How to Stencil a QR Code

There are all kinds of reasons you might want to stencil a QR code on a surface:

  • Connecting your customers to free Wi-Fi access
  • Transmit your vCard info
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Guiding people in an unfamiliar environment
  • Registration for an event
  • Any place where you want to publicly link to more in-depth information

Click here to turn a URL or vCard or a poem into a QR code. (Or, if you want you can try Canva’s QR code generator.)

QR code that represents a URL
photo of a painted QR code that represents a URL
QR code representing a Shakespeare sonnet
This QR code represents a Shakespeare sonnet

QR codes don’t have to be painted in permanent paint. Black and white spray chalk works well for events that last a day or a weekend.

QR codes have two components: the alignment and the information part. The big square bulls-eyes on three of the four corners are for orienting your reader so that the information in the center can be recognized properly (that’s where all the detail is). The big squares don’t have to be so perfect, but the part in the center should be as clear as you an make it.

QR codes can be in any color, but black on white works best, because that has the highest contrast. (Ordinarily we recommend that you leave out the layer that corresponds to the surface color, but in this case it’s probably best to cover the surface with white and then paint the black layer.) You can try black on pink or navy blue on yellow, because those are also high-contrast. But don’t invert the colors (don’t swap the black and the white, for example), because readers aren’t prepared for that.

Test each spray of your QR code to make sure it works. Each surface can be a little bit different (it can be uneven, or it can absorb more paint, for example) so you want to make sure it works wherever you paint it.

Will the stencil bridges keep my code from working?

Probably not. As long as the width of the bridges is small compared to the areas of contrast in the QR code, it won’t affect the ability to read the code.

What if my QR code is really big?

If the information encoded by your QR code is longer than a URL or an SMS, it may be pretty complex. The Shakespeare sonnet QR code above would have to be about two feet across to work as a stencil, for example. On an average surface, the smallest white or black square should be no smaller than the size of a pencil eraser.