QR Code Distance: What Size Should a QR Code Be in Relation to Scan Distance?

During this unfortunate time of the coronavirus pandemic, QR Codes are one of the best possible ways for businesses to receive cashless payments and to share information with customers without any physical contact. But do you know how big your QR Codes should be to ensure the best scans even from a distance? Read on to find out.

What is QR Code distance?

QR Code distance refers to the size a QR Code should be in relation to the distance it’s scanned from. When designing QR Codes for print materials, it’s important to keep this aspect in mind to ensure that users don’t have problems when trying to scan your QR Codes. Designing your QR Code with the appropriate size enables users to scan them from a distance. The farther away they can be scanned, the more likely you’ll get more total scans.

How do QR Codes help with contactless information transfers?

During such a pandemic like the coronavirus, it’s important to refrain from making cash payments and touching potentially contaminated surfaces in order to lessen the chance of spreading the disease. QR Codes are one of the best possible ways to do this because users can make payments and share information without having to physically touch anything except for their own smartphones. Italy is one of the countries that has unfortunately been hit the hardest and it has already implemented QR Codes for cashless and contactless payments in an effort to support small businesses. So, other businesses can take advantage of the contactless power of QR Codes and place them on print materials to enable users to make payments or share relevant information.

Overall, QR Codes are the perfect tool for things such as:

Scanning QR Codes from a minimum distance

QR Codes can easily be scanned from a short distance. Unlike NFC technology that has a radius of 4 cm (1.5 in), QR Codes have a minimum radius of 25 cm (10 in), which then scales up depending on the size of the QR Code. The only requirement is that the QR Code is a minimum of 2 x 2 cm (0.8 x 0.8 in), otherwise, a QR Code scanner could have trouble scanning it and viewers could have difficulty reading it.

NFC vs QR Code scan radius

QR Codes that are often scanned at short distances include:

A QR Code on a catalog requires a short scanning distance

The key point here is that all of the elements from the above list can be used for contactless marketing and mobile payments due to QR Codes. Furthermore, they’re also convenient for users, because people don’t need to try to find links or a separate payment system. They can just scan the QR Code and are automatically connected to the appropriate digital content or payment platform.

The size needed for a short distance QR Code scan

Although there is a minimum size QR Code of 2 x 2 cm (0.8 x 0.8 in), QR Codes be made as large as you need as long as you use high-quality images so that the pixels don’t become too blurred. When designing a QR Code to be used for a minimum distance scan, you have to also consider the placement. For example, if you use a QR Code on a print ad inside a train, you have to think about where it will be scanned from. It can be the case that not only the people sitting next to it will want to scan the QR Code, but also people from other seats as well. Consequently, the QR Code needs to be made large enough to adjust for these variables. As a general rule of thumb, use larger sizes to avoid losing any potential QR Code scans.

Scanning QR Codes from a long distance

The farther away QR Code scanning should take place, the larger the QR Code needs to be. If you put a QR Code on something like a billboard advertisement, the QR Code needs to be scannable from a large distance to still work. Other types of QR Codes that will be scanned from far away include:

A QR Code on a shop window can be scanned from afar with the right size

For some of these methods, QR Codes could still be scanned from a short distance. But you always want to make sure the maximum scan distance is also possible so that you don’t lose any potential customers.

The size needed for QR Code scans from afar

What size you need depends on a number of factors, including the height of what you’ll place the advertisement with the QR Code on (i.e. the higher the QR Code is from eye level, the bigger it needs to be), different angles that it might be scanned from, and if you can create a high enough quality image for the QR Code pixels to still be clear.

An overview of QR Code sizes in relation to scan distances

To help you determine the size your QR Code should be, here is a table with an overview of scanning distances and the approximate size QR Codes should be in relation to that distance. As mentioned above, always choose larger rather than smaller to ensure that the QR Code is readable and scannable from the maximum distance. Sizes listed always refer to an exact square shape because otherwise, your QR Code won’t function properly.

Scanning DistanceQR Code Size Range
1.5-2.5 feet (45-75 cm) 2.4-6.3 in (6-15.8 cm) – magazines, catalogs
4-12 feet (1.2-3.6 meters) 6.3 – 30 in (16-75 cm) – posters, windows
12-25 feet (3.6-7.6 meters) 19-61.3 in (48-157 cm) – billboards

We’ve listed ranges here because you need to adapt the size and scan distance to the conditions of where the QR Code is placed. We recommend printing at least three different sizes and then comparing them to make sure which one meets the scan radius you’d like to achieve. The below image outlines a typical directional scan radius QR Codes should be designed for. If you’d like a wider scan radius, then you’ll need a bigger QR Code.

Directional QR Code scan radius

Other tips to ensure your QR Code is scannable

Other than designing your QR Code to be the appropriate size, there are three other main points to keep in mind to make sure your QR Code is crisp, clear, and readable: The quiet zone, image quality, and color contrast.

Maintain the quiet zone

The quiet zone is the space surrounding the QR Code that separates the QR Code’s pixels from the other designs. QR Codes need a quiet zone so that scanners can detect what images are QR Code pixels and which aren’t. Without the quiet zone, it’s likely that the QR Code won’t work.

Use high-quality images

We’ve mentioned image quality before, but we’ll stress it again here because all your design efforts won’t amount to much if the QR Code image is too low of quality to be read. Our QR Codes can be downloaded as JPG, PNG, EPS, and SVG image file formats and then be added to any graphic design using a photo editing tool. Here again, it’s a good idea to compare a few different images and QR Code sizes to make sure the resolution is high enough to be scanned from a distance.

Choose the appropriate color contrast

Another important element of good QR Code design is using contrasting colors. This rule applies to both the background material for what’s behind the QR Code design, as well as the design itself. In the image below on the left, there is no color contrast between the QR Code and the surrounding design. The quiet zone has also been removed, so there is no way for a QR Code scanner to detect this QR Code. The image on the right shows how to design color contrast correctly.

Robyn Albertyn

Robyn Albertyn is a content writer for Bitly from Cape Town, South Africa. She’s previously written about preventative health and wellness, and specializes in creative writing and copywriting. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her hiking up majestic mountains, or discovering the best coffee hotspots in her city. Feel free to say hi to her on LinkedIn.

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