Do QR codes have to be square?

In short, yes.

You’re probably wondering how that could possibly be true when you’ve seen QR codes in all shapes and sizes with your very own eyes.

Round QR codes, like the ones we generate at Hovercode, or even weirder shaped ones like clouds or cats do exist, but the functional, scannable part of QR codes are always square.

The shape you’re seeing is a template designed around a square QR code. The square part is what can be scanned.

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

QR code shape examples

Here are some round QR codes (the first is a default QR code made with Hovercode and the second has an added logo and some brand colors)

Round QR codes

Here are the same QR codes with the pattern around the square removed. The remaining square is the functional part of the QR code.

Round QR code with pattern removed

Here are some examples of QR code shapes that are more out there (created with other QR code generators). The highlighted sections are the functional parts of the QR codes that can be scanned. Anything outside of that square is purely there for design reasons.

A QR code in the shape of a car and a QR code in the shape of a turtle

Should I use QR codes with different shapes?

We obviously love round QR codes at Hovercode. We think they look better than squares 90% of the time while still being easy to see and scan. When using a round code, the key is making sure the pattern outside the square blends in perfectly with the QR pattern (otherwise it doesn't look right!)

In terms of using shapes other than circles or squares, it depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your design. If you’re going for a playful style, a QR code in the shape of a sheep or balloon or anything playful is worth trying.

If you’re using QR codes for purely functional reasons and brand/design matters less (e.g. some sort of medical or educational use case) then using a black and white square is your best bet.

How to create QR codes with different shapes?

If you want to create a truly custom shape for your QR code, you can do this by generating a regular square QR code, then importing it into a design tool like Figma or Canva to create a shape around it. The tricky part is creating the QR-style pattern around the square. While possible in the mentioned design tools, it takes a lot of time and effort.

A more practical option is to use a QR code generator that lets you create various shapes. There are quite a few generators that let you choose your shape, but it’s worth trying a few to make sure you like the outcome.

We stick with circles and squares at Hovercode, but some other generators let you create more options (e.g. QrCodeChimp).

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