Introduction: The Ultimate Nerdbait: How to Make Scannable QR Code Bar Code Street Art

Picture of The Ultimate Nerdbait: How to Make Scannable QR Code Bar Code Street Art

I wanted to promote my website,, but wanted a more original way to get the word out then simple QR codes or advertisements.  I wanted to make street art out of it.

This a tutorial on how to make street art stencils out of them. No smartphone toting nerd can resist the allure when they see one painted on the sidewalk they're walking on. They have to scan it.

Step 1: Where to Get the Code

Picture of Where to Get the Code

Just use Google to find a QR Code Generator

Step 2: Making a CAD Model of the Stencil

Picture of Making a CAD Model of the Stencil

I traced the QR Code into a CAD program.  It took me about one lunch break.  I also connected some of the corner pieces so they wouldn't be "knife edges".  The codes are pretty robust and forgiving to little doodads like that.

Step 3: Cutting Out the Stencil

Picture of Cutting Out the Stencil

I cut my stencil out of a sheet of scrap aluminum.

Step 4: Painting With the Stencil!

Picture of Painting With the Stencil!

Spray paint works too, but I wanted something that would wash off, so I used finger paint.

Step 5: The Finished Product

Picture of The Finished Product

This is what the finished product looks like.  You can even scan the image!  It goes to my website,


Adastra62 (author)2012-10-22

I posted one on my facebook page that read:

"Nosey little sucker aren't we?"
Made you look...
Don't you have work to do instead of being on Facebook? LOL

Got many haha's from that one and a couple of replies of:

but hey I get that all the time. :D

carakiller (author)2011-07-06

Responsible :)

AwkwardEngineer (author)2011-06-15

Wow. Thanks for the response everyone! I had a couple ideas in mind for the future...

A writeup on what happens to typewritten entries from my blog ( and how I bind the loose leaf sheets into a book,


an idea to replace my light switch with an e-stop button.

Thanks for reading!

-The Awkward Engineer

vishalapr (author)2011-06-02

This is soooo cool, have a look at my ible entered in the LED contest as well

cody777 (author)2011-06-01

i think ill try and free hand it on a piece of plexy, on summer break so no cnc for me

andy70707 (author)2011-05-26

Awesome, I just need to find someone with a laser cutter now. We have one at college, but I doubt they would just let me use it for my own project. Its about 30 years old and randomly cuts off things you don't want.

askjerry (author)andy707072011-05-29

You said "...randomly cuts off things you don't want."

Sounds painful... (evil grin.)

Where are you at... I'm in Kyle TX, about 1/2 hour south of Austin... and I have a 35W laser cutter.


andy70707 (author)askjerry2011-05-29

Yea, and I'm from the UK, college is between high school and university (What you would call college). Ours is 30w, and it works ok, but you generally have to cut things 2 or 3 times because halfway through cutting, it seems to offset itself by about 5 centimetres or so, completely randomly.

askjerry (author)andy707072011-05-29

1) You likely have a unit with an optical position sensor (quadrature encored) rather than a stepper type... could be you need to clean the optical strip.
2) There could be a loose connection to the sensor or between the processor and the driver.
3) The driver may need to be reinstalled.

I know a few things about laser repair...

Wish I could help you more,

andy70707 (author)askjerry2011-05-30

Yea, I know it has an optical sensor as it has to be aligned often, and it does cause problems when cutting translucent acrylic as it has to be focused with a solid piece first, then you have to quickly swap the acrylic before cutting starts. It is an ancient 1980s laser cutter with a parallel printer port. The laser seems to be a lot weaker than 30w too, but unfortunately it isn't mine to repair. Hopefully we will get a new one soon, I usually end up having to stay an hour or so at the end of the day just to finish cutting some acrylic.

cody777 (author)andy707072011-06-01

wow im glad the one at my school uses a plasma torch all you got to do is set hight an speed as if you where just free handing it. it does make weird angles if the tip is starting to go bad and you cutting thick metal

amdivoff (author)askjerry2011-05-30

wow hook a fellow texan out. im in cedar park

askjerry (author)amdivoff2011-05-30

Get in touch with me and we can chat.


bhylak (author)andy707072011-05-29

That could be (will be) a huge problem for qr codes..

circuitboardsushi (author)2011-05-29

solidworks has a trial version?

yeah i have it, i just asked real nice at butte college here in chico, try a local community college


hintss (author)Syko Pyro2011-05-31


geppetto425 (author)2011-05-29

Why not just make one up? Drive the person trying to scan it nuts......( from a non-nerd)

timderami (author)geppetto4252011-05-31

Great idea. This would be even better than changing the arrows on "Garage Sale" signs.

kimblebear (author)2011-05-30

Waht a fantastic idea

So simple - but then again all great ideas are

grey_starr (author)2011-05-30

Maybe try a Rasterbator to print it.... such as ...

agittins (author)2011-05-29

Nice stuff. For an easier time with the graphics part of it, you can use a generator like which can give you the QR-Code in SVG (scalable vector graphics) format which you can then import into most good drawing programs, including free ones like inkscape. I recently did a small billboard sign and used exactly those tools. Love the illustrations.

redfoxtrystman (author)2011-05-29

i have a vinyl cutter and this would work great. you can just cut it and stick it like a sticker, or use low tac vinyl and stick it use your choice of paint and remove the vinyl.

hedgerus (author)2011-05-29

Corel draw is another good option. Also, Solidworks has a trace function, but I haven't had much of a chance to try it out, and I don't think it would be available on the tutorial. Really the only thing that you need is some sort of vector graphics software because that is what the laser engraver needs since they cut vectors and engrave bitmaps.

janetsellers08 (author)2011-05-29

I think its a great idea. I think you could also use the common craft store stencil blanks or card stock, and just print this from your computer to print, then use the friendly ol exacto knife and some time cutting out all the black parts to reveal the stencil for painting. Before the days of plastic stencils, we used to put linseed oil on the card stock so it was strong to paints. Nowdays, kids use a sticker program and put stickers all over town - comes off in the rain or just eventually wears off.

Also, you could spray watered down washable paint with a spray bottle, too.

pimpdoubt (author)janetsellers082011-05-29

I made QR code stencils a while back for shirts, cardstalk and xacto is all you really need :P
Most QR codes need a two layer stencil though, as they have enclosed spaces.

Sitnalta (author)2011-05-29

Better yet just import it into Flash and vectorize it using the Trace Bitmap function. Then you could just go to a graphics shop and get a silkscreen made of it.

worldgnat (author)2011-05-29

I believe the arrow on the pile of money is going the wrong way. If not, I need to find more friends with laser cutters and water jets.

Also, brilliant instructable. It's very well written and illustrated.

MaXoR (author)worldgnat2011-05-29

lol.... yeah, aparently when you own a laser cutter, you're now able to GIVE money away to the clients you do work for.... AMAZING!! (Got an ible for how to do that?)

Lol, great instructable. The finger paint is a great idea, just be careful, since any art placed on a sidewalk, in a few states, is considered graffiti. Sadly because of the "soccer Moms" of the world, we are politically correct down to an annoyance already!

Remember the story of the four year old girl who was charged with vandalism for drawing a hop scotch on here front sidewalk, out front their house.

Her parents were charged, and if it hadn't made it to the news, they would have actually had to pay it too.... luckily it was dropped after the public found out.... still, the police stood by their laws, stating this doesn't change the law, just made them re-assess the ramifications of their currently laid charges against the 4 yr old girls parents.... DUUUHHHH YOU THINK!

jamie60509 (author)worldgnat2011-05-29

I think the arrows are pointing to the things labelled so the pic is correct.

Great instructable :)

CEVMarauder (author)2011-05-29

Awesome instructable. Could you just print a greatly enlarged (or even Rasterbated) copy of the QR and silkscreen it onto a large sheet?

And what's preventing a sick person (or normal 4chan member) from generating QRs for links to Goatse, Lemonparty, etc and posting them around town? Wait....

"I know what we're going to do today!"

chiwawap (author)2011-05-29

Cute :)

houndstoothy (author)2011-05-29

DISCLAIMER- I work for TechShop! BUT, it is an affordable option for laser cutting and you get to learn to do it yourself to boot. We even have a water jet in San Francisco, but it's not up and running quite yet.

Windy Miller (author)2011-05-29

Excellent idea..just gotta try this!

FuzzyBearGeek (author)2011-05-29

You are wonderful. What a killer and funny comic instructable you used to make this as well!

splazem (author)2011-05-29


0utcast (author)2011-05-29

This is absolutely brilliant! I'm going to try to use these QR Codes everywhere! Thanks for the idea!

phenoptix (author)2011-05-25

Awesome, simple instructable but so effective!

andy70707 (author)phenoptix2011-05-26

Oh hey, is it phenoptix from eBay? I have bought many of your 0603 SMD LEDs :)

phenoptix (author)andy707072011-05-26

That's me! Thanks for all your custom!! I'm a long time lurker and once contributor to instructables! Are you an xbox modder? Seems most of our 0603 SMD customers are!

andy70707 (author)phenoptix2011-05-26

Yea, I have a website selling xbox mods. I buy most of my LEDs from you! 

phenoptix (author)andy707072011-05-26

Nice clean site! Fast too. Any why only most?!

andy70707 (author)phenoptix2011-05-26

Thanks, I usually get a few 0603s with my mod chips, but as my supplier no longer sells them, I have to buy the chips and program them myself, so I will require more LEDs, I will probably buy from you. I will probably buy 100 or so soon.

phenoptix (author)andy707072011-05-27

I look forward to hearing from you! Have you seen the new site yet?

zazenergy (author)2011-05-25

very cool and simple qr project. i see those all the time and it's nice to know how they're done.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a mechanical engineer. I'm a bit odd and I like makin' stuff!
More by AwkwardEngineer:Typewriter File Storage (How to Bind a Book)The Ultimate Nerdbait: How to Make Scannable QR Code Bar Code Street Art
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