How to Create Your Own Bar-Code Tattoo

Written by timothy peckinpaugh
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How to Create Your Own Bar-Code Tattoo
Barcode characters can express personal meanings, such as names or birthdays. (barcode_02 image by Perth from

Barcodes are a popular tattoo theme that have come to symbolise different ideas to people, from mass consumerism to abstract art. Though many think that barcode tattoos make an artistic statement, some demand authenticity in their tattoos, and want their barcodes to scan when read by a machine. Designing your own Universal Price Code (UPC) symbol will make your tattoo a welcome addition to your body art, with a meaning that is completely personal to you.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • UPC examples
  • Ballpoint pen
  • Paper
  • Tattoo artist

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  1. 1

    Gather examples of UPC barcodes. These are the standard barcodes that appear on virtually all products you purchase in a store. Cut a few of the UPCs to use as a reference when you are designing your own barcode.

  2. 2

    Determine the area of your body where you would like your tattoo. This decision will effect the size of the tattoo you design. Popular locations include the back of the neck, the forearm and the bicep. However, if you are attempting to create a barcode that will scan, keep in mind that your body will expand with age, and these sites are susceptible to a great deal of change, which may prevent them from being scanned in the future. The back and the shoulders tend to expand the least, and might be an ideal space for your tattoo.

    How to Create Your Own Bar-Code Tattoo
    The back is less likely to expand as you age, upholding the form of your tattoo. (sexy back 3 image by Kelly Kane from
  3. 3

    Design your tattoo, using the UPC examples as your guide. According to Scott Blake, an artist who focuses on barcodes and barcode tattoos, a major problem with barcode tattoo design is that artists attempt to put too much detail in their barcode art. Blake recommends adding 42 lines or less per inch of space in a combination of black and white bars. Because every UPC is 95 units wide, Blake suggests that barcode tattoos range from 2.26 inches to 2.5 inches long to allow for enough space for the 42 lines. This is particularly crucial if you want your tattoo to scan.

    How to Create Your Own Bar-Code Tattoo
    Designing your own tattoo will make it more personal. (pencil and barcode image by Anatoly Tiplyashin from
  4. 4

    Choose the characters and numbers you would like to use at the bottom of the barcode. You can use letters, numbers, punctuation marks or a combination of the three. Some choose numbers that have significance to them, such as birthdays. For instance, if you were born on December 8, 1983, your numbers would translate to 12081983. Other popular choices include shortened versions of your name, the three initials of your name, or a single word that holds meaning to you.

  5. 5

    Consult with your tattoo artist. Show her your design, explain where you would like your tattoo, and consider any recommendations your artist has. A professional artist will inform you if the project is feasible, or if any portion needs to be changed to achieve a successful tattoo. You can then set up an appointment to apply your tattoo.

Tips and warnings

  • Always follow your tattoo artist's instructions for the healing process. Not only will following these instructions assist in the healing process, they will also make sure your tattoo remains vibrant and looks its best.

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