Ultimate Printing Guide for QR Codes

printing qr codes

When printing a QR Code the following tips will help you to sustain the readability of your QR Code. Nevertheless always do scan tests before printing QR Codes in a high volume.

Provide enough contrast

The color of the QR code should be different enough from the background color, so that the camera is able to decode the QR Code.

Provide enough contrast in a QR Code

The QR code on the right side distincts too little of the background and is hard to be decoded by a QR Code Reader.

Mind the Quiet Zone around the QR Code

Leave enough quiet zone around the QR Code (about 4 blocks). If the distance between the pixels of the QR Code and the adjacent graphic elements is too small, the QR code can not be decoded. Try to scan the right QR code in the following figure. Your QR Code Reader App will not be able to decipher the code.

Quiet Zone around a QR Code

The QR Code on the right is unreadable since there is no quiet zone around the QR Code.

Use scale able QR Codes in vector format

Please use EPS QR Codes or download them in any other vector format like .pdf or .svg when printing a QR Code. This ensures that your QR Codes will always stay sharp, no matter which size they have. Other formats like .png may produce a blurred or pixelated outcome when printed. If you insist using the .png format please download the QR Code in a high resolution.

vector qr code versus blurred pixelated png format

Use vector QR Code to avoid blurring or pixelation

Size does matter

Please be aware of the minimum size of a QR Code. Even if most modern smartphones may read a QR Code with a length less than 5mm this will not be the case for 100% of all phones out there.

Minimum Size of a QR Code

Use a size of 20×20 mm for a QR Code to be readable by any smartphone

Logo in a QR Code

If you want to embed a logo in a QR code, always use the error correction level H. With that level a maximum area of 30% of the QR code may be overlaid with a logo.

Preferably use squared logos and center them in the QR code. In the margins of a QR code some important pixels are placed which are necessary for the QR Code Reader app to decode the QR Code and therefore they cannot be overwritten. Even if you stick to the maximum size of the logo, please test the QR Code with multiple QR Code Reader apps for readability. If the QR code cannot be decoded, reduce the size or change the aspect ratio of the logo. The safest version, however, is still a purely black and white QR code.

Logo in a QR Code

A maximum of 30% of the QR code can be overwritten with a logo so that it still be readable

Beware of Inverted (Negative) QR Codes

Sometimes a QR Code is better suited to an illustration, if the colors are chosen inversely. That means, that the black pixels of the QR Code are colored white and the background is kept in a dark color. In principle, such inverse or negative QR Codes can be decoded by various QR Code Readers, nevertheless with caution. The QR Code on the right side in the figure could was unreadable for 2 out of 5 tested QR Code readers apps.

negative qr code

Not all QR Code Readers are able to decode inverted QR Codes like shown on the right.

QR Code Reader that decode negative QR Codes

i-nigma (3G Vision) yes
Qrafter (Kerem Erkan) yes
Quick Scan (iHandy Inc.) no
Scan (Scan Inc.) yes
ZXing (Zing Team) no


Avoid Reflective Surfaces

qr code reflections

Note especially that when a QR code is affixed behind a glass, reflections may occur, so that the camera can have problems when decoding the QR Code. Print the QR Code beforehand, mount the code at the place where it will be in production and do scanning tests to ensure readability.

Use Dynamic QR Codes!

Dynamic QR Code

When you have printed QR Codes on thousands of flyers, posters or in magazines, the worst thing is to find out, that the QR Code redirects to a broken website. In case you have used dynamic QR Codes, you can change the target URL anytime without printing the QR Codes again. To save your budget and nerves: Avoid static QR Codes in your campaigns and always test your QR Codes before going in production!

Create dynamic QR Code

Further Reading




Peter is the founder of the QR Code Platform qrd.by. He is a QR Code enthusiast and consults agencies with his expertise to launch successfull QR Code campaigns. Get in touch with him on:


8 thoughts on “Ultimate Printing Guide for QR Codes

  1. Rodolfo Mendez

    Do you know of a printer that can print clings so that they can be quickly changed out and placed on windows, ect.

    1. Jordi Hernández

      Hello Rodolfo,

      We are not printing experts and probably here a local print shop could provide you some information on repositionable/reusable stickers.

      It seems that you can also buy them online and some seem to be printable using a regular printer, but again, it will depend on your case: quantities, sizes, materials, etc.

      Feel free to write us if we can help you on the integration of QR Codes in your clings campaign.

  2. Milena Bailey

    Hello Peter,

    In how many colours (CMYK) a QR code can be printed out in order to be 100% readable. (talking about magazine advert / litho printing)

    Thank you in advance.

    Best Regards,

    1. Jordi Hernández

      Hello Milena,

      Readability of a QR Code does not depend on the color (CMYK or any other color model) but in the contrast between the background and the foreground (the QR Code).

      You can find some sources that will recommend +40% contrast, but other factors can affect the contrast such as size, lighting and since you mention magazines, the color of the paper.

      We recommend you reading:

      Our advice regarding design QR Codes is always the same “keep it simple and focus on the purpose of the QR Code”. Test the readability of your QR Codes is harsh conditions (bad lighting and using an old smartphone) and if it still reads you are safe.

      Do not use your latest model to run a readability test.

      The good thing about QR is that the testing process is very straight forward: print and scan.

      1. Jordi Hernández

        Hello Bernard,

        I’m Jordi Hernandez, Professional Services Manager at qrd.by.

        The easier way you can do to add some “call to action” would be using the frames of our designer QR Code.

        Once you create a QR Code, you can add a design frame around it and add a custom label/text.

        You could also add a custom logo using our designer QR Code with the words “Scan me” with your own design.

        Quick suggestion: we always advice our customer to go beyond the message “SCAN ME” and focusing on “what will happen” once the users scans the QR Code, on what’s in it for them.
        Example: “download our App”, “see the Menu”, “Follow us on Instagram”, “Get a free coffee”.

        You can create design/framed QR Codes using any of or plans.

        QR Code Frames


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