The enormous amount of information generated through sequencing of the human genome has increased demands for more economical and flexible alternatives in genomics, proteomics and drug discovery. Many companies and institutions have recognised the potential of increasing the size and complexity of chemical libraries by producing large chemical libraries on colloidal support beads. Since colloid-based compounds in a suspension are randomly located, an encoding system such as optical barcoding is required to permit rapid elucidation of the compound structures. We describe in this article innovative methods for optical barcoding of colloids for use as support beads in both combinatorial and non-combinatorial libraries. We focus in particular on the difficult problem of barcoding extremely large libraries, which if solved, will transform the manner in which genomics, proteomics and drug discovery research is currently performed.