Why Your Printer Is Using Too Much Colored Ink

Why Your Printer Is Using Too Much Colored Ink

[This post was reviewed for accuracy by the author on May 3, 2023]

Do you print a lot of things in black, but still use up your colored ink? Are you spending more money on ink cartridges than you need to? Changing a setting could save you a lot.

When Black Ink Isn’t Just Black

I discovered several years ago that printers use colored ink to make black images look richer. I wanted this richer black for an ink sketch on our homemade Christmas card. I didn’t need that rich black for text-only printing.

Today, we’ll check your default printing preferences. You may actually be using colored ink when you thought you were only using black.

Changing your printing preferences will help you stop the flow of colored ink that’s draining your wallet. Hopefully, you’ll be able to “translate” my tutorial to apply to your printer and software.

Defaults and Printing Preferences

When you first start using your printer, the printing preference default is likely “color.” If you’re printing a black-and-white document, you need to choose “grayscale.” If you’re not doing this, your printer is using colored ink even though your document is all black from your perspective. A color setting means colored ink is used.

To explain this, it may help to know about the two kinds of grayscale: high quality and black ink only. High quality is the richer black I mentioned, using all your ink: black, cyan, yellow, and magenta to create a dark black. “Black ink only” is great for rough drafts and for text-only documents. It’s what I use for the majority of my printing.

For the best quality black-and-white printing, use “monochrome” for black ink on a black-ink-only printer and “grayscale” on a color printer. (See Monochrome vs. Grayscale Printing)

Set Your Printing Preferences

If the majority of your printing is text or grayscale, set your default printing preferences (the following is for Windows 10). See the next image and follow these steps.

  • Go to Settings / Devices / Printers & Scanners.
  • Click on your printer.
  • Choose the “Manage” button.
  • Click on “Printing preferences.”
  • Choose the “Paper/Quality” tab.
  • Click on the “Advanced” button.
  • Under Printer Features, click on “Print in Grayscale.”
  • Choose “Black Ink Only.”
  • When you hit “OK” you notice the Printing Preference is now “Custom.”

When You’re Ready to Print

After you’ve made this custom grayscale default, you can switch to a color preference when you need it. When you enter “Print” in Microsoft products, you’ll see “Printer Preferences” under your printer. Click that to get back to the Paper/Quality tab to change your setting.

Here’s your choices and how to use them:

  • Best – for quality photos
  • Normal – for most color printing
  • Draft – less colored ink for a draft (you might want to use your Custom setting instead)
  • Custom – no colored ink

Choosing a Printer

As a side note, I always buy a printer with separate color cartridges: cyan, magenta, and yellow. A printer with a tri-color cartridge is very inefficient. When you run out of one of the colors the cartridge needs to be replaced while you still have plenty of the other two colors left.

Your New Habit

Until you’re familiar with your printer, get in the habit of checking “Properties.” Click on the “Advanced” button to be sure you like the settings.  (Instead of your default, your last printer setting may carry over to your next print job.)

The post I’ve written today is based on Windows 10. The video I created a few years ago (see below) is using Windows 2007. Whatever operating system you’re using you may find it useful to watch the video. I hope this post helps you USE only black ink when you WANT only black ink.

Any ink is expensive; colored ink costs a lot more than black. It’s worth your while to know about printer settings and printing preferences.  

This post is in the Printer and Printer Tips series.

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