EAN-13 barcodes contain seven key elements:
- A leading quiet zone 10x the width of one narrow bar.
- The start character, also called a guard pattern.
- Six symbol characters.
- The center character, also called the center guard pattern.
- Six symbol characters with a check digit.
- The stop character or guard pattern.
- A trailing quiet zone.
The start, stop, and center guard patterns feature bars that are longer than the symbol encoding bars, effectively creating a notch for human-readable text. The start and stop characters are identical, containing a narrow bar, narrow space, and narrow bar in that order. The center character contains a narrow space, narrow bar, narrow space, narrow bar, and narrow space in that order. EAN-13 also uses four widths for bars and spaces, making it possible to use half the number of bars and spaces required by Interleaved 2 of 5 symbology to represent the same information.
EAN-13 is also called JAN-13. This barcode is the same format as EAN-13 but uses country code 49, which indicates that the company using it is registered in Japan.