A Fully Decked Out QR Code

Now that people are talking about them, you’re starting to see QR Codes used more frequently.  Quick Response codes let the appropriate code scanner read the embedded content and interpret it accordingly.  If you read this blog yesterday, you’ll remember that I created and used QR Codes for links to the four feature Ontario Edublogs.

If you go to my Scoop.it site, I’ve created QR Codes for each of the blogs on a separate page.  Take a picture with your QR Code reader and you’re directed to the website.

Normally, we think of QR Codes as a combination of black symbols on a white background.  For example, my website http://www.dougpeterson.ca looks like this as a QR Code.

But, that is so blah!  I was doing some reading and was interested to note that they don’t have to be black on white.  I viewed that as a challenge.  Could I deck out my own code?  I’m sure that there are limits to what can be done but I decided to have a go at it.

First of all, the original code is pretty small.  I brought it into an image editing program and doubled the dimensions to come up with a bigger image.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the image has actually lost a bit of its sharpness and quality.  But, a quick check with Google Goggles and Barcode Scanner indicated that there still was enough detail to do the deed.  Now, I’m off…

I decided to colour it up a bit.  I deleted the white background (it seemed like it was going to be easy until I got going but I persevered.)  Using a colour fill tool, I did a little bit of painting…

Does it still scan?  Check!

Oh, this is good.  What would it look like with a pattern for a background?

Still work? You bet.

Now, why would you want to do this?  For me, it was the challenge to see if I could make it work.  But, I’m thinking about using the concept with students.  It’s one thing to use a tool to create a black and white QR Code.  But, it isn’t a big stretch to see a couple of eyes in the QR Code.  With some editing, you could very quickly personalize your own QR Code.  The more you do – add layers, colour, fill, etc., the more you enhance your digital image editing skills.  In the meantime, in the proper hands, it becomes a piece of art.  Or at least a Rorschach test!

And hopefully generate ideas for decking out QR Codes for any classroom activity that you’re doing.



  1. What an interesting idea, Doug!

    It may be that the limitations of cameras and smart phone apps/scanners have kept QR codes in the B&W world so far (the first QR readers I tried on my first iPhone were only marginally successful), but there is no doubt that what you have produced is more fun to look at than the original.

    While I would hate to see our world turned into a QR-code tagged eyesore, a judicious application of functional, yet pleasantly-appointed codes (such as you have created here) wonderfully augments our reality with quick access to useful and location/context-specific information.

    I will confess, however, to being somewhat perplexed at the embedding of QR codes on websites. If I’m already reading information on an electronic device, a simple link will suffice? Can I not bookmark directly without going through a second device’s QR-code reader? (I guess I could be browsing information on a locked-down kiosk in a museum somewhere, QR-tagging with my phone for later reading…)

    At any rate, this looks like a great project to put in the list for a rainy afternoon … 🙂


  2. Thanks for the comment, Andy. I struggle with coming up with a awesomely good implementation other than scavenger hunts, shortcuts to avoid typing, and the ability to dig beyond the surface. I could see the possibilities of historical monuments with the bigger story, etc. But, it presumes that there is a huge uptake of people with the device and the savvy to be able to use it. Libraries and stores have certainly exploited the power. I can see it as a powerful tool in the 1:1 iPod classroom though or a link sharer during a presentation. “Take a picture of my presentation screen…”

    In the meantime, it’s an amusing concept that I dabble with periodically. Tacking on to your observations, download QRreader for the Mac. From the department of redundancy department, it makes your Macintosh with webcam a QR Code reader.

    So far, my biggest personal learning came from @pbeens who taught me that you don’t need a separate QR Code reader for your personal device – you can use Google Goggles instead.


  3. Hi Andrew and Doug,
    This is timely reading for me this week as a teacher and I were wondering about using some QR codes next year to add interactive content to some public displays in the school – I added this info to your Google doc, Doug. Neither of us have used QR codes before so we are newbies.

    So…for example, if her students were going to create an informative bulletin board for the school hallway about an important health issue for kids, could they use QR codes to link to student made videos and links that would provide more information?

    What do you guys think?



  4. Most assuredly, Brenda. That is a concept of adding multi-media to an otherwise limited medium in a bulletin board. Generating the code is a piece of cake with the right tool. I have an add-on to my Google Chrome installation that does it for me automatically.

    The caveat is that anyone would need a QR Code reader to take advantage.

    Let me know how it goes. Take pictures!


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