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Document Printed when the Black Ink cartridge was empty.

Tips to Print Without Black Ink

Here’s the punchline: change the colors of your document using this online tool which enables you to use the color ink cartridges. This post provides an example of this working, along with an explanation of why it works.

Successfully Printing without Black Ink: From Black to Blue

When you run out of black in and try to print a document it can look nearly blank, like this:

Doesn’t work! An attempt to print on a HP Deskjet that ran out of black ink (HP 61 Black). This HP printer is similar to other “thermal inkjet” printers such as those made by Epson, Sharp, IBM, Brother, Dell, and Kodak.

Switching all the colors of the document to blue can make it print legibly, like this:

Success! Print of a PDF converted to blue.
So much successful printing after converting PDF colors!

Top 5 Tips to Print without Black Ink

It is possible to print without black ink, see below! Note that all of the tips might work on some printer but not others… there is a large variation in printer technology, models, and conditions.

Tip #1: Switch your Document Colors

Switching the colors of the text and images can make printing successfully. In a Word Doc, you may be able to select all and then change the color of fonts. If your word doc contains images or if you have a PDF, then the process can be achieved with this SuperTool: an online tool that converts all the colors in a document.

Switching document colors can produce a successful print

Inkjet printers spray small droplets of ink onto paper. Colors are combined on the paper to where various colors appear as form images and text.

The green line represents voltage over time. As the voltage varies, ink is “dropped” (not jetted) out and lands on the paper. Nonetheless, piezo-electric dropping is still one method in the family of inkjet printing.

If you try to print using an ink cartridge that is empty or nearly empty nothing will come out and your paper will remain white. But if your printer has color ink (in one or more cartridges), then it should work!

Tip #2: Try to Print Multiple Times

Sometimes merely printing the same document multiple times can increase the sharpness and boldness. As the ink warms up and as the tubes become less blocked, more ink can flow. Here’s an illustrative set of printing a document three times after being converted to blue using the PDF Color Change tool:

Three attempts to print using an inkjet printer that was unused for months. Notice in the first print, the title of the document is completely missing the first few letters. The second print is better. The third print is even darker, bolder, and is a more-than-adequate substitute for a printing a document when you are out of black ink.

What kinds of colors can your print without Black Ink?

The example image below shows you can print a variety of colors without black ink. The print was made on an inkjet printer that had no remaining ink in its HP 61 black cartridge, but did have ink in the HP 61 tricolor cartridge.

A print with the black HP 61 ink cartridge nearly empty can yield a variety of colors.

Tip #3: Try shaking the printer ink cartridges

Shaking may increase the viscosity of the ink and unclog the opening. This can make the ink flow more easily. Clearly this only works if you have some ink in the cartridge. Often the cartridges feel light and empty, but there is some left! This isn’t quite like shaking a polaroid picture, but it can still make images appear like magic!

Tip #4: Try Cleaning and Aligning

Sometimes a printer will produce a nearly blank page even though there is actually black ink available. Cleaning can unclog lines. Aligning can make things line up to produce more solid and bold prints. To clean and align, first try to use the menu on the printer. If you can’t figure it out there, try to open your Printer settings on your computer. There is often a button or two to click on that cleans and/or aligns.

Tip #5: Remove your black ink cartridge

Try removing your black ink cartridge — sometimes this “tricks” your printer and makes it print black from the color cartridge.