QR images: Optimized image embedding in QR codes

Gonzalo J. Garateguy, Gonzalo R. Arce, Daniel L. Lau, Ofelia P. Villarreal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


This paper introduces the concept of QR images, an automatic method to embed QR codes into color images with bounded probability of detection error. These embeddings are compatible with standard decoding applications and can be applied to any color image with full area coverage. The QR information bits are encoded into the luminance values of the image, taking advantage of the immunity of QR readers against local luminance disturbances. To mitigate the visual distortion of the QR image, the algorithm utilizes halftoning masks for the selection of modified pixels and nonlinear programming techniques to locally optimize luminance levels. A tractable model for the probability of error is developed and models of the human visual system are considered in the quality metric used to optimize the luminance levels of the QR image. To minimize the processing time, the optimization techniques proposed to consider the mechanics of a common binarization method and are designed to be amenable for parallel implementations. Experimental results show the graceful degradation of the decoding rate and the perceptual quality as a function the embedding parameters. A visual comparison between the proposed and existing methods is presented.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6810015
Pages (from-to)2842-2853
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Image Processing
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • QR codes
  • halftoning
  • image embedding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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