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How to Make a QR Code | Creating QR Codes

September 3, 2020
|
Scott
Make a QR code with SproutQR

Got 5 or 10 minutes? That’s about how long it takes to learn how to make a QR code.

Permanently picking up a new technical skill in the amount of time it takes to walk around the block is a pretty good trade-off.

But you’ll have to make a few choices to get across the finish line. And after reading this post, you’ll be equipped to confidently make those choices.

Though to understand how to make a QR code, you must first understand what a QR code is, how it works, and what makes it unique. For example, did you know QR codes on food are one of the best drivers of conversation around sourcing and sustainability?

That’s why we whipped up a quick, thorough, no-frills introduction to QR codes below. Then we’ll get into how to make a QR code.

What Is a QR Code?

QR stands for quick response. A QR code is a special type of barcode specifically designed for fast and flexible scanning. Its speed is, of course, relative to the barcode that preceded it: the UPC barcode.

QR Code vs. Barcode

A UPC barcode is a type of first-generation barcode. AKA the first types of barcode created. It’s a one-dimensional barcode. That means its information is encoded, and that information is scanned, in one direction. Horizontally. The information in a UPC barcode is encoded through the width of each bar and the distance between them. The length of the bars contains no information.

UPC barcode scanning direction
A one-dimensional barcode with scanning direction


A QR code, on the other hand, is a two-dimensional barcode. The information is encoded and scanned in two directions, both horizontally and vertically.

By storing and retrieving information on two axes, more information is transferred and scan angle is more flexible. That's how QR codes fulfill their original purpose of speeding things up.

QR code scanning direction
A two-dimensional QR code with scanning directions

How Do QR Codes Work?

A QR code can store thousands of characters of data. The letter “c,” for example, is an alphanumeric character. The number “2” is a numeric character. Thousands of those. And all of those characters are encoded within the arrangement of the white and black squares in a QR code, also called data modules. When you create a QR code, you’re encoding strings of characters as an arrangement of data modules. An optical scanner then scans the data modules and retrieves your data.

The easiest and most common way to do this is with URLs. A restaurant, for example, would publish their PDF menu on their website. Then they’d make a QR code for that website’s URL. Upon scanning the QR code, a guest is brought to the URL in their smartphone’s mobile browser. Voila, a QR code menu.

How to Make Your Own QR Code

Comfortable with the basics? Then you’re ready to learn how to make your own QR code. Your journey starts with three decisions.

Choose a Dynamic or Static QR Code

There are two types of QR codes, static and dynamic.

A static QR code encodes its information directly in its data modules. This has two effects. First, the more complicated the encoded data is, the larger and more complex the QR code. That makes for slower scanning. And second, if you want to update the information in the QR code, you have to change the arraignment of the data modules. That means a brand new QR code. Not a great situation if you’ve already printed and distributed a bunch of them.

A dynamic QR code only encodes a short redirection URL in its data modules. Any information you want to share is published on a URL that the QR code’s URL redirects to. You can change the information you publish or the URL you publish on; the QR code’s redirection URL doesn’t have to change. Which means its data modules don’t have to change. And that means you can update and edit anything you want without the need for a new QR code. This flexibility allows for faster scanning and use as a QR code tracking and reporting system.

In virtually all instances, you’ll want a dynamic QR code. Nice! First decision was pretty easy.

Find a QR Code Generator

Precious few people create QR codes on their own from scratch. It requires design and programming skills. Most everyone relies on QR code generators to do it for them.

A QR code generator is a website or piece of software that creates QR codes for you at the click of a button. All you do is upload the information you want encoded—be it a URL or a document—and a QR code generator, well, generates a QR code.

You’ll find a lot of free QR code generators online, but be careful with those. If you’re learning how to create QR codes for personal or one-time use, they’re fine. But if you’re a business for whom QR codes will drive engagement, loyalty, or revenue, think again. Free online services aren’t contractually obligated to give you anything—functional products, reliable security, or satisfactory service. Read more about QR code security risks of free online generators.

Here’s our guide to choosing the best QR code generator. Focus on reliability, security, and support and you’ll be fine. Oh, and you’ll also want to make sure your chosen QR code generator can create static or dynamic QR codes, depending on which you want.

Select a File Format

You need something to upload into the QR code generator. It may be a Microsoft Word document with text in it. It may be a PDF or an image. Heck, it may just be plain text. Point is, you need to settle on the format of the information to upload. Because that may affect your next steps.

Here are the most common information or file formats used in QR codes:

  • URL
  • Microsoft Word document
  • Google Doc
  • JPG or PNG (Image formats)
  • PDF
  • Plain text

Let’s look into how to create QR codes for each.

How to Make a URL QR Code

This is the most common use of QR codes. Luckily, we've got an entire post about going from URL to QR code.

How to Make QR Code for Word Document

Here’s how to make a QR code for a Word document:

  1. Finalize and save your Microsoft Word document as a .DOC or .DOCX file.
  1. Upload the document to cloud storage via Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, or a similar service.
  1. Once uploaded, copy the sharable file link. In your Word document, click “share.” Here, click the permissions dropdown and select “anyone with the link.” This ensures anyone who scans the QR code can access your Word document. Here you can set the permission to  Then click “copy link” and you’ll have a publicly shareable link to your Word doc.
  1. Head over to your QR code generator and input the shareable link you copied from the cloud drive. Generate your QR code.

Making a QR code for a Word document is useful for class notes, class syllabi, user and product manuals, in-depth reports, and event presentations. 

How to Make a QR Code for Google Doc

Here’s how to make a QR code for a Google Doc:

  1. Once your Google doc is finalized, click the “share” button in the top right.
  1. In the “get link” section, click “change.”
  1. From the drop down menu, select “anyone with the link,” then click “copy link.”
  1. Input this link into a QR code generator and create your QR code.

This is very similar to the Word process, with the exception that all Google Docs are automatically stored in their creator’s Google Drive. 

And that’s how to make a QR code for Google Docs.

How to Make Image QR Code

This is how to make an image QR code:

  1. Gather your image file(s) in either .PNG, .JPG, or .SVG file format
  1. If your image files are especially big (over 2MB), the load time for your QR code may be excessive. Visit TinyPNG.com to minify your image files and increase load time.
  1. Publish your images on your own website and upload the URL into a QR code generator.
  1. Or, if you don’t publish your own images, upload your image(s) directly into a QR code generator tool. The tool will publish your images online and create a QR code with the URL.

Uploading a single image or a collection of images to create a gallery is a common and effective QR code use. It’s quite easy, too, because the images aren’t encoded directly in the QR code. Rather, they’re published on a webpage then the URL is encoded in the QR code.

It’s a matter of publishing your image then linking to it through a QR code. In that sense, how to make image QR codes is similar to making PDF QR codes.

How to Make a QR Code with Text

There’s only one step when learning how to make a QR code with text:

  1. Type your chosen text in a QR code generator and click generate or create.

QR codes can store text directly. The text need not be published on a website whose URL is uploaded into the QR code. Most QR code generators will accept plain text. When scanned, smartphones typically show the text content in a drop-down notification and offer to Google the content for you.

There are limits to how much text can be uploaded, though. A QR code can hold a maximum of 4,296 alphanumeric characters.

QR code digital menu

How to Make a QR Code for a PDF

Here’s how to make a QR code for a PDF:

  1. Finalize a Microsoft or Word document and save as a PDF.
  1. Publish your PDF on your website and upload the URL to a QR code generator and click generate or create.
  1. Upload the PDF directly into a QR code generator and click generate or create.

Creating a QR code PDF is a combination of the Word/Google instructions and the image instructions. That’s because a PDF is a combination of text and image formats. It’s an image of text, essentially. 

There is a very important step not listed above, because it’s not technically required to create a QR code PDF. But it’s unwise to skip. That step is remediating your PDF document for PDF accessibility.

How to Make a QR Code In Illustrator

To make a QR code in Illustrator, you’ll need to download a plug-in, extension, or integration. Head over to Adobe’s Creative Cloud and search “QR code.” There are a few options.

Out of the box, Adobe Illustrator doesn’t support the creation of QR codes. A lot of people think that’s strange. But Adobe has another vector-based product that can make QR codes: Adobe InDesign. Look into that if you’re after an Adobe product that natively supports QR code creation.

How to Make a QR Code: Best Practices

As your QR code adventure begins, there are some best practices and pitfalls to be aware of. 

  • Adhere to QR code minimum size. The size of your QR code will mostly be based on how far away people are likely to be from it. Check out that linked post about size for everything you need to know about QR code sizing and scanning distance.
  • Use black-on-white, the optimal color and contrast. A lot of QR code generators give you the option to entirely change the color and contrast of a custom QR code. We don’t recommend it. Black data modules on a white background provides optimal scannability for QR codes. And people recognize that color scheme.
  • A better option, instead, is to brand your QR code with a central logo.

How to Make a Custom QR Code with Logo

Making a custom QR code with logo is simply a function of finding a QR code generator that gives you that option. SproutQR’s QR code generator does. All you need is a PNG, JPG, JPEG, or SVG logo file. During the creation of your QR code, you can upload your logo. Book a demo and we’ll show you exactly how it works.

It’s best to restrict custom QR code design to adding an image, logo, or text to the code’s center. That will ensure optimum scannability, enhance branding, drive noticeability, and enhance engagement. If the central image is text, it can even be used as a call-to-action. Though a QR code template or and QR codes on tables are pretty good at that, too.

How to Make a QR Code for Your Business

Making a QR code for your business boils down to having the information you want to upload and finding the right QR code generator.

Again, if you’re creating personal QR codes or one-time use QR codes, a free online QR code generator is fine. But if there’s money on the line, don’t play free online games.

Any business serious about rolling out a reliable QR code marketing strategy should partner with a technology company who is contractually obligated to give them the best possible products and services.

SproutQR is one such company. We help businesses across the country adopt and deploy reliable, secure QR codes. Get in touch and we’ll show you how easy it is.