Breaking it down - EAN-13 Barcode

Create compliant barcodes for retail point of sale, every time. Our EAN-13 fact sheet breaks down everything you need to know about these barcodes.

What is an EAN-13 Barcode?

The EAN-13 barcode is used more than any other barcode worldwide. The EAN-13 barcode encodes a GTIN-13 and is used to identify individual items at retail point of sale. It can also be used for trade units sold to consumers, e.g. a case of wine.

  • Encodes a GTIN-13
  • Does not support attributes, e.g. use-by date and/or barcode identifiers
  • Used for items you want to sell at retail POS
  • Scanned by omni-directional scanners
  • EAN stands for European Article Number
  • Original barcode was an EAN/UPC symbol, back in 1973


  • Can be read right-side-up or upside-down, making the EAN-13 an efficient barcode for high-volume scanning in supermarkets.
  • Can be used for both retail units (bottle of wine) and trade units (case of wine) sold in store.
  • Recognised globally, thanks to GS1 standards

Breaking Down the EAN-13 Meaning

  • Encodes a GTIN-13, made up of your company prefix, item reference and check digit at the end
  • Minimum magnification of 80-100% for retail POS and 150-200% for general distribution. Standard size (100%) is 38mm wide x 25mm high.
  • Minimum bar heights apply within particular retailer standards
  • Quiet Zones are mandatory on left and right sides
  • Print the Human Readable Interpretation beneath the barcode and show all digits encoded in the barcode

Common scenarios

  • Selling at Retail POS
  • Selling trade items to consumers
  • Selling online
Selling trade items to consumers

If you sell trade items, such as cartons and cases, to consumers, you need an EAN-13 on your trade item as well as your carton barcode (ITF-14). For example, you might sell individual bottles of beer as well as slabs of beer.

Selling trade items to consumers

EAN13 Selling Trade Items

Selling online

EAN-13 barcodes are used on eCommerce platforms, such as Amazon, eBay and Google. While they are not yet mandatory, using GTINs and barcodes is highly recommended when selling online.

Selling online

EAN13 Selling Online

Selling at Retail POS

EAN-13 barcodes are the most commonly used barcode for retail POS. They are used to track and identify individual consumer items in supermarkets and stores.

Selling at Retail POS
EAN13 Selling at Retail POS


Essential Checklist To Create Your EAN-13

  • Printing your EAN-13 barcode onto a retail unit
    • Bars must not be shortened in height (truncated) unless absolutely necessary because of product size
    • Provide Quiet Zones to the left and right
    • Target size is 100% with GS1 Standards allowing between 80% and 200%
    • Barcode preference is for upright (picket fence) orientation unless restricted by packaging design (e.g. curved surfaces)
    • Position your EAN-13 barcode at least 10mm from any seam, corner, packaging flap, crease or edge of packaging
    • On a curved surface, e.g. a bottle, rotate the barcode so it looks like a ladder instead of picket fence. This prevents the edges of the barcode from wrapping around the curve.
  • Printing your EAN-13 barcode on a trade unit
    • Magnification must be at least 150%, so the width of the narrowest bar is at least 0.495mm
    • Minimum of one barcode required, but two are recommended when barcodes are pre-printed directly onto outer packaging.
    • It must not be possible to scan any EAN barcodes on any items contained inside through the outer packaging.
    • Barcode and Quiet Zones must be no closer than 19mm to the carton’s vertical edge. Barcode base should be around 32mm above the carton base.
    • Ensure barcodes are easily found
  • Check your EAN-13 barcodes
    • Ensure barcodes match the product exactly
    • Check barcodes are clearly visible
    • Check barcodes can be scanned with no print defects

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between an EAN-8 and EAN-13?

An EAN-8 bar code is only intended for use with small consumer units. Woolworths require an EAN-13 if there is sufficient physical area on the consumer unit rather than an EAN-8.

What is the difference between UPC barcodes and EAN barcodes?

UPC barcodes are the equivalent of EAN barcodes for the United States and Canada. They can be used in the same way, as per GS1 Standards.

The UPC-A barcode encodes the GTIN-12 and does not support attributes. The EAN-13 encodes the GTIN-13 and also does not support attributes. The difference is that US and Canada have a country code of zero, which is not printed under the barcode nor entered in databases. Other countries, like Australia, have specific county codes which form part of the GTIN.

What is the specified magnification range of an EAN-13 barcode?

Retail POS: 80% - 200% (X-dimension 0.26mm - 0.66mm). The allowance for X-dimensions between 0.249 mm and 0.26 mm is only applicable to on demand (e.g., thermal, laser) print processes.

General Distribution: 150% - 200% (X-dimension 0.50mm – 0.66mm). (automated scanning). The height and quiet zones depend on the X-dimension.

What is the correct size of an EAN-13 barcode?

At 100%, an EAN-13 barcode including the right and left Quiet Zone is 37.29mm wide by 25.93mm high. According to GS1 Australia and retailer standards, you should print your barcode in the range of 80-200% depending on the application.

I'm selling products on Amazon and eBay stores, am I exempt from using a GTIN-13?

It depends. To sell your products on Amazon and eBay, you still need to add a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) and perhaps a barcode for most categories.

The Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) is only unique within the Amazon system. So, if you start by only selling your products on Amazon and later expand to bricks-and-mortar stores, you will need to get a GTIN anyway. Amazon recommends getting your GTINs directly from GS1.

eBay requires sellers to match their listings to the eBay catalogue and include the barcode/GTIN number to optimise their inventory. This means having valid GTIN/barcode can actually improve your visibility in search.


Whilst we attempt to update this page as changes occur we do not guarantee its accuracy and recommend that you contact GS1 Australia for the most up to date advice.