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Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.

Generating A QR Code With iTextPDF 7 Barcodes In Lucee CFML

By Ben Nadel on
Tags: ColdFusion

At InVision, my teammate Josh Siok has been experimenting with the use of QR Codes as a means to send prototypes to a user's mobile device. I know of QR Codes; but, I've never generated one before. As such, I wanted to see if I could generate a QR Code in ColdFusion. To this end, I came across Tim Cunningham's QRToad library which uses iTextPDF 5 under the hood. However, the latest version of iTextPDF is 7.1.13, which has a different API. As, I wanted to see if I could generate a QR Code with iTextPDF 7 in Lucee CFML

Tim's QRToad library works by generating an iTextPDF QR Code raster image which he then draws to a ColdFusion Image object through the underlying Java API. One major difference that I can see between the v5 and v7 iTextPDF API is that I can no longer provide a width and height to the BarcodeQRCode class. As such, when I go to generate a QR Code using the same strategy, the resultant QR Code image was tiny - something like 30-pixels across.

After digging around in the Java Docs a bit more, I discovered the QRCodeWriter class, which does take dimensions. However, instead of returning an Image, the QRCodeWriter class returns a ByteMatrix, which is two-dimensional array of On/Off pixel flags. Of course, in ColdFusion, we have the ability to draw points on an Image object canvas; so, I decided to try drawing the pixel values as individual points on a ColdFusion Image:


	param name="url.value" type="string" default="";

	qrCodeImage = generateQrCode( url.value, 500, 500, "e0005a" )
		.write( "./qr-code.png", 1, true )

	// ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- //
	// ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- //

	* I generate a QR Code that encodes the given value. The width and height represent
	* the minimum dimensions of the rendered image; but, the QR Code may exceed the given
	* dimensions if the minimum does not provide enough space to encode the given value.
	* @value I am the URL to encode in the QR Code.
	* @minWidth I am the minimum width of the QR Code image.
	* @minHeight I am the minimum height of the QR Code image.
	public struct function generateQrCode(
		required string value,
		required numeric minWidth,
		required numeric minHeight,
		required string color,
		string backgroundColor
		) {

		var byteMatrix = getByteMatrix( value, minWidth, minHeight );

		// Note that we are NOT using the minWidth / minHeight values when calculating
		// the QR Code image dimensions. That's because those values were MINIMUM values
		// that may have been exceeded. As such, we have to get the dimensions of the
		// QR Code image from the generated matrix.
		var qrCodeWidth = byteMatrix.getWidth();
		var qrCodeHeight = byteMatrix.getHeight();
		var qrCodeImage = imageNew( "", qrCodeWidth, qrCodeHeight, "argb" )
			.setAntialiasing( "off" )

		// If a background color was provided, paint over the entire canvas.
		if ( ! isNull( backgroundColor ) ) {

				.setDrawingColor( backgroundColor )
				.drawRect( 1, 1, qrCodeWidth, qrCodeHeight, true )


		qrCodeImage.setDrawingColor( color );

		// The ByteMatrix is a two-dimensional array of ON/OFF pixel values. Let's
		// iterate over the ByteMatrix and draw a point for every ON pixel.
			index = "local.y"
			item = "local.row"
			array = byteMatrix.getArray()

				index = "local.x"
				item = "local.pixelValue"
				array = row

				if ( pixelValue ) {

					qrCodeImage.drawPoint( x, y );




		return( qrCodeImage );


	* I generate a ByteMatrix (two-dimensional array of pixel-data) for a QR Code that
	* encodes the given value. The min width and height set the size of the QR Code; but,
	* the size may exceed the given dimensions if more room is needed to encode the
	* value. With the ByteMatrix, a zero is "no color" and a non-zero (-1 or 1) is a
	* colored-in location. 
	* @value I am the URL to encode in the QR Code.
	* @minWidth I am the minimum width of the QR Code image.
	* @minHeight I am the minimum height of the QR Code image.
	public any function getByteMatrix(
		required string value,
		required numeric minWidth,
		required numeric minHeight
		) {

		var jarFiles = [
			expandPath( "./barcodes-7.1.13.jar" )
			// CAUTION: Maven said that the following JAR files were compile dependencies
			// of the iText library. However, it seems that I can generate the ByteMatrix
			// for the QR Code without including them.
			// --
			// expandPath( "./bcpkix-jdk15on-1.64.jar" ),
			// expandPath( "./bcprov-jdk15on-1.64.jar" ),
			// expandPath( "./io-7.1.13.jar" ),
			// expandPath( "./kernel-7.1.13.jar" )

		var writer = createObject( "java", "com.itextpdf.barcodes.qrcode.QRCodeWriter", jarFiles );

		return( writer.encode( value, minWidth, minHeight ) );



	<!doctype html>
	<html lang="en">
		<meta charset="utf-8" />
			Generating A QR Code With iTextPDF 7 Barcodes In Lucee CFML 

		<form method="get">
				value="#encodeForHtmlAttribute( url.value )#"
				style="font-size: inherit ; padding: 10px ;"
			<button type="submit" style="font-size: inherit ; padding: 10px ;">

			<img src="./qr-code.png" />



As you can see, I'm using ColdFusion's .drawPoint( x, y ) Image method to translate "on" pixel values in the ByteMatrix into colored-in portions of the Image object. It sounds tedious, but it runs quite fast. And, when we run this ColdFusion code, we get the following browser output:

A QR Code generated with iTextPDF 7 and Lucee CFML.

It works like a charm! I am sure there is a slightly less brute-force way to generate the QR Codes without having to translate low-level pixel data. But, this was the only way I could figure out in a few mornings of R&D.

A Note on the iTextPDF Dual-Licensing Model

I should note that the iTextPDF core library is open source; but, using it for free requires you to also open source your own application. That said, they do have a paid version which does not require you to expose your own source code.

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