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My Printer Won’t Print in Black: What Should I Do?

My Printer Won’t Print in Black: What Should I Do?

It’s a very common tale: you need to print something and your printer’s black ink has decided to take a permanent vacation. You go straight to Google and search for fixes to resolve this problem and run into several printer forums without a clear resolution. We’ve gotten calls on this issue as well so to help, we’ve put together a list of things you can do when your printer stops printing in black.

Some Basic Things To Start

1. Turn off your printer, unplug from the power source and disconnect USB cables as well. After a few moments, reconnect your printer and plug it back in. Then, turn your printer back on.

2. Print a “Quality Diagnostic Report” or a “Print Test Page”.

3. You can usually find this option on your printer’s display screen.  Or, check your printer’s user guide for step by step instructions.

4. Check printer ink levels to double check the ink volume in your cartridges. If you’re using aftermarket cartridges that don’t show ink levels, we’ll have to figure out another way to determine whether or not your ink cartridges are at fault.

Check Your Ink Cartridge

1. Replace ink cartridges that are low on ink or empty.

2. Make sure ink cartridges are snapped into place and are properly installed in their appropriate slot.

3. Double check to make sure that you’ve removed the tape over the vent if you installed a new cartridge.

4. Check if the vents of the cartridges are clogged. You can fix this by gently using a pin to clean up the clog on the vent.

5. Try using a different ink cartridge to determine if your printer is able to recognize cartridges. If your printer used to work with an old cartridge, try installing that old cartridge again and see if your printer produces any sort of output–any shade of gray will do.

We just need to determine whether if it’s the cartridge or the printhead that’s causing problems. If your printer is able to print something with the old cartridge, then it’s not the printhead. Rather, your new black cartridge may be faulty and needs to be replaced.

Check Your PrintHead

1. If switching ink cartridges doesn’t work, the next thing to check is your printhead. Make sure your printheads aren’t clogged. Most printers have an automatic printhead cleaning feature but if you’re able to remove the printhead from your printer, you can clean it manually. Here’s an article that talks about how to manually clean the printhead of an Epson printer (it pays to have a look even if your printer is a different brand).

2. If running the automatic printhead cleaning feature once doesn’t work, run it again a second or third time. There’s a limit to how many times you can run the automatic cleaning feature. Not to mention, running the automatic printhead cleaning function uses up a lot of ink!

3. Re-align the printer. For HP printers, you can find this option on your printers LCD display screen: Setup > Tools.

Advanced Fixes

If it’s not the cartridge and not the printhead, it’s possible that the problem is with the software/printer driver. Tweaking the paper settings is one way to solve the problem.  

  • Try changing the printer driver settings to select “glossy photo paper” as this may trigger the printer to start printing again. This is only applicable if your printer has two black cartridges–one dye-based and the other pigment. The type of black ink your printer uses would typically depend on the paper type selected. Pigment black works best with matte paper and dye works with glossy.  By switching from one paper type to the other, we’re hoping to trigger or jump start any of the black cartridges to work.

At this point, if that still doesn’t work and you’re sure it’s not the cartridge nor the printhead, then go ahead and reconfigure your printer. If your printer stopped working after you updated your PC or Mac’s operating system, try uninstalling and reinstalling your printer driver. You can find a downloadable version on your printer manufacturer’s website. And even if you didn’t update your OS, go ahead and reinstall your driver anyway.

If all else fails, it might be time to get a new printer. And don’t forget to recycle your printers! Printers not printing in black is a somewhat common problem, especially for older machines. Let us know if you have found any other quick fixes when troubleshooting your printer, we will gladly include them here!



  • Hi just want to say a big thank you, I’ve had no black printout for over a week on my Epsom Xp 245 , I followed your instructions and cleaned the cone and it was magic , I did one more head clean and it is now perfect , many thanks , you have made an old man very happy ,

  • I changed black ink and it still says I need to change . why?

    • Have you tried restarting your printer or reinstalling the cartridges (if it prompts you to run a calibration test, go ahead)? See what happens if you continue printing and hit OK to close the message. There may be a few reasons for this, we just need to narrow down the possibilities. It’s possible that the chip on the cartridge is faulty but before that we need to be sure your printer is reading cartridges correctly in the first place.

  • I have the Epson L355 and all ink is full. I have dont ink test but still wont print black. i have switch it off and took cable out but still nothing. Please help

    • Have you tried cleaning your contacts and nozzle to make sure they’re all clean?

  • My printer will print black if I select glossy paper thanks for that tip. But, it takes for ever and I’m sure it’s using more ink. What can I do?

    • changing the setting to glossy paper worked for me also. Thanks. But why?

  • changing the paper to glossy worked for me!! Thank you!!!!!

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