Bitcoin may be a digital cryptocurrency, but keeping them secure extends into the physical world using a technique called cold storage. The earliest and most popular offline storage method is a paper wallet, which can be used in conjunction with secure hardware wallets for maximum security. You can also transfer coins directly from a paper wallet, an added benefit. Making a completely secure paper wallet requires a bit of technical know-how, but most important is simply the ability to read and follow instructions! You can make your own with an offline computer (or bootable operating system), a printer, and a USD flash drive. Got them? Let’s get started.
1. Choose Your Tool
Several tools exist for making a paper wallet – I am using https://bitcoinpaperwallet.com/ (one of the most popular) in this tutorial. Let’s start by going to the site and downloading the .zip files for your paper wallet to your computer, or downloading here from Github. After you have downloaded the zipped folder, make sure your computer is offline, then extract and run the files.
2. Open BitcoinPaperWallet
Once you are on the BitcoinPaperWallet website, move your mouse around or type random symbols in the box to use the random number generator. Once the counter reaches “0”, you will be redirected to an instructions page. A drop-down menu will allow you to change your wallet’s design, language, or type of cryptocurrency – let’s stick with Bitcoin for now.
Read the instructions carefully, then click the tab for “1. Calibrate”. Follow the instructions on that page to calibrate your printer to print your Bitcoin paper wallet.
3. Print the Front of your Bitcoin Paper Wallet
Next, click the “2. Print Front” tab. This tab gives you the option to discard the previously generated number sequence and use a random phrase or passphrase instead of the generated number. If you are storing a particularly large amount of Bitcoin or want extra security, this option may be more appealing -- we recommend using a passphrase generator like this one. Make sure to write the passphrase down, make at least a couple of copies, and laminate them for protection.
Now, you can click the “Random Generate New Wallet” button. If you receive a warning about not using a Bitcoin Wallet Import Format (WIF) private key, click “OK” to generate a new public address and private key based on your passphrase. You can use your passphrase recover the wallet if you lose the private key.
What’s the Deal with this “BIP38” Encryption Checkbox?
BIP38 encryption means that your private key cannot be recovered without your password if your paper wallet is stolen or compromised. The downside to this is that if you encrypt your private key with BIP38 and you lose your password, it will be impossible to recover the funds sent to the respective wallet.
We recommend avoiding this step unless you have a strong understanding of the BIP38 encryption and decryption workflow. Instead, just keep your wallet safe and hidden like you would jewels or cash.
Now you can click the “Print Wallet Front” button.
4. Print the Back of your Bitcoin Paper Wallet
After confirming the front printed properly, click the “3. Print Back” tab, reinsert your paper in the printer, and click the “Print Wallet Back” button – please note that the back of the wallet is intentionally bigger than the front.
5. Cut, Fold and Seal your Paper Wallet
Please consult the following video from the creator of Bitcoinpaperwallet.com for the proper way to cut, fold, and seal your paper wallet.
6. Keep your Paper Wallet Safe
Now that you have created your paper wallet, it’s important to keep it safe – after all, this is the physical form of your digital cryptocurrency. Fireproof safes, safe deposit boxes at your bank, and similar secure storage locations are all recommended. It is also good to keep multiple copies of your paper wallet, stored in separate secure locations. For additional security, don’t store digital copies or screenshots of your paper wallets on a USB or computer, and make sure your printer is offline when you print the wallet. Lastly, make sure to laminate your wallets, or store them in a waterproof plastic bag to protect from the elements.