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Barcode Tattoo Guide
Nearly all of the real barcode tattoos I have seen in person and online photos appear not to scan. There are some fine examples of tattooed lines and numbers that look like the ubiquitous symbol, but the true test for any barcode is does it make the scanner beep. Most barcode tattoos try to cram too much information under skin, and eventually the ink blends into a black blob. There are several factors to consider when tattooing the computer generated symbol, like the DPI of skin and how many lines are in a barcode, but I believe with precision it can be done.

Tattoo DPII digitized a two-month old tattoo directly on a flatbed scanner. Sampling a one-inch square at 300 dpi, I measured the width of a single needle line. The average is around 7 pixels. To calculate the minimum resolution, I divided 300 by 7 which equals 42 dpi. Therefore the original barcode artwork must be made at 42 lines per inch or lower to translate properly into a tattoo.

It is worth mentioning that tattoos do change with age, they all slowly blend out over time, and that will effect the accuracy. Barcodes are a combination of black and white bars, if the black ink expands too much, it can ruin the white areas. Certain parts of the body like the shoulders and back do not expand as much. Selecting a flat surface on the back will also make it easier to scan the barcode.

Moving on to the most common type of barcode symbology, the one found in most supermarkets, which is also being used extensively for tattoo art is the UPC. Every Universal Price Code is a standard 95 units wide. To figure out what the minimum size UPC tattoo should be, divide 95 units, by 42 dpi, and you get 2.26 inches. So a skilled tattoo artist, using one needle in their gun, should make all UPC style barcodes at least 2.26 inches wide. This is about double the normal size we are used to seeing these codes at the store. Most barcode tattoos I have seen are between 1.5 and 2 inches wide, not quite big enough. They must be made larger to have any chance of scanning, but do not make the image too big. Most barcode scanners maximum input area is 2.5 inches, so any line pattern bigger than that will not fit into the red laser eye. I would suggest making all UPC style tattoos between 2.26 and 2.5 inches wide. Looking closely at the UPC barcode there are 35 black bars, 33 white bars, and all the lines come in three different widths.

There is another barcode language used throughout the world that can encode letters called the Code 128 style. Your custom phrase can include numbers, spaces, and even punctuation! Choosing a tiny phrase will allow for narrower codes. A good option would be a short three-letter barcode. The barcode for my initials "SDB" is only 68 units wide. Make the barcode art at 42 dpi resolution, and the tattoo will only be 1.6 inches wide. Barcodes are scalable so you can enlarge the image up to 2.5 inches wide and it will still scan. Making the barcode bigger will help in reduce errors in scanning.The absolute largest possible phrase is 6 characters. That should be enough to spell out part of your name or abbreviated birthday. June 26, 1974 can be shortened to "062674".  In the binary barcode language that works to be 101 units wide. Divided by 42 dpi, equals 2.4 inches. That would test the skills of any veteran tattoo artist. Another possibility is to put split meaning in your barcode message. The human readable text at the bottom can be different from the bars above. You can put the abbreviated barcode up top and the expanded version written out below. The official fonts used for all barcode numbers and letters is OCR A and OCR B. If you do not have the preferred font, Helvetica, Arial, and Courier are acceptable. You may actually use any font for the type and it will have no effect on scanning the barcode.

To get started making your own personalized barcode tattoo, there are several places on the web that have free barcode generators. The images will need some adjusting, but this is the perfect place to start creating your unique code.
Easy to use interface http://www.barcodemill.com
More advanced options http://www.POSWorld.com/onbargen.html
Bare bones version http://www.milk.com/barcode/server/

I order my special tattoo paper from Bel Decal and Papillo Paper.

I started making temporary barcode tattoos as an art project a few years ago, and have sold over 2,500 units. The fun with temporary body art is that you can put them in places you would never be able to get a permanent one. Like one covering your forehead, on your cheek, or in the palm of your hand. Barcodes are the ultimate in un-originality, and that is why they are so fun to personalize. I hope this guide will help people get better barcodes tattooed under their skin. If one will scan is still yet to be seen.

QR Code Tattoo Guide
thevoice66
QR Code tattoo scans as "thevoice66"
QR Code tattoos will scan if done properly. Liam O'Toole got an excellent one done in June 2008, but Chris Arkwright recently posted his that does not scan. Here are some parameters to consider before getting a real 2D barcode tattoo.

Tattoo does not scan as "NO REGRET"

QR Code
Version

Modules
XY Grid

Numeric
Just Numbers

Alfanumeric
Letters & Numbers

Suggested
Tattoo Size
1 21 x 21 34 20 2.00 in (5.08 cm)
2 25 x 25 63 38 2.38 in (6.05 cm)
3 29 x 29 101 61 2.76 in (7.02 cm)
4 33 x 33 149 90 3.14 in (7.98 cm)
5 37 x 37 202 122 3.52 in (8.95 cm)
6 41 x 41 255 154 3.90 in (9.92 cm)
7 45 x 45 293 178 4.29 in (10.89 cm)
8 49 x 49 365 221 4.67 in (11.85 cm)
9 53 x 53 432 262 5.05 in (12.82 cm)

10

57 x 57

513 311 5.43 in (13.79 cm)
Chart data from: http://www.denso-wave.com/qrcode/vertable1-e.html

I measured a healed tattoo to approximate the printing resolution of skin. The average is 42 dpi, but that leaves no room for error. I suggest decreasing the resolution to 10 dpi to allow for some distortion and blending over time.

Tattoos do change with age, and that will effect the accuracy. Certain parts of the body like the shoulders and back do not expand as much. Selecting a flat surface on the back will also make it easier to scan.

One last suggestion for the tattoo artist would be to under ink the tattoo instead of over filling the black areas. If the black ink expands too much, it can ruin the white areas. You can always add a dot later if you need a touch up, but you can't subtract from a tattoo.

There are several free QR Code generators online.
Easy to use interface by Kaywa.
More advanced options by Kerem Erkan.
Open source Google project ZXing.

Temporary Barcode Tattoo FAQ

Can the temporary barcode tattoos be scanned at the store?
Yes, all scanners throughout the world should be able to read your temporary barcode tattoos. However most businesses are set up only to recognize barcodes in their inventory, and chances are your custom phrase is not registered. Most times the computer interface will say it does not understand your "custom phrase" which is still pretty cool. It is good fun to get scanned at the store, make the machine beep, and see how much it thinks you are worth. Check out this video I made scanning temporary barcode tattoos.

How long does it take for custom temporary barcode tattoos to be made?
I usually make the custom temporary barcode tattoos within 48 hours after receiving an order, and ship them off shortly after. For orders placed inside United States you should receive the tattoos in 5 - 10 days, and the rest of the world delivery time is between 10 - 20 days.

Can you rush deliver a temporary barcode tattoo order?
Yes, for an extra fee I will Express ship an order.

Can I use your barcode tattoos in a photo project?
Yes, most certainly please use my temporary barcode tattoos in any way you see fit.

How long does a barcode tattoo last?
Once a tattoo is properly applied it will stay on for about one day. These temporary tattoos use a skin adhesive similar to medical bandages, completely safe to wear, and approved by the FDA. One customer reported wearing a barcode tattoo for 3 straight days.

How do you remove the temporary tattoos?
These tattoos can be taken off at anytime by simply peeling back the decal. You can use baby oil or rubbing alcohol to get rid of any residue left by the temporary tattoo. Once you have removed the temporary tattoo you cannot reuse it.

Do you sell bulk orders of the temporary barcode tattoos?
Yes, please contact Scott Blake at scott@barcodeart.com

Will you make any kind of temporary barcode tattoo, of any custom phrase?
Yes, so far I have not refused an order.

Barcode Word Tattoos

Starting at $4.50 for a small pack

Barcode Number Tattoos

Hand

Only $3 for six tattoos

Custom Barcode Tattoos

Scott

Create your own for $10.00

Custom QR Code Tattoos

QR Code Tattoo

Twelve tattoos for $12.00

Tired of waiting for biometrics and chip implantation to be commonplace? Wile away the hours dreaming of better days to come with these fun, temporary tattoos. Go for a traditional look on the forehead or palm, or exercise your freedom to wear the mark anywhere you choose.
Scanning Barcode Tattoos with Voice Synthesizer Video
Watch Video on YouTube, Vimeo, or Dailymotion
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