How to Create a QR Code for a PDF: A Step-by-Step Guide

PDF to QR Code

Imagine this: you've made a picture-perfect PDF file and are looking for ways to share it with the world. Sending it by email as an attachment is a pretty standard choice, but it has its drawbacks. The file could take your recipient ages to load, and it becomes almost impossible to track. Another option, not devoid of limitations, is to print the document and hand it out manually. It comes with extra costs and the headache of keeping the information up-to-date.

So does a worthy option to bridge the physical and digital realms (and stay on budget) exist? Turns out, QR codes might just be the solution you're looking for. They provide a quick and convenient way to share data, including PDF files. And if you want to learn the nuances of how to make a QR code for a PDF, ways to use QR codes, and how they apply to your industry, this step-by-step guide will walk you through the process.


What is a QR Code

A QR, or a Quick Response code, is a type of two-dimensional barcode that can store various types of information, such as text, a phone number, or a URL. QR codes typically look like a pattern of black squares on a white background. When scanned with a dedicated reader or a regular camera on a mobile device, they instantly provide access to the encoded content.

💡 Fun fact: some say that the design of QR codes was modeled after the black and white pieces of Go, a board game popular across Asia. The resemblance is there, but QR codes were most likely just an answer to a rising demand in logistics. Traditional barcodes—the ones we still see everyday in grocery stores—couldn't carry a lot of data and took longer to scan. So the idea was to add another dimension to the parallel lines of 1D codes, and store information both horizontally and vertically.

In the modern world, QR codes are more versatile in their appearance: you can add a splash of color by changing the black and white duo into any pair of RGB shades. Some generators also let you insert a small image, like a logo, in the center of the code.

By definition, QR codes can't carry a PDF—only a web address. So you'll need to put the file online first, and the code will reflect its location. To get a link to your PDF, convert it to a digital format—a flipbook, for example, or upload the document to a cloud storage. Most third-party generators work the same way: they just place your file online in the background before creating a QR code for that destination.

PDF to QR code example

A PDF to QR code made with FlippingBook.


QR Code Types

QR codes are part of a bigger family—2D codes, which also includes data matrix codes. The two entities look similar, but data matrix codes don't have the three distinct corner squares and appear a bit more zoomed-in. Their specialty is storing serial numbers or IDs for inventory tracking and manufacturing. Data matrix codes can survive harsh environments and constant movements. PDFs don't require that level of precision and resilience, so standard QR codes would be your go-to choice.

2D codes can also be static or dynamic. With static ones, the code carries fixed information: you can't edit it anymore upon generation. If you made a mistake in the destination URL, or it became outdated, you'll have to create a completely new code. Printed materials with the old QR image will no longer serve their purpose. Keep that in mind when considering static vs. dynamic QR codes.

A dynamic QR code allows you to update the content you linked to it. The code stays the same, but will redirect people to a new URL. If you're using QR codes in physical marketing campaigns, that flexibility saves you time and money. Dynamic QR codes can also track what device was used to scan them, and when and where it happened—providing you with some data to evaluate your advertising efforts.


Applications of QR Codes for PDFs Across Industries

In 2022, 89 million smartphone users scanned a QR code with their mobile device, and all projections expect that number to grow. No wonder: QR codes are convenient both for the business and the customer, they ensure online and offline security, and they're small enough to fit anywhere. QR codes, specifically those carrying PDFs, have proven their value across numerous industries:

  • Marketing. QR codes add another dimension to flyers or leaflets, making them more engaging and worth the printing costs. They can also act as an independent content distribution channel for digital brochures, e-books, guides, and reports.
  • Hospitality. Restaurants and cafés have embraced QR codes as the new normal, while hotels and rentals use them to show check-in details, rule books, or travel suggestions to their guests.
  • Retail. Packages or in-store displays are perfect places for QR codes and the guides or interactive product catalogs encoded in them.
  • Construction. QR codes that lead to PDFs with safety guidelines or maintenance plans would be appropriate for construction sites.
  • Education. Teachers create QR codes for classroom posters or bulletin boards to give students easy access to educational materials.
  • Automotive. Besides being widespread in logistics, QR codes can be put inside cars or on motorcycles for drivers to always have the necessary maintenance information and manuals on hand.
  • Healthcare. Hospitals and clinics may place QR codes with PDFs in waiting rooms or on their patient care pamphlets.


Top QR Code Generators for PDFs

1. QR Code Generator

This online PDF-to-QR code generator by Bitly is very intuitive and easy to use. Once you sign up and start a free 14-day trial, you can make a code that leads straight to your PDF: they'll upload the file to their server for you. You may also set up a preview page with the PDF cover to reassure the people who scan the code. Note that the QR code you get will be static: dynamic ones require payment.

Creating a QR code for PDFs

Feature highlights: an optional PDF preview page, templates for different encoded formats like social media posts, SMS, or MP3.


2. Canva's QR Code Generator

Canva is primarily a design tool that lets you create all kinds of web content. Among other features, it has a free QR code generator that will simply supply a code for any link you provide. And if you don't have a PDF yet, don't fret: explore our Canva templates to make a stylish magazine, brochure, catalog, report, or even a newsletter. For those also wondering how to put a QR code on a flyer or a business card, Canva offers printing services with free standard shipping.

QR Code Generator

How to create a QR code in Canva.

Feature highlights: colored QR codes, templates for the initial PDF design, paid printing services.


3. FlippingBook

FlippingBook is an online content management platform that turns PDFs into interactive flipbooks, or digital HTML5 publications. It provides a built-in QR code generator: once you upload the file, you can get the code for it straight away. But before you do, why not explore all the benefits that come with the new format?

  • You can now share your PDF not just via QR codes, but as a direct link, a preview for social media, a trackable link, or a website embed.
  • While a PDF can look clunky on different screens, flipbooks are optimized for mobile devices. They save your readers the time and device storage on downloads.
  • Flipbooks are dynamic in nature: you can update the underlying PDF as many times as you need—it will always stay under the same link. So the QR code you generate and possibly print will instantly reflect any changes you make to the file.
  • In terms of document analytics, flipbooks go beyond the capabilities of PDF tracking. Same as with dynamic QR codes, you'll know what devices scanned the code and when. On top of that, advanced metrics like time spent, page views, link clicks, and search queries will be at your fingertips.
  • If you want your audience to really engage with the document, and not just scan, scroll, and forget all about it, QR codes alone won't help. Unlike static PDFs, flipbooks engage the reader: you can enhance the pages with videos, GIFs, and pop-up images, and add a touch of branding on top. Take a look:

Fort Kochi Brochure


Feature highlights: easy updates, interactivity, document tracking, branding, a full-featured free trial.


How to Make a QR Code for a PDF with FlippingBook

#1 Sign up for a free trial. Navigate to the sign-up page, provide your email address and create a password, or sign up with Google.

#2 Upload your PDF. Upload the file and wait for it to convert—it shouldn't take longer than a couple of minutes, depending on the PDF size.

#3 (optional) Enhance your new flipbook. Give your content the look that will resemble your brand: add a logo, a favicon, and a neat background. Embed interactive elements like videos, pop-up images, and animated GIFs. For lengthy PDFs, include internal links for easier navigation. Top it off with a CTA button or a customizable lead form, and turn your PDF into a valuable tool for lead generation.

#4 Choose a QR code among sharing options. Click Share next to your flipbook and choose the QR code icon. You can then change its desired size and download your code as a PNG file.

QR Code For PDF

#5 Share the QR code. Place it on printed materials like flyers, business cards, or ads. Display it on your website or add it to your email signature. Include it on packaging, receipts, and in-store or office displays. Possibilities are endless: share it any way you prefer.


Final Thoughts

QR codes simplify PDF sharing for everyday users: instead of typing out a URL, all it takes is a quick scan with a smartphone camera. For businesses, this innovative way of distributing documents offers security and convenience, and supplies more traffic and exposure. When deciding on a tool to create a QR code for your PDF, make sure it lets you update the linked content even after generating the code. And look into alternative digital formats for your PDF to maximize your marketing or sales efforts.

drift chat