Barcode: Custom QR Code

As QR codes have become more popular in consumer applications, there is a desire by brands to have them look more interesting; this has given rise to “custom” QR codes. A custom QR code is where the visual look of the QR Code has been modified to push or sometimes exceed the limits of the QR code specification to make it more interesting. While these do look more visually interesting, these custom QR Codes can cause significant operational problems for projects that need to print variable QR Code and/or be scanned by industrial barcode scanners as a part of manufacturing or usage. It is important to consider the manufacturability of the QR Code when designing the project to prevent unforeseen, downstream problems.

custom qr code fancy colors logo design

Printing Custom QR Codes

While custom QR Codes do look more visually interesting, they can cause significant operational problems for projects where variable QR Codes are to be printed; meaning that each QR Code stores different data and therefore each QR Code is printed differently. In this scenario, the QR codes need to first be rendered as images (one image for each QR code) and then the printer prints the images, vs with standard barcodes where the print software renders the barcode dynamically at print time based on a set of data. This adds additional complexity, time, cost and potential errors to the printing process.

Custom QR Code Modifications

Common custom QR code modifications that are not able to be rendered by barcode printing software include:

  • Logos
  • Non-square dots and eyes; standard QR codes have square dots and square eyes
  • Lack of enough white-space; this is critical for non-camera based scanners
  • Variable colors; different elements of the QR Code are printed with different colors or shades
  • Missing and/or additional elements

Scanning Custom QR Codes

Another potential issue with custom QR codes is scanning them. Often the QR code specification has been pushed so far that only camera based barcode software applications can read them; this includes mobile apps for iPhone and Android. However industrial barcode scanning software and scanners often can not read these custom QR codes; this includes the barcode scanners by Zebra and Leuze. These industrial barcode scanners are not as tolerant to QR Code modifications.

If a project requires the QR Code to be read as a part of manufacturing, often to be correlated with another tag technology such as NFC, it likely can not be a custom QR code but a standard QR code so that industrial barcode scanners can read the barcode.