Pantone (PMS) Colors

Printing barcodes with PMS colors is possible, just be careful about the reflectance value!

I often receive questions from graphic and package designers regarding the usage of Pantone (PMS) colors for barcodes on printed pieces. When choosing the PMS color, it’s important to first understand that a high contrast between background color and foreground color is needed, so that a barcode scanner is provided with the highest Print Contrast Signal (PCS) possible.

Essentially, PCS is the value of change in reflectivity between the dark bars and light spaces of a barcode read by a scanner. If there is not enough contrast, the barcode scanner will not be able to measure the width of the bars and spaces, leading to an unsuccessful barcode scan.

The ideal color combination for barcode printing is black bars on a white background, but depending on branding, companies may want to do something a little different. Generally speaking, light and warm colors should be used as a background color and dark and cold colors should be used for the bars. But, the color chosen for the bars should not exceed a reflectance value of 27.6%.

I was able to find this guide to barcode printing with PMS colors, which provides reflectance values for a variety of different colors.

If you’ve done a print job with a barcode using a PMS color, tell us about your experience by commenting below, or on our Facebook or twitter pages.