A bitcoin paper wallet. On the leftside there's the text 'Load & Verify' with a QR code above it (small black and white squares inside of a larger white square). In the middle there's text saying 'bitcoin' with the text 'Amount:' below it. On the right side there's another QR code above the text 'Spend'.
The average bitcoin paper wallet. You could technically steal the funds held in this wallet, but that would be a waste of your time considering there are no bitcoins in this wallet.

Bitcoin paper wallets are a great, simple, and secure method to store your precious bitcoins. While creating and using a paper wallet may be simple, much confusion still stands behind the how. Today I’m going to show you how to create a bitcoin paper wallet, and explain how they work. But first, let’s see the positive and negative sides of a paper wallet:

Positive sides

  • Pretty much the only way someone can steal your bitcoins (assuming your private key wasn’t compromised while creating the paper wallet) is for someone to physically see the paper wallet
  • Easy to create
  • Fun way to share bitcoins with friends and to “physically” own bitcoins
  • Can be used at a store to spend bitcoins without virtually bringing your bitcoin wallet with you

Negative sides

  • The private key’s QR code (Quick Response Code) can be damaged. Most paper wallets also include the private key physically written down, but this can be damaged too. A way to prevent this is to print out multiple paper wallets.
  • If someone steals your paper wallet and you don’t have it BIP38 encrypted (see below for an explanation of this), they can steal all of the bitcoins stored on the paper wallet
  • Someone can guess or use brute force to get your private key, giving them access to all of your bitcoins. However, this is true for any type of wallet, and the odds of this happening are extremely slim (could take quadrillions of years for a computer to guess a private key that contains bitcoins). See this discussion on StackExchange for an explanation of this vulnerability.
  • Your private key can be compromised during the creation of the paper wallet (the website you use to create the paper wallet could be not safe or hacked into, your printer can be hacked into, the application you use to scan the QR codes can be accessed remotely so someone can see what you’ve scanned, etc.)
A bitcoin paper wallet. On the left side there's the text 'Load & Verify' with a QR code above it (small black and white squares inside of a larger white square). In the middle there's text saying 'bitcoin' with the text 'Amount:' below it. On the right side there's another QR code above the text 'Spend'.
The average bitcoin paper wallet. You could technically steal the bitcoins held in this wallet, but that would be a waste of your time considering there are no bitcoins in this wallet.

What you will need:

  1. A bitcoin wallet with bitcoins already in it
  2. Internet access
  3. A printer with ink (can be black & white)
  4. Printer paper

Optional, but suggested:

  1. Scissors
  2. A secure place in real life (to store the paper wallet)
  3. A smartphone with a QR code reader application

Please note that an asterisk (*) next to a step denotes that the step is optional. For this tutorial we will assume that you have already created a bitcoin wallet and have bitcoins already in it. If you need a bitcoin wallet, learn how to make one at Bitcoin.org.

Note: a QR code reader application is generally not required for using a paper wallet (in most cases, and in the method used in this tutorial). The deposit address and private key are often written on the wallet.

1. Go to bitaddress.org, and either type into the box or move your mouse around the screen. This generates randomness to ensure that you’re getting a different wallet from everyone else using the site. Click on ‘Paper Wallet’ and use these settings:

    • Addresses to generate: 1 (larger number means more addresses generated)
    • BIP38 Encrypt? Highly advised to check*, but not required. If you check this off, make sure to remember the password, as it is nearly impossible to recover your bitcoins if you forget your password.
    • Passphrase: If you checked BIP38, enter a strong, hard to guess (mix lowercase and capital letters and numbers, and try to use at least eight but preferably more characters) password. If you didn’t check off BIP38, skip this box.
    • Addresses per page: 1

2. Click on the ‘Print’ button in the top right. If you don’t see this button, just print the entire page.
3.* Cut out the white, non-used part of the wallet.

Black scissors cutting a small (about 3x5 inch) bitcoin paper wallet out of a larger 8x11 inch paper.
Cutting out the paper wallet is optional, but it makes it smaller, easier to store, and looks nicer

4.* Download a QR code scanner on your mobile device. I used RedLaser.
5.* Scan the QR code above the ‘Load & Verify’ text (if you have art turned off, scan the QR code on the left). This is your deposit address to store the bitcoins in the wallet. I highly suggest you copy this address and send it to yourself via email, to ensure you don’t make a mistake while typing it in. There is no worry about security in this step; your wallet address can be accessed by anyone and coins cannot be stolen from you by just giving your wallet address. Send however many bitcoins you want to this address from a wallet you own that already has bitcoins stored. Your bitcoins are now stored in the paper wallet!

A QR code (small black and white squares inside of a larger white square) with the text 'Load & Verify' below it and the text 'Center the barcode then tap to focus. Avoid glare and shadows.' below that. There is a red line going through the QR code, showing it is being scanned.
Scanning the QR code that holds my bitcoin address using the iPhone application ‘RedLaser

6.* Write how many bitcoins you’ve stored in the wallet in the bottom middle of the wallet, next to the ‘Amount:’ text.
7.* Hide your paper wallet in a secure place, but make sure that the QR code can’t be damaged.

How to get the bitcoins out of your paper wallet

So, you’ve hidden away the bitcoins and you want to be able to actually use your bitcoins stored in the paper wallet. If you did check off ‘BIP38’ in step 1, head over to the ‘If you included BIP38’ section below. If you didn’t include BIP38, find your way to the ‘If you didn’t include BIP38’ section.

If you included BIP38

8. Scan the code on the right side of your bitcoin paper wallet, above the “Spend” text. Go back to bitaddress.org and go to the ‘Wallet Details’ tab. Enter the code you received from scanning, making sure not to make any misteaks. Enter your password when you’re requested to and voila, you have your private key!
9.Import the private key into whichever wallet you’re using. Each wallet contains different methods for importing private keys. If you don’t know how to import your private key, google “import bitcoin private key (your wallet program’s name here)”. Good luck!

If you didn’t include BIP38

8. Scan the code on the right side of your bitcoin paper wallet, above the “Spend” text. This is your private key.
9. Import the private key into whichever wallet you’re using. Each wallet contains different methods for importing private keys. If you don’t know how to import your private key, google “import bitcoin private key (your wallet program’s name here)”. Good luck!

I hope this tutorial was both informative and helpful! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or email me at [email protected]

Neither CryptoCoinsNews.com nor Jonathan Saewitz are responsible for any bitcoins lost or problems that occur due to this tutorial.