What is an Aztec Code?

What do you mean by Aztec code

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In a rapidly advancing technological world, we rely on barcodes to identify products, track inventories, and streamline business operations.

Aztec codes are a versatile and flexible 2D barcode system that stands out from other barcoding technologies. They are reliable, secure, and easy to read, making them an excellent choice for various applications. Aztec barcodes were created in the 1990s and gained popularity because of their data capacity, compact size, and error-correction capabilities.

In this blog, we will give you an overview of what the Aztec code is, explore its features, use cases, and the advantages they bring to the table.

What is an Aztec Code?- A Detailed Explanation

What are aztec codes

The Aztec code is a two-dimensional barcode symbology designed to store large amounts of data in a small area. It was introduced in 1995 by researchers Andrew Longacre Jr. and Robert Hussey, with the formal publication in 1997 by the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility.

The Aztec barcode gets its name from its central “finder” pattern that resembles the square, multi-stepped Aztec pyramids. Although it was first patented by Longacre and Hussey, the patent became public domain in 2008 and is now registered under ISO/IEC 24778:2008. ISO/IEC 24778:2008 standard defines the requirements for creating the Aztec barcode and devices capable of reading it.

Due to its unique central pattern, the Aztec code is often smaller than other 2D barcodes, such as QR codes or Data Matrix codes. They do not require quiet zone areas around the barcode, which further reduces their size.

The Aztec code has a symbol capacity of encoding up to 3,832 numerical digits, 3,067 alphabetic characters or 1,914 bytes of data.

Why Do We Need Aztec Codes?

Seven detailed points on advantages of Aztec Code

Aztec barcodes offer significant advantages over 2D barcodes like a QR code and traditional linear barcodes like a UPC barcode. Here are some reasons why Aztec barcodes are needed.

High Data Capacity

Aztec barcodes can store a large amount of data compared to linear barcodes. They have a high information density, allowing them to encode extensive information such as text, numbers, and even binary data.

Compact Size

Despite their ability to store a large amount of data, Aztec barcodes are compact in size. This makes them suitable for applications where space is limited, such as on product packaging or identification cards.

Error Correction

Aztec barcodes incorporate error correction techniques, enabling them to withstand damage or distortion to some extent. This increases the likelihood of accurate scanning and decoding, even if the barcode is partially obscured or damaged.

Easy Scanning With Omnidirectional Capabilities

Aztec barcodes can be scanned from any direction or orientation, making them highly versatile. This feature allows for quick and efficient scanning, reducing the time required to capture information.

Support for Various Data Types

Aztec barcodes can encode different data types, including numeric, alphanumeric, and binary data. This makes them suitable for a wide range of applications across various industries.

Mobile Device Compatibility

Aztec barcodes can be easily scanned using mobile phone cameras or barcode scanning apps. This makes them an ideal choice for applications involving consumer-facing technology.


Aztec barcodes can be printed on various surfaces and materials, including paper, plastic, and metal. They can be scaled to different sizes without compromising their scanning and decoding capabilities.

Other Applications

Aztec barcodes provide a versatile solution for encoding and storing data. Due to their small size, ability to hold a lot of data, and error correction features, they are being used more for tasks such as managing data, tracking inventory, issuing tickets, identifying items, and more.

How to Recognise an Aztec Code?

An Aztec code can easily be recognised by its unique pattern of concentric square rings. These rings consist of alternating black and white modules, with the bulls-eye pattern in the centre.

As the size of the Aztec symbol increases, more rings are added on top of each other. For example, a 15 × 15 symbol would have two layers, while a 19 × 19 symbol would have three layers. 

How to identify an Aztec code

How Do Aztec Codes Work?

The Aztec barcode format has a central square with layers of square pixels of varying sizes, such as 9 x 9, 13 x 13, 23 x 23 pixels, etc. These squares contain encoded data from the Aztec barcode.

Aztec barcodes have markers in their corners that show the direction they should be read, removing the need for a “quiet zone” like other codes have. They can also hold up to 1,914 bytes of data through their 32 layers.

Anatomy of Aztec code

Anatomy of Aztec Code

The Aztec barcode consists of the following elements.

  • Finder pattern
  • Orientation pattern
  • Mode message
  • Reference grid
  • Data layers

Finder Pattern

A finder pattern is a unique pattern in a barcode that helps a barcode scanner recognise, locate and determine the position and orientation of the barcode symbology.

In Aztec codes, the finder pattern is a square structure with a bull’s-eye shape at the centre. It is composed of alternating black and white square rings, each module wide.

There is also a central square that is one module wide and high, which is black unless the white-on-black option is used. The number of rings changes depending on the barcode size and data encoded.

Structure of finder pattern of Aztec code
Anatomy of orientation patterns of Aztec code

Orientation Patterns

The orientation patterns of an Aztec symbology contain information like which direction to read the barcode and how many data layers there are in it. They also provide information about which data encoding mode is used.

The orientation patterns have chevron shapes and are located at the corners of the barcode. They are in the first layer outside the outermost ring of the finder pattern. Each corner has a three-square pattern that is one module wide.

The patterns in the corners have different arrangements of black and white modules.

  • The top left has three black modules.
  • The top right has one white module followed by two black modules.
  • The lower right has one black module followed by two white modules.
  • The bottom left has three white modules.

Mode Message

The mode message is located in the same layer as the orientation patterns. It contains information about the symbol size and data length (excluding check characters).

The mode message has its own Reed-Solomon error correction encoding capability. This helps in recovering lost data and minimises the chances of errors due to noise or distortion.

Structure of mode message of Aztec code
Anatomy of reference grid of Aztec code

Reference Grid

The reference grid is a barcode component that supplements the finder pattern. Its purpose is to precisely map the data field and maintain grid alignment for large symbols, assisting barcode readers in accurately deciphering information.

The reference grid is made up of rows and columns of alternating black and white squares that are one module wide. It is found in every 16th row and column of a full Aztec code symbol.

Data Layers

The Aztec code contains one or more data layers that store information and check characters. These layers are read in a clockwise direction and start next to the first orientation pattern, which is all black.

The first data layer moves around the orientation pattern and mode message layer and ends where it began. The data layers are added one after the other, and each layer begins right next to the last layer’s end and ends beside where it began.

It’s important to note that the direction in which each layer is read changes from one layer to another, going at a right angle. This allows a barcode scanner to read all the layers as a spiral without interruption.

Structure of data layers of Aztec Code

Types of Aztec Codes

Three types of Aztec code

The Aztec barcode has three main formats: Full Aztec code, Compact Aztec code and Aztec Rune code.

Full Aztec Barcode

The Full Aztec barcode has 40 symbol sizes and can support modules ranging from 19 x 19 to 151 x 151. It has the capacity to store up to 3067 characters of text, 3832 characters of numeric data, and 1914 characters of binary data (8-bit).

Compact Aztec Barcode

The Compact Aztec barcodes have four symbol sizes ranging from 15 x 15 modules to 27 x 27 modules. It can hold up to 89 characters of text, 110 characters of numeric data, and 13 characters of binary data.

Aztec Rune Barcode

Aztec Runes are small machine-readable marks that are compatible with Aztec Code. They are a condensed version of the Aztec code and convey 8 bits of data through a numerically distinct mode message. Aztec rune comprises 256 square marks, each measuring 11 x 11 modules.

Aztec Rune format allows encoding for all 255 ASCII characters.

Common Uses of Aztec Code

Six common use cases of Aztec Code

Aztec codes have a wide range of use cases due to their versatility and compact design. Some common use cases of Aztec codes include.


Aztec codes are commonly used for ticketing systems, allowing quick scanning of event tickets, boarding passes, and coupons. They store essential information like seat numbers, event details, access permissions, and more.

Inventory Management

Aztec codes are utilised in inventory and asset management systems to track and manage various products, equipment, and assets. They can store unique identifiers, serial numbers, or other relevant information that helps in accurate identification.

Payment Application

Aztec codes are used in payment applications, enabling users to make secure, contactless transactions. The code can store payment information, such as account details and transaction data, allowing users to scan and complete transactions using smartphones or other devices.

Transportation and Logistics

Aztec codes find applications in transportation and logistics for tracking and managing shipments. They can store information such as tracking numbers, delivery details, or package contents, enabling efficient scanning and real-time monitoring of shipments.


Aztec codes are also used in labelling applications with small amounts of data to be encoded, such as product name, manufacturing date, batch number etc.

Data Storage

Aztec codes can easily store large amounts of data in a small area, making them ideal for use cases where space is limited. They are commonly used to store product details, contact numbers, addresses, web links, and other information.

How to Generate An Aztec Code?

Aztec barcodes are public domain, meaning they can be used by anyone without the need for a license or permission. They can be created using free online tools like Aztec Code Generator or specialised software like Seagull Scientific’s BarTender Software. Once generated, the readable codes can be printed and used wherever needed.

Here is a step-by-step process to get an Aztec barcode:

  1. Determine the information you want to encode in the Aztec barcode. This could be a text, contact information, or any other relevant data.
  2. Search for a reliable online Aztec barcode generator or download a barcode generation software that supports Aztec codes.
  3. Enter the desired data into the barcode generator or software. Follow the instructions provided by the tool to specify the type of barcode you want to generate as Aztec.
  4. Click the “Generate” or “Create Barcode” button to generate the Aztec barcode. The tool will process the data and produce the barcode image.
  5. Once the barcode is generated, save it to your computer or other device.
  6. Open the saved barcode image and scan it via a barcode scanner or scanner application to ensure it is scannable and accurately displays the desired information. 

When it comes to creating and managing Aztec codes, it’s easy to get lured by the prospect of a free barcode generator. After all, who doesn’t love saving a few bucks?

But before you make that decision, remember that free tools often come with limitations that can greatly restrict your ability to customise and optimise your codes. Plus, without proper security measures or customer support, you’ll be left to handle any issues that arise on your own.

Therefore, it is always recommended to use a professional Aztec code generator to create robust and reliable barcodes that can be used in various scenarios. One software that offers a comprehensive barcode generator solution is Seagull Scientific’s BarTender software.

BarTender software is a powerful tool for businesses looking to elevate their labelling and printing game. Its versatile capabilities allow users to create custom labels that showcase their products in the best light possible. Whether it’s adding images, texts, barcodes, or RFID tags, BarTender can handle it all.

But that’s not all – this software also streamlines and automates the entire labelling and printing process, reducing the chances of human error and saving businesses both time and money. The BarTender software can create the following types of Aztec barcodes.

  • Full Aztec code
  • Aztec Rune code

At Triton, we are proud to be a trusted provider of Seagull Scientific’s BarTender Software. With four different editions to choose from – Starter Edition, Professional Edition, Automation Edition and Enterprise Edition – there is a package that is perfect for any business size and need. And now, with the latest BarTender Cloud, you can access the power of the software from anywhere in the world.

Our team of experts is always available to help you navigate the ins and outs of this innovative software, so you can get the most out of it for your business. If you’re interested in learning more about Seagull Scientific BarTender Software, contact us today via our live chat widget or by filling out a form – we can’t wait to hear from you!

How to Design Aztec Barcodes?

Creating efficient barcodes and labels is the foundation of an optimised barcoding system for businesses. Barcode and label usage is a crucial aspect of inventory tracking, along with other operational efficiencies such as product identification and tracking, cost and time management, pricing, and so much more.

To reap maximum benefits, following proper guidelines for label and barcode creation is critical to avoid errors and minimise downtime. Aztec codes have the following design requirements.

Four points on design rules for Aztec code size

Aztec Code Size

Aztec codes are always square in shape and can have a limitless module size. However, there are minimum and maximum barcode size standards for optimal reading of the barcode.

The smallest Aztec Code symbol is a 15 x15 module and can encode 13 numeric or 12 alphabetic characters. The largest Aztec Code symbol is 151 x 151 modules and can encode 3832 numeric or 3067 alphabetic characters, or 1914 bytes of data.

Quiet Zone

The Aztec code does not require a quiet zone around its symbol.

Design rule of quiet zone of Aztec code

How to Print Aztec Codes?

List of six printing rules of Aztec code

When it comes to scanning Aztec codes, the printing quality can make or break the entire process. Ensuring that your code is printed clearly and legibly is essential to guarantee accurate and speedy scanning.

To achieve optimal printing quality and functionality, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. These include.

  • Use high print resolution (at least 203 DPI) to ensure sharp edges and clear contrast in the code. 
  • Print on a clean, white surface without any obstructions or shadows that could interfere with scanning. 
  • Avoid printing on rough or textured materials, as this can affect the clarity of the code. 
  • Use dark colours such as black or navy blue on a light background to increase contrast and readability. 
  • Ensure that the Aztec code is the correct size and proportion for its intended use. 
  • Perform barcode verification to ensure that the printed Aztec codes meet the required standards and are easily readable by scanners.

Printing Aztec codes can be done using a variety of printer technologies, such as inkjet printing, laser printing and thermal printing. Among these, thermal printing is the most recommended option since it provides high-quality results and ensures a longer lifespan for the code itself.

Thermal printing is a type of non-impact printing that uses heat to create a digital imprint on a range of printing materials. These printers are equipped with a thermal printhead that generates the required amount of heat to activate the dye or the ribbon to transfer it onto the print media.

At Triton, we understand the importance of reliable thermal printing for your business. That’s why we offer an unbeatable selection of top-of-the-line thermal printers from major brands like Zebra, Honeywell, TSC and also coloured label printing from OKI. With our careful selection process, our range includes only the most accurate, efficient, and durable printers for any printing job that comes your way. 

Our range includes a variety of printers, including desktop label printers, industrial label printers, direct thermal printers, thermal transfer printers and barcode label printers, ensuring that we have something to cater to every printing task, no matter how complex.

We also have a range of print consumables, including thermal labels, thermal carton labels, thermal carcase tags, thermal inserts, and thermal transfer ribbons, so you can easily replenish your printer supplies in no time.

Get in touch with us today via the live chat widget, and discover why Triton is the right choice for all of your thermal printing needs.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, the Aztec code barcode is a powerful 2D barcode system that is gaining popularity in many industries worldwide. Its high data storage capacity, scalability, error correction capability, and compact structure make it one of the most efficient barcodes to use.

From marketing and events to healthcare and transportation, Aztec code is a reliable tool for encoding various types of information securely. With its increasing popularity and integration with mobile devices, we can expect to see more widespread adoption of Aztec code-enabled mobile payments and interactivity with Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

We hope this article has given you a comprehensive overview of what Aztec code barcodes are, their types and their applications.

Thanks for reading!

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