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EPS? TIFF? PDF? Which format should you use when creating barcodes?

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Does it even matter which image format you use when you’re ready to print your barcode? Although Barcode Producer makes sure your output will be of the highest possible quality, there are important differences between an EPS, TIFF and PDF file.

Resolution

Resolution matters, certainly with barcodes. A barcode printed at a low resolution will not be easy to scan if it scans at all.

DPI is the acronym of “dots per inch”. It’s a unit of measure for the resolution of a file, identifying how many dots are printed in an inch by an output device. The resolution is determined not only by the printer you’re outputting to but also the media — e.g. 1200 dpi for glossy paper but only 300 dpi for recycled office paper. The reason is that the ink is deposited on top of the glossy paper, remaining as crisp as it gets, while the low quality paper will absorb the ink into the paper fibers, resulting in a loss of sharpness.

For barcode images that you print yourself with an inkjet printer on high-quality office paper, Barcode Producer’s default resolution of 600 dpi is spot on, guaranteeing a sharp delineation of the black bars against the white spaces. When your final output is an imagesetter, though, you’ll want to output to that device’s native resolution — which can be up to a whopping 4800 dpi. In Barcode Producer you can set such high resolutions in the Output Device Resolution field.

The Finishing button gives access to further settings that can be needed to fine-tune the barcode for printing on some devices.

Barcode Finishing Options
Barcode Finishing Options

Raster versus Vector

Raster images are compiled using a series of pixels organized in a raster. Since raster images are pixel based, they are resolution dependent. In short, if you must use a raster image format, output the barcode to at least the resolution of the output device.

An example of a raster image with RGB values

Vector images are mathematical formulas that instruct the output device to draw an image based on paths (vectors) between two points (nodes) on an XY axis, rather than defining pixels in a matrix. As a result, vector images are resolution independent and you can output them to a 300 dpi desktop printer with the same detail and sharpness as to a printing press suitable for outputting a billboard as the output device will handle all of the resolution calculations. As vector images are endlessly scalable, without any loss of detail, they’re ideal for barcode printing.

The Formats

Barcode Producer supports TIFF files — “tagged image file format” — which are high security raster images. They’re often used in situations in which users need enhanced security on a graphic file. The TIFF stores extensive metadata inside each image file, allowing users the ability to gather information about a picture before opening it.

If you can avoid TIFF, don’t use it or pay extra attention to resolution and module width adjustment. It is a raster image format and generates quite large files. If you have no choice, read the above paragraph on resolution.

The PNG – Portable Network Graphics — format is not supported by Barcode Producer and here is why: the format was designed to replace the older and simpler GIF format and, to some extent, the much more complex TIFF format. For the Web, PNG has three main advantages over GIF: alpha channels, gamma correction and two-dimensional interlacing. It’s not recommended for barcode printing.

Barcode Producer does support EPS files. EPS is short for Encapsulated PostScript. It’s an older but very lightweight type of vector graphics file. It’s no longer updated and has been replaced by PDF.

WARNING: If you send a Barcode Producer EPS file to a printer or printer driver that doesn’t support PostScript, it will nor print correctly.

PDF is the common name for the ISO standard that “specifies a digital form for representing electronic documents to enable users to exchange and view electronic documents independent of the environment in which they were created or the environment in which they are viewed or printed”.

The keywords in this sentence on the ISO site are “independent of the environment in which they are viewed or printed”. To meet that goal, outputting a barcode to PDF will result in a vector image that is slightly bigger than an EPS file. As PDF is also replacing PostScript as a printer engine, PDF is your best choice for barcode printing.

Conclusion

Barcode Producer’s output is of the highest quality regardless of whether you output to TIFF, EPS or PDF. However, if you want to avoid having to meticulously ensure that the resolution of your file matches that of the output device, EPS and PDF score best for outputting your barcodes.

Barcode Producer for Mac/PC creates perfect barcodes for retail packages, labels, books, packages, and everything else.
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