A Quick Guide to UPCs and EANs for Your Product

Why do I want one of these?

So you can sell your product in stores both online and on shelves. Boom. You already knew that.

Here is what this blog post will cover:

Things you want to do:

  1. Understand what UPCs, EANs, and GTINs are and how they are different
  2. Get one for your product
  3. Put it on your product’s box

Things you don’t want to do:

  1. Spend a lot of money
  2. Be confused anymore

What’s the difference between a UPC, EAN, and GTIN?

I’m just going to summarize what I read here. I’m no expert, but the good thing is that you don’t have to be an expert. 1) It’s easy and 2) What’s the worst that could happen?

No really – what’s the worst that could happen?

The worst thing that can happen is that if some retailer doesn’t accept your game because the UPC is all wrong… you can just stick a new one right on top of it. I’m sure you’ve been shopping in Target or Barnes & Nobles before and noticed a UPC sticker slapped right on top of the original UPC.

Just say to yourself: “If the guy who made this screwed up and still ended up in a major retail store, think of where I’ll end up.”


GTIN (Global Trade Item Number): This is the term that encompasses all references to “Barcodes that Represent Your Product To Computers”. UPCs and EANs are both GTINs.

UPC (Universal Product Code): A 12 digit number that old computers use to represent your product. However, a lot of those old computers still exist.

EAN (European Article Number): An EAN is exactly the same as a UPC, except it has one extra number in front – the country code. Add a 0 if you are in the US.

In short, use a UPC if you plan to sell mainly in the US and Canada – you have to make sure all the retailers with old computers can read your 12 number barcode.

Where do I get one?

If you Google ‘How to buy a UPC’ you will probably end up here at what I have nicknamed ‘The Dubai of Barcodes.’ But don’t go there and don’t pay $300 for your barcodes.

I got mine here for 20 bucks. This was per the suggestion of tabletop gaming and Kickstarter guru James Mathe. I also recommend it.

After you purchase your UPC or EAN, you will be emailed a folder of barcodes in various file formats so that you can integrate it into whichever program you are using to create your product box’s art.

UPC_filesI hope it’s not a bad thing to flash my UPC number around.

Where do I put the Barcode on my Product?

Sounds so terrifying – is so simple. Let’s start with placement: You will probably want it on the back of your box (or book? or binder? or brother? or your neck?).

I do not know if people register for the barcodes that they tattoo on the back of their neck. I’d hope so – what if they ended up wearing the same UPC symbol as Pampers?

As for sizing – this reference guide states that the nominal size for your UPC is it’s actual, 100% size. This is 1.469 inches wide by 1.02 inches tall. That’s the distance from the left-most number to the right-most number.

But that’s just the size of the actual UPC symbol. To ensure that product scanners in stores can pick up the barcodes without issue, add .1 inch white padding around the UPC.

Don’t want to go through the trouble of making this yourself? Here’s a perfectly sized white box that you can drag onto your product’s box. It’s right below this paragraph. Do you believe?


A note: The game manufacturer I work with has all of it’s games printed in China. So they manually updated the barcode on my box to reflect this. It looks like they shrunk the UPC to make room for the ‘Made In China’ text.

Here is the picture progression my game box’s back panel. You may or may not find it noteworthy that I had the UPC size completely wrong when I first added it. You are now coming to the realization that I have built the totem pole of my all-encompassing knowledge on the wooden carvings of my mistakes.


Please forgive the orange hue on the non-white-balanced picture of my game’s final box.

That’s that. 

I hope that I have helped you get your very first UPC. It’s going to be really exciting when you see it on your product. If you have any questions or if I got anything incorrect, don’t hesitate to comment below or email me directly.

You can follow my gaming twitter @WhatOhGame if you are so inclined.

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