Getting Creative with QR Codes

March 21, 2011

So far we’ve touched on the basics of QR codes and how they can be used in print. But now we’re taking it one step further! The following is all about pushing the creative boundries of QR codes and making scannable QR code art!

QR code art

Because QR codes have a relatively generous amount of error correction built into them (up to 30 percent in some cases), you’ve got a window in which to distort the code while retaining its readability. It’s a great way to tie your QR code to the look and feel of your marketing materials (i.e. design features, logo and brand identity). So let’s get started …

1) Get a QR code generator and reader

We suggest Kerem Erkan’s QR code generator, and be sure to check our previous post on awesome QR code readers. When generating your QR code, select the primary function you want to communicate (contact info, GEO location, URL, custom text, etc.) from the QR code generator.

2) Download and import your QR code

Once you’ve generated your QR code, download the image and import it into an image editing software. For this post, we’ve downloaded .eps vector files and imported them into Adobe Illustrator. Photoshop works just as well if this is your preference. If you’re looking for an open source image editor, try GIMP or

3) Get creative, tweak and experiment

Start by either experimenting with filters (like rounded corners, perspective, colorizing), or if you prefer, build layers of custom design on top of your raw QR code image. Try to visually integrate your custom design elements into the code rather than simply stacking them on top. And keep in mind that the centre of the QR code is slightly more flexible then the edges.

4) Test and repeat

Do a test scan with your QR code reader to make sure your design tweaks haven’t effected the scanability of your code. Repeat this cycle until you’re happy with the appearance and the QR code is readable.

To test this method, we created a basic QR code with Kerem Erkan’s QR code generator and did some simple tweaking with our logo and some Illustrator filters …

Transparency type applied to logo and placed over code:
QR code with Still Creek logo

Rounded corner filter with coordinating colour hues:
QR code art with rounded corners

Scribble filter:
QR code art with scribbles

Pucker and bloat filter using reverse contrast:
QR code art multicolour

Getting creative with QR codes is quite simple and can yield some very interesting results! So try it out for youself and see what you can come up with. But remember to test as you tweak or you might exceed the 30 percent fudge factor!

Did you find this post interesting or helpful? Leave your comments below or contact us directly!

Find more like this: Emerging Technologies, Featured, QR Codes

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Frank Neulichedl
April 12, 2011
8:34 am

Nice concept – but actually I could just get the blue one to work – and normally my Android based reader picks up quite easily all the codes.

Maybe you stretched it a little to far.

Still Creek Press
April 12, 2011
9:25 am

Thanks for your feedback Frank. We did test the designs on a number of different devices and QR code reading apps around here in the office and all four worked for us. But your point is well taken–the error correction built into the code can only be stretched so far. Please test your designs extensively before adding them to any print campaign as the damage done by frustrating your prospect can easily negate any of the benefits brought by this exciting new technology.

Ben Baker
April 12, 2011
11:45 am

I agree with Frank.

I just tried it on my Blackberry 8520 curve using the built in QR code reader that is part of the BB Messenger (which is usually bullet proof). The blue one with the rounded corners is what read for me as well.

the challenge of moving “art” into the design of a scanable code is the risk that it will not work on a percentage of mobile devices and therefore render the client’s campaign useless.

At this point in time, using technology that is readily available I am still advising my clients to go with a conventional code that is reliable, readable and pulls their clients effectively into the mobile campaign.


Ben Baker
Getting YOU Noticed!

Still Creek Press
April 13, 2011
3:41 pm

So true Ben. Although, the technology of QR code readers is improving every day with higher resolution camera phones and more powerful app readers. Your right in advising the conventional codes to your clients, as they are fool proof and can be relied on.

In saying this, our objective was to showcase the creative potential that QR codes have and that you CAN change the colour and that you CAN have fun with it. At the moment, these creative QR codes only seem to be scanning for the iPhone 4, but you can be guaranteed a multitude of future devices will indefinitely be able to scan them as well.