Monday, September 7, 2015

Creating Vibrant, Customized QR Codes

As part of my annual library orientation for 9th graders, the students do a scavenger hunt, finding various items in the library. Some of the activities require them to scan QR codes. In one case the QR code takes them to a clue of what they need to search in the library catalog. In another, I ask them to scan codes to reach and follow one of the library's social media options - our blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, or Instagram feed. I'll be writing more about the the scavenger hunt in the Mira Costa High School Library Blog. For this posting, I am focusing on creating QR codes.

There are plenty of QR code generators out there. Most create a simple black QR code. For my scavenger hunt and library walls, though, I wanted something prettier and more dynamic. So, I went with my current favorite custom QR code generator: Snipp QR ( This site allows you to choose custom colors, a whole variety of styles, and to add logos and other images to the center of your code to easily identify what the code is for.

Here are some of the QR codes I made:

As you can see, each of them:
  • identifies where it goes to with either a logo or text in the middle
  • is in Mira Costa's "green and gold" colors
Here's a quick rundown of how I made them, in case you would like to make your own vibrant, customized QR codes:
  1. Go to Snipp QR.
  2. Paste in the URL of the site where you want the QR code to take the scanner.
Note: If the URL for your site is long, use a URL shortener, like, to shorten it first. The shorter the URL the less busy and more attractive the QR code will be.
  1. Choose the body style and eye style you want. The body is the main design. The eye style is the three eye-like elements you see in three of the four corners of the design. To give you an idea of how these work, here's a design with "normal" body and "normal" eyes. 

          And, here, as a comparison, is one with a fuzzy body design and warped eyes:

  1. Next, choose the colors. You can have different colors for the foreground, background, and the eyes if you like. I went with Mira Costa's green for the foreground, and gold for the eyes, and left the background the default white. When you click on one of these three options, a Select Color box appears. You can either move your cursor around in this box to select a color, or you can type or paste in the html color code for an exact color. 
  1. If you want to match an exact color, one of the tools to use is the Chrome Eye Dropper extension. You can add it to your Browser by selecting Chrome Settings, then search for the extension. I clicked on the extension in the toolbar, and then selected the colors I wanted from the school website. As you can see here, it then displays the code for your selected color, and you can copy that into your clipboard and paste it into the Snipp QR Select Color box:

  1. Next, click on Image to display options for inserting an image in the middle of the code. You can choose from a number of icons, like the Twitter icon I added in the example below, or you can upload your own image:
  1. To create your own image to upload for the QR code center, you can use, Google Drawings, or any other graphics application. 
  2. As you will see when you visit Snipp QR, there are a number of other options available that you can explore, but you don't need to use them all! 
  3. Do make sure to test the code by clicking the Test Code option:
           It will confirm if the test worked.
  1. Also actually test the code yourself with your own QR code reader. If you don't yet have a QR code reader, a great free choice to go with is i-nigma. I learned about it several years ago from Gwyneth Jones, The Daring Librarian. Just search for it in the Apps Store or Google Play Store.
  2. Oddly, Snipp QR doesn't have a Save button, but it lets you email the code to yourself. When you do, you can choose the format, with options including .png, .bmp, .jpeg, .pdf, and .pdf. I usually to select .png, a good graphics file option. Another easy way to save, if you have a Mac, is to simply do a screen capture by holding down Cmd+Shift+4 all at once, then dragging from one corner of the image to the opposite diagonal corner while holding down your mouse or trackpad. This creates a .png of the image on your desktop.  
  3. You can now import the graphics file into a Word processing document or display it with the Preview app on your Mac to print. 
Snipp QR offers so many lively options for QR codes. Have fun exploring them and making cool codes!