Quick Tricks are a series of blog posts shedding light on easily-missed features in your favourite design software. For example, did you know that you can generate QR Codes without even leaving Adobe InDesign?

Quick Response Codes were invented in 1994 by Masahiro Hara, working for the Japanese company Denso Wave. The format’s purpose was to help keep track of automotive parts manufactured by Denso, which traditionally had multiple barcodes on each package. QR codes can represent many times the data of a barcode, so items could now be efficiently processed with a single scan.

With the advent of the smartphone, QR codes have found a non-industrial purpose and have been steadily appearing everywhere. In this context, they can be used to direct someone to a website, add a contact, or present a passage of text.

The 2021 release of Adobe InDesign added the functionality of generating QR codes directly within the package, and it couldn’t be much easier to do. In this example we will make a code that takes you to the NStudio homepage.

  1. Simply navigate to Object > Generate QR Code…
  2. In the window that appears, under Content / Type: select Web Hyperlink.
  3. Now paste or type the URL into the field. In this case, it would be https://nstudio.uk

an example of a qr code

An example of a QR Code. Scan it!

The resulting object is an embedded vector file. You can change the colour of the bounding box (which is usually white) using the Swatches palette.

Best practices for working with our scannable friends are:

  • Print at no smaller than 20mm square
  • You can change the colours of a QR code and its background. Just ensure that there is sufficient contrast, and do not invert the graphic.
  • Retain the white space that surrounds the graphic. InDesign will put the code in a padded box for you – keep text and other graphics out of it, or the code might fail to scan!
  • An ideal scan size-to-distance ratio is 10:1. So if a code is to be viewed 10m away, then it should be reproduced at around 1m square.
  • Make sure you test the code. Most modern smartphone camera apps have QR scanning software included.

Header Image: Rabbit Out of a Hat from the quite brilliant Everett Collection on Shutterstock.