design marketing qr code

QR Code: minimum size, design and printing tutorial [2023]

Let’s find out together how to make the QR Code more beautiful and how to make a design optimized for printing and scanning.

In the last post we learned how to choose the destination link for our QR Code and how to choose where to place it, and now we will put everything we learned in the previous chapters into practice: we will start with the creation of the QR code itself, and then find out in what ways we can make it visually more appealing, and finally what physical characteristics it will need to have to ensure we have a outstanding scan rate.

QR Code Design

The objection that is undoubtedly heard most is this: QR codes are ugly! And there is some truth in this statement, as the classic black square often results in an “eyesore,” especially when affixed to an otherwise neat and attractive design.

However, this thesis is based on the (mis)idea that QR code is just that stuff there. In fact, you will find that QR codes can be customized in amazing ways, even to the point of becoming real works of art.

Colored QR Codes

Colorful qr codes can be generated: as long as the contrast with the background is sufficient (we will see this in detail in the section on printing), the QR code can be any color, although dark colors tend to work best.

Creating colorful QR codes
Creating colorful QR codes


The sharp, sharp corners of a QR code can be unpleasing to the eye. For this reason, it is possible to dampen or curve them at will, obviously being careful not to overdo it so as not to reduce the readability of the code. Squares can also be replaced with other shapes, such as stars, dots or diamonds.

QR code with custom angles
QR code with custom angles


Some codes, such as those created by QualityChain, have shapes themed to the product on which they are affixed. Pasta might have the QR Code in the shape of an ear of corn, wine the QR Code in the shape of a goblet, oil in the shape of an olive, and so on. These codes, in addition to being pleasing, are particularly attention-grabbing, and consequently have an above-average scan rate.

Some examples of image QR codes for agribusiness created with QualityChain
Some examples of image QR codes for agribusiness created with QualityChain

QR code with logo or drawings

Another option is to place a logo or design on the code. This turns out to be very useful for creating branded QR codes, and it is a fairly simple operation supported by various free sites. One myth to dispel is that you can only place them in the center: instead, you can place a graphic on any part of the QR code except for the four largest squares (three at the corners and one at the bottom right), which are required for QR code recognition.

Examples of QR Codes branded with company or platform logo.
Examples of QR Codes branded with company or platform logo.

Error correction level

A final parameter to consider, although a bit more technical, is the level of error correction of the QR code. This factor can be decided at the creation stage, and represents the level of redundancy of the data represented by the QR code. Put more simply, it tells us how much of the QR code we can damage or cover before it stops working.

There are four levels: the lowest is level L, which allows us to modify 7 percent of the code, then M, Q, and finally level H, the highest, which provides the maximum correction by allowing us to modify up to 30 percent of the code.

This is especially important if we are going to insert a logo or design into the QR, as this covers part of the code-a higher level of correction will in fact allow us to insert a larger logo or design.


Now to the more practical details: below you will find a summary of the variables to consider when approaching QR Code printing, whether on product packaging, a restaurant menu, or a billboard.

QR code minimum size for print

The first factor to consider when printing is the size of the QR code. You should know first of all that a QR code has a minimum size of 1cm x 1cm (ISO Standard 18004), but that for safety it is always better, when possible, to stay above 2cm x 2cm.

Minimum size of QR code
Minimum vs recommended QR Code size

These dimensions of course are only good for codes that can be scanned closely, such as those on a business card, brochure, or restaurant menu.

If, on the other hand, we need the code to be scanned from greater distances, being on a poster or billboard, for example, we keep this formula in mind:

maximum distance = side x 10

So a 10cmx10cm QR code will be scannable up to one meter away, and a 2-meter-sided QR will be scannable up to 20 meters away.

QR Code size formula
QR Code size formula

It should also be considered that a QR code needs a blank outline (padding), or it will be difficult to scan. To be on the safe side, use a frame at least 1/8th as thick as the side of the QR.

QR code padding guidelines.
QR code padding guidelines.

QR Code printing surface

Material texture is another factor to consider if you want to maximize scannability. The rougher and more uneven the surface, the more likely it is that there will be smudges in the ink, which can blur the lines between elements. As a result, the QR code will have to be larger the more irregular the printing surface, while it may be smaller on smooth and regular surfaces.

For example, plastic is a very smooth material, as its polymers are very small and create a smooth surface that is perfect for printing.

In contrast, paper is rougher, especially if it is recycled. The higher the percentage of recycled fibers, the greater the roughness of the paper, as recycled fibers are shorter than virgin fibers.

Finally, corrugated cardboard is even more irregular, especially if the surface grooves are wide. Finer grooves make the paper flatter and thus more suitable for printing QR codes.

The last factor to consider is the reflectivity of the material: a very shiny plastic, for example, could create reflections that would make part of the code invisible to the reader, causing difficulty in scanning.

Type of print

Each type of printing has different ink characteristics, which can affect the accuracy and sharpness of the code. For example, flexographic printing is an imprecise process, and thus needs a larger code size to account for any ink smears that might affect scannability.

Lithographic and gravure printing, on the other hand, are generally more precise, due to the material of the printing plate, thus allowing for the printing of sharp and accurate codes, even if they are very small.

Color and contrast of QR code

A QR code can be any color, although it is generally recommended to use dark colors on a light background, as some readers do not support light codes on a dark background.

The most important factor in any case is the contrast between the color of the code and that of the background. Indeed, for optimal scannability, it is important that the code stands out well against the background, and thus that there is a contrast ratio of at least 4:1 between the two colors. You can check this condition using a site such as

Guidelines contrast QR Code
Guidelines contrast QR Code


It is vital that your QR code file be in vector format (svg, pdf, eps) and not raster (png, jpeg). In fact, raster files tend to get grainy when enlarged, while vector files remain perfect even after countless resizing.

QR code generators

The time has come to put this into practice! Don’t be impressed by those who make it sound like an extremely complicated job requiring hacker skills: you yourself can create a simple QR Code, at no cost, in just a few minutes.

How is it done? There are dozens (if not hundreds) of sites for creating QR codes, with more or less functionality and degrees of customization. I’ll suggest two that I’ve used in the past, which are quite simple and, above all, free.

The Simple One: The QR Code Generator

This site allows you to create the main types of QR codes in seconds, and does not require registration to download vector format files.

Only flaw: very little degree of customization. In fact, it is not possible to change the aesthetic parameters of the code in any way, nor are some more elaborate formatting possible (e.g., creating QR codes with Wi-Fi credentials).

The full one: QR Code Monkey

This site has everything you need: it offers a wide variety of QR code types, the ability to change their color, shape and insert a custom logo. You can also download the result in either png or vector format.

Only disadvantage: less immediate than its predecessor, it is slightly more complicated to use and takes a few more minutes.

Now what?

Now you have all the knowledge you need to create the perfect QR Code for your product or business.

In the next article we will find out together how to study QR Code analytics, getting very useful statistics about your clientele.

If this topic interests you and you want to learn more, follow QualityChain on our social channels.




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About QualityChain

QualityChain helps Italian agribusiness SMEs transform their products from simple exhibits to true digital experiences capable of enhancing their uniqueness. QualityChain is a transparent, smartphone-friendly space in which to share with consumers the history and values of small Italian producers, a showcase from which to observe the skilled hands that work the land, the wine, the bread, and everything good that our companies produce.

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