April 14, 2022 

QR Code Printing Best Practices

High-quality QR code printing has become increasingly important for industries of all varieties.

Over the last few years, QR codes have seemingly exploded in popularity. Introduced to the world in 1994 by the Japan-based automotive company Denso Wave, the “quick response” code was designed as an improved version of linear barcodes, such as GS1-128 and the Universal Product Code. 

Denso Wave was experiencing traceability problems due to the information limitations of linear barcodes, as linear codes can only contain 20 alphanumeric characters worth of data, thereby restricting how much information they can communicate. For an industry like automotive production in which all parts require a high degree of traceability, this limitation required companies to place multiple barcodes on their products. 

QR codes solved this issue by introducing a second information-containing dimension to their symbol design. Consequently, QR codes can hold information on both vertical and horizontal planes, as opposed to linear barcodes that can only hold information horizontally. As a result, QR codes have:

  1. A much greater character storage capacity compared to barcodes, and
  2. The ability to hold different kinds of characters than barcodes.

Here, we examine some QR code printing best practices to show what it takes to make an easily-scannable, long-lasting QR symbol.

Strategies for High-Quality QR Code Printing

Today, QR codes can be found everywhere, from shipping parcels to product packaging to restaurant menus, where they serve as a way to save important information and provide it to the right parties. 

The following strategies can help ensure that your QR codes are printed with the highest level of quality.

Use a High-Resolution Printer

The best QR coding tip we can give is to find the right printer for the application. Like all other types of linear and two-dimensional barcodes, QR codes require a certain level of resolution to be machine-scannable. Although they don’t require the same resolution as a high-definition photograph, QR codes should be made at DPI levels of 200 or higher.

To produce codes at this high of a resolution, several different coding technologies can be utilized, including:

Each of these marking systems greatly varies in price, printing speed, material compatibility, and more, so it’s important to perform thorough research into your logistical needs and budget before deciding upon a specific system.

Design an Easily-Scannable Code

There are many elements to consider when creating product packaging. For instance, prominent logos and eye-catching designs are a great way to raise brand awareness and make your product appear high-end to consumers. However, at the same time, the packaging design should never impede the scannability of your QR codes. 

How do you help ensure code scannability?

Generally speaking, you should aim to:

  • Create the code with at least 10mm x 10mm margins, or optimally, 12mm x 12mm. 
  • Increase scannability by fostering high contrast between the color of the QR code and its background. For example, a black QR code on a white background is a great design choice.
  • Leave negative space between the QR code and the larger packaging design by creating a small boundary around the code. A space of four blocks between the code and the rest of the packaging will increase a scanner’s ability to successfully read the code. 

Choose Your Packaging Material Wisely

As we alluded to above, the packaging material itself is also a prime concern when printing QR codes. Not only do you need to use a material that is compatible with your marking technology, but you also need to be cognizant of how the packaging may affect code scannability. 

Although QR codes can be placed on everything from glass and aluminum to paper and plastic, certain material attributes can lower code scannability. For example, reflective materials can impede scannability and distort the image. Uneven or curved surfaces are also cautioned against because they complicate the scanning process. 

If you are printing a QR code on a magazine advertisement or a similar printed page, be additionally cautious against how the code may be affected by any fold or binding.

Always Remember to Test Your Code

Even if you’ve taken all of the recommended precautions, it’s important to never forget to test your QR codes.

If you’re a smaller operation with a limited product supply, you can easily perform tests with the help of a free QR code scanning app on your smartphone. However, the larger your product output is, the more time-consuming and inefficient this approach is. To adequately test industrial amounts of coded packaging, we recommend implementing a code verification system to check the quality requirements and verify the data accuracy of every single code.

Want to learn more about QR code printing? Stay connected to C&M Digest by subscribing to our newsletter. With information on hardware, formulas, and other important marking topics, our newsletter will keep you updated on the latest industry developments. To get in touch with us about possible collaborations or ideas for coverage, contact us today.

C&M Digest Team

The C&M Digest Team is composed of experts from across the coding and marking world. Comprised of ink developers, hardware veterans, and engineers, our News Team delivers informed coverage that is always free from brand bias.

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