Printer Won’t Print Black? Troubleshooting Tips and Solutions


If you are ever stuck with a printer that won’t print black, we understand your frustration.

Whether you’re in a rush, need important documents printed quickly, or are running late for a meeting and need paper documents right now. When a printer won’t print black, you’re in a real bind.

Technology is supposed to make the world simpler. But, when something goes wrong (like a faulty printer), instead of making your job easier, it adds a whole new problem for you to solve.

The irritation of this unexpected time sink when you’re already busy can take it to another level.

Irritated woman

The one good thing is that you’ve come to the right place. Here is a step-by-step guide for when a printer won’t print black.

Step 1. Checking the Basics

There are a range of reasons why your printer might not be printing black. To get your printer fully functional again, we need to identify the cause of the problem.

The first step is checking the basics.

Ensure you know your printer’s make and model, including what type of printer you are using.

For example, is it a monochrome or color printer? Laser or Inkjet?

You are also likely to need access to your printer’s relevant documentation (user manuals, etc.).

  • Perform a Full Power Cycle – Before we go any further, make sure you perform a complete power cycle on your printer. This is a fancy way of saying turn it off and on again. Completely shut down the printer, remove the power source and disconnect all cables. Wait a few moments, then fire it back up and see if your problem is solved.
  • Print a Test Page – A test page is a simple way to determine your printer’s performance and see if any black ink makes it onto the page. You should be able to find this option on your printer’s display screen. It may have a different name, such as “Quality Diagnostic Report”.
  • Check Cartridge Levels – Check the estimated ink levels of your printer cartridges and replace any low or empty ones.
  • Check Printer is Set Up Correctly – Consult the user manual and ensure the printer setup is correct.

Step 2. Identifying Cartridge Problems

In addition to the ink levels, there are other possible printer cartridges issues that mean your printer won’t print black.

  • Ensure they are Installed Correctly – Printer cartridges typically snap into their corresponding slots. Make sure they are correctly installed and in the right spots.
  • Check Cartridge Vent – When installing new printer cartridges, it can be easy to miss the small piece of tape covering the vent. Ensure this is removed so the cartridge is vented correctly and works as expected. Also, check that the vents are not clogged or obstructed in any way. If they are, check out the video below to learn how to clean them.
  • Replace Cartridges – Even if your cartridges are not empty, there may be another less obvious fault that means the printer won’t print black. If you exhaust other possibilities, it is a good idea to replace all your printer cartridges to try and solve the problem. For the best results, we recommend using Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) cartridges.

Step 3. Identifying Printhead Problems

The printhead is the component housing the ink cartridges that applies the ink droplets to the page. Over time dry ink can accumulate in the printhead, causing problems such as blocking ink from getting to the page.

Cleaning the printhead is an integral part of printer maintenance. There are two main approaches:

  • Automatic Printhead Cleaning – Most modern printers have automated printhead cleaning features you can select from your printer’s maintenance menu. You may need to run this feature multiple times to unclog your printhead.
  • Manual Printhead Cleaning - While the automatic cleaning feature is the simplest way to solve printhead issues, if you can remove your printhead, then manually cleaning it can achieve better results. Ensure you consult documentation specific to your printer to ensure you don’t damage it.

Another problem that can stop your printer from printing black ink is the printhead alignment.

  • Align the Printhead – Many printers include an “Align Printhead” option in their maintenance menu or control panel. This calibrates the alignment installation positions of the printhead, improves deviated colors and lines, and can sometimes get your printer printing black again.

Step 4. Identifying Software Problems

If you have checked that the hardware is functioning correctly, the final step is looking for issues with the software.

  • Printer Troubleshooter – Open the printer troubleshooter on your computer, select the problematic printer, and hope it finds a solution.
  • Check Driver Settings – Drivers are software that allows your computer and printer to communicate. Check you have the latest drivers installed for your printer, try uninstalling and reinstalling your printer drivers or try changing the driver settings (adjusting the paper settings has been known to solve the problem).
  • Fully Reconfigure the Printer - If all else fails, you can try entirely reconfiguring your printer. This means removing all associated software from your laptop and setting it up from scratch again.


The reason your printer won’t print black will likely be due to a cartridge or printhead problem. But if you’ve gone through all these steps and you’re still won’t print black ink, you may have to seek help or find a replacement.

Getting your printer serviced by an expert can solve the problem or at the very least give you a clear understanding of the cause of the problem.

In addition, if the printer is not immediately fixable, they can advise on the next steps. This could be new parts or sourcing a replacement printer if the cost of repair is high.

When your printer won’t print black, it isn’t much use to anybody. Hopefully, you can get your printer back to fully functional with minimal frustration by following these steps.

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