QR Codes in Newspapers – What to Avoid

QR Codex

When submitting your advertising containing QR Codes to newspapers there are several things to consider.


Poor print quality can render a QR Code unreadable by many QR Code readers or scanners.

The number one, most important of all, is to make sure – that if your QR Code is Black & White – it MUST be printed on the black plate ONLY. Rich black which is commonly used in other printing processes should be avoided in newspaper printing. This process uses some ink on every plate – which is CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. This process uses much more ink to create black which can lead to hard to read text and QR Codes that are blurry and muddy instead of crisp black. The bottom line is that you chance having a non-readable, muddy mess should there be any mis-registration which is not uncommon in newspaper printing.

HOW TO AVOID: Specify that QR Code should print on black plate only. Ask for a confirmation proof.

Dot Gain – Ink Spread

Another problem that can be an issue when printing on newsprint or other porous papers is dot gain or ink spread. Images are converted to half-tones or dot patterns for printing. When ink comes in contact with newsprint during the printing process there can be up to a 30% gain in size of the ink dot. This us usually accounted for in the plate preparation. When a QR Code is very dense (lots of tiny squares) and printed too small, dot gain can cause the spaces to close up which can render the QR Code unreadable.

If your code can not be scanned, your QR Code campaign can be a total loss!

There are QR Code scanners that will read this QR Code, but many won’t. Why take the chance that your target audience may not be able to scan your QR Code?


QR codes need to have a quiet zone around the edge. Designers have in many cases put QR Codes on a sea of color with that color butting up to the edge of the code.  Many QR Code scanners can not read a code with no quiet space or border matching the background of the code. For best results leave a space equal to a 2-4 module width.

Size Matters

Yes, size does matter when it comes to QR Codes. When printing QR Codes in a newspaper, you don’t have to print oversized codes since you can assume that the scanner will be close enough for a quick scan. Problems can arise when QR Codes are printed too small. The smaller the code the greater chance of scanning error. When coupled with color registration issues and dot gain, printing a QR Code too small can indeed result in a muddy mess!

What issues have you seen with QR Codes published in newspapers?