QR codes and barcodes

In order for readers and scanners to correctly capture and read QR codes and barcodes, they must be correctly set up in the artwork.

For setting up the artwork, please not the following:

  • Colour: monochrome black (Cyan 0 %, Magenta 0 %, Yellow 0 %, Key 100 %)
  • Dimensions: not too small, depending on the print product (but no less than 2 x 2 cm)
  • File format: Create codes as vector data (image files such as PNG or JPG are admissible in exceptional cases, see below)
  • For barcodes industrial and legal requirements must also be respected

Create codes with a code generator an save them as high-resolution vector file

You will find various suppliers who create QR codes or barcodes in the Internet, e.g., QRCode-Monkey, ZINT, or BarCode Generator.

When selecting the code generator make sure that you will be able to download your QR code or barcode as a vector file (e.g., EPS or AI). With this file type the contours do not fray when printed, and the codes can be read correctly by readers/scanners.

As an alternative, you can also integrate the codes as an image file, such as PNG or JPG, into your artwork – but you need to make sure that you have a high resolution so that you do not get frayed contours. Otherwise, image files often have a printing result that cannot be captured by readers/scanners.

QR-Code und Barcode

QR code (left) and barcode (right)

Ideal colour combination: black code on a white background

For best readability by optical readers such as scanners or smartphones, a strong contrast between the code and the background.

Therefore, we recommend you create QR codes and barcodes in monochrome black on a white background in the artwork (CMYK black: Cyan 0 %, Magenta 0 %, Yellow 0 %, Key 100 %).

Codes in other colours are possible, however, they will be more prone to errors. For example, most scanners work with red light, therefore “seeing” colour contrasts differently than the human eye (i.e., for scanners looks “white”, while green seems very dark).


Size of the QR codes or barcodes to be printed

In general, the codes on the print products must not be too small.

For QR codes, we recommend minimum dimensions of 2 x 2 cm. This fits the handy marketing objects such as business cards or flyers. On larger print products, the codes should be printed in larger dimensions. As a rule of thumb, you could memorise: the ratio between the perception/scanning distance and the size of the QR code is 10:1.

Edge length of the QR code (in cm) = assumed scanning distance (in cm) / 10

For barcodes, please observe the industrial standards and legal regulations, such as standards like ISO/IEC 15416 and ISO/IEC 15421.