Home » How to print without black ink?

Ok, I think this is going to be my last tutorial regarding printers, and the only reason I’m doing it because Allan had a situation yesterday where his printer run out of black ink, and he still needed his A3 poster of Kyle Jenner (just kidding man, I know it was #businessimportantthings).

So with that story in mind I wanted to cover one last article, but before we do that let’s check what else I wrote in the past few weeks and maybe one of them can help you in further solving your issue, here are the big six: Epson printer doesn’t recognize Ink Cartridge, How To Extend Ink Cartridge Life, How To Reset Epson Ink Cartridges?, HP Printer Error Code Cheat Sheet, My HP Printer Doesn’t Work, Canon PGI and Canon CLI Ink Difference.

In case your problem is not connected to the above explained issues, let’s try to sort it out in a different way, because today we’re going to talk about how to print without black ink.

You shouldn’t be printing with empty cartridges, here’s why

I know  how it is, you don’t have to tell me, these ink and toner things are getting out of control. Nowadays you would need at least $100 to refill your whole machine, so I’m on your side, believe me, but there is actually a good reason why some companies, like HP for an example, don’t let you print with an empty cartridge, regardless if it’s just one empty unit.

Basically, your machine consists of several parts, from which one is a bit more complicated then the rest, and it’s the print head of your device together with its nozzles (I’m going to share a picture below so that you get the point). Once you assign a print job to the device, it will start sucking out ink from all of the cartridges, regardless of the print color, just to maintain the print head and keep the overall flow of liquid within the machine flowing. As an example, we all grew up on Capri Sun juices, right? Well, imagine this, you suck on a box through a straw for a while, and at one point you find yourself with an empty juice box and, in stead of juice, you have a lot of air within your mouth with a few sprinkles here and there – well, a weird example, but the same thing happens with the print head when it sucks on an empty cartridge, it gets air inside the machine, and this damages it in some cases.

Not only that, depending on the printer, the ink is being used for other things, not just printing. With thermal inkjet printers, the ink in the cartridges is also used for cooling down the device, which in return keeps the thermal components happy. In some piezoelectric vacuum systems, in Epson printers as an example, air is the worst enemy of the nozzles, which contain a small crystal which works properly only when ink is flowing through the nozzle. If air comes in, you’re having an issue which is not easily solved, even if you decide to replace the cartridge, air will still be there and cause print quality issues.

So, to keep the natural flow of ink, the print jobs and cleaning cycles, you should always have at least some ink in all of the cartridges. If you see that you’re slowly running out of black ink, try to implement some of the solutions below when you still have some black ink left, and use up other colors while the machine can still maintain the print head and cleaning cycles with the rest of ink.

printing with empty cartridges how to epson

Is the cartridge really empty and how does the printer know?

The funny thing about computers is that sometimes we think that there is a really complicated technology behind it, but it’s basically just zeros and ones. An example with printers is this, when you buy a cartridge, this cartridge comes with a chip on its back. The chip is being read by the printer and is signaling him hey, look, I’m new, and here’s a certain number of pages I can print, which, for the sake of this article, is 300 pages – and now the process goes like this:

  1. The black ink cartridge (or any other cartridge) has a chip
  2. The chip signals the printer that it has ink for “around 300 pages”
  3. You connect the printer to the computer and install the drivers/its software.
  4. The computer is sending the print jobs to the printer
  5. The printer software is calculating the amount of pages from a certain color
  6. The printer software is deducting the amount of “printed pages” from the number of the “available pages”.
  7. Once the software figures out that you printed out 150 pages of black text, it tells you that the ink cartridge is at 50%.
  8. Finally, as you probably figured it out, once the software calculates around 290 to 299 of printed pages, it tells you that there is no ink, but –
  9. There is still ink for a few pages left, which is used for the print head and regular printer cycles and is not available for actual printing.

To make the whole story even more interesting, HP, which I constantly trash because of their business practices, had intentionally programmed the chips so that they offer a made up number of available print jobs, regardless of the amount of ink in them. So basically, you would get a “ink cartridge empty error“, but your cartridge would still be able to print around 50 pages full of written content, just because they programmed the chips in that way. It was a huge scandal back in the days, the company lost millions because of it.

So… It’s easy, we just kill the chip which signals the amount of pages, right?

Well, not quite right. There are tens and hundred thousands of printer models out there, and there are thousand variations of chips, cartridge designs and sizes, so getting a “universal method” to work with all of them is not possible, but there are ways though. I explained on how to reset Epson cartridges in this article here: How To Reset Epson Ink Cartridges?, but other manufacturers can make it quite hard.

For an example, there are a lot of DIY videos on how to mask the chip so that the printer can’t read it, one of the examples is Andrew who showed how to take out a Brother cartridge and mask it so that the printer can read it again, you can check the photos below or watch the video under this link.

But basically, there are several unsupported ways on how to do it, but you are taking a risk, because you don’t actually know how much ink you have in a cartridge which indicates an “empty” status and you  could damage your print head with these methods.

Brother Ink cartridge reset button 2

Here you can see the chip on the ink cartridge which the printer uses for reading the amount of pages.

Brother Ink cartridge reset button 2

Here you can see him putting the tape over it so that the printer can’t read it.

Should you hit your cartridges?

I’m not a big fan of violence, neither should you be, but Don Corleone, if it’s strictly business, then some exceptions apply. I’ve read on several forums that people are actually take out the cartridge which is registering as “low ink”, they hit it a few times on to the table to “push the rests of the ink” down to the hole from where the printer is sucking it out, and, look, a miracle happens, all of a sudden the cartridge is working for you, not against you.

This can go wrong in so many ways though, so I do not recommend it, but hey, you’re a grown up person, I’m a random guy on the internet telling you not to do it, and not your mother.

how to print with color ink when black ink is empty

A simple trick to save black ink while printing large print jobs

Hello fellow reader, do you see the difference in this color text in comparison to the above? No? Well, it’s because I put a dark blue color on it.

Some websites call it “the ultimate hack for printing!!11” but it’s just basic knowledge. If you’re having a large project and a low black ink cartridge, just turn the text in to dark blue, dark green or dark brown, it’s going to combine shades of the color cartridges and spare you problems in the middle of a print job.

The best thing, if you do it probably, it’s not going to be noticeable at all, but there is a downside – it doesn’t work with powerpoint presentations and PDF files, since you can’t edit those. Ok, now since we solved this, let’s go to the first solution, which is how to print without black ink on an Epson printer, let’s start!

How to make an Epson printer print without black ink

How to make an Epson printer print without black ink?

Epson is the good guy of this story, they offer affordable ink and toner cartridges, are not that picky when it comes to other manufacturers, and have a built in solution for situations in which the black ink runs out, and you still need your document. It’s always advisable to have a spare cartridge somewhere at home, at least the black version of it, but in case you have a situation in which you need to print without black ink, then this is what you can do to get that print job done properly:

How to start a new print job with no black color ink

This one is easy, your computer will show you a pop-up explaining that there is no black ink, and in case you have no spare cartridges near you, but need that document out as quickly as possible, then you can combine the color ink cartridges to create a special shade of black, and finish your print job with it. This solution is officially supported by Epson, so no worries, the only thing you need to do is tweak the settings a bit.

  • You first need to go to “Printers & Devices” in your control panel. Select your printer and right tap to open the drop down menu.
  • Tap on Properties and then tap on Color Options within the ink set field.
  • You’re going to see that the black ink is out, so you can click on the shading set choices and click Apply.

After you’re done, just start your print job and the world is back to normal.

How to re-start a print job which failed in the middle

This is the frustrating part, you’re in the middle of the print job and the printer stops with the work, tells you that there’s no more black ink, so what can you do? Well, first of all, calm down, there is a solution which is, again, fully supported by Epson. So let’s first cover the Windows version, which is:

How to print without black ink on Windows:

  • First, stop the printing procedure, but leave the printer as is, do not touch the paper or restart the device
  • Again, go to the Printer & Devices option, choose your printer, go to Quality Option and tap on Plain Paper as the Type Setting
  • In the Print Option, check Grayscale, this will restrain your prints to monochrome, tap ok
  • A pointer of your monochrome setting will now show on your screen
  • Run print again

How to print without black ink on Mac:

  • Similar to windows, you need to stop the print job, but do not power off the printer or take out the paper, leave it as it is
  • Go to the Epson Printer Utility app, open the discourse box, tap on Driver Settings
  • Check the option “Permit Temporary Black Printing”, then go to Print Settings
  • Tab plan papers for media type setting
  • Select Grayscale, click ok
  • Run print

And that, my fellow readers, is how you print without black ink on an Epson printer, in case you own one. What about other manufacturers, like HP, Canon, Brother? Let’s check it out below!

How to print without black ink

How to print without black ink on a HP printer?

Well, my friend, I’m having some bad news for you. HP is well known for over-complicating things which should be easy to manage, and similar to its business policies we’re having this particular issue that their inkjet printers are designed in such a way that you can’t print anything if one cartridge is empty.

Although I explained why this practice makes sense in the beginning of the article, I still think that they should have implemented at least some sort of solution for it. So if you want to know if you can print without black ink on a HP printer, the short answer is: HP doesn’t give you a solution.

I mean, ok, they did built in some safety measurements though, you will first get an error named Cartridge Low, after that if you do not replace the particular color you get the error saying “Black Ink Only” or “Use Color Ink Only?” – which is basically the second and last warning. After you miss to replace your ink within that error period, you will not be able to print anything, regardless if your Magenta is full or not.

How to print without black ink on HP printerSo, as of now, there is no official support or way of printing on HP printers without black ink, what you can do is open Google, type in your printer name + hide cartridge chip. The reason why I’m suggesting this is because there are several thousand models out there, and this is the only sure way of finding the right solution if you don’t have the money to buy new ink cartridges.


How to print without black ink on a Brother printer

How to print without black ink on brother printerSimilar to HP above, Brother doesn’t support printing without black ink, they do support printing with black ink only, the grayscale method, which is pretty normal within the industry, so it’s nothing to clap hands in awe. Why isn’t Brother offering a method similar to Epson? We don’t know, they are selling us the same Print Head story as HP, so again, the only solution is to again try the chip masking method. Open Google, type in your “printer name + hide cartridge chip” and check if someone did it successfully.

How to print without black ink on a Canon printer

How to print without black ink on canon printerAgain, my friend, we’re having the same situation as with Brother and HP. Canon has a mind of it’s own, and they also do not support using color ink to print when black ink is empty. There were several attempts and several controversial moves, not only from their users and fans, but also from Canon itself, and as of now, there is no solution to the problem. So, a short conclusion, printing without black ink on a Canon printer is officially not possible. Again, try the masking method mentioned above. Open Google, type in your “full printer name + hide cartridge chip” and check if someone did it successfully.

So, what’s the conclusion?

Always have spare cartridges and monitor your ink levels regularly. Once you buy a printer, buy additional cartridges with it. Once you start printing, check the ink levels and, if needed, immediately check to print with color cartridges in case black is on a 50% level.

And in case you do find yourself in a helpless situation, just Google the name of “your printer + cartridge chip reset” (or mask, doesn’t matter).