No black printer ink? No problem!

Tip week continues with a tip that saved my life.  Not so much my life I guess as my reputation.  Which you may have thought was lost in highschool but was not because when I was in highschool I was too busy figuring out how to break into the science lab to get into any *real* trouble.  (You’ll notice that I’m sticking to my resolution to make high school, one word, the way it should be.  As in highschool.)

As you all know I’ve been taking a screen printing course at my local art school.  The first couple of classes just involved doing our own drawings on acetate (clear plastic) and burning the image onto screens.  Pretty basic stuff.  Burning is just a phrase we super-cool almost professional because we’re taking a night class screen printers use.  We don’t actually torch things.  Not in class anyway.

But by the third or so class I graduated myself (yes I can do that) to more complicated screens.  I wanted to do something that’s becoming more and more popular with screen printers which is printing in half tones.  A half tone is a photo that is only one colour but it looks like it’s many different shades.

Like my cleaver here for example …


Silk Screen light 17 dpi light


Sorry if it’s making your eyes go squirrely.  I had to make it noticeable enough that you could see what I was talking about.

The only colour used in that cleaver is black.

Interesting fact:  that’s actually a photo of my very own antique cleaver.  After I had the photo of it I then had to  run it through Photoshop and convert it to grayscale (black and white basically).  THEN it’s converted to what’s known as a half tone.  If you look at the cleaver it looks like it’s many shades but all it is is black ink.

A half tone is made up of black dots. You can see the cleaver image is literally a bunch of little dots.   Some are bigger than others and some are spaced further apart.  This gives the optical illusion of many different shades.  It’s fooling your eye.  Like the gold/white/blue/black dress from a few weeks ago that everyone was freaking out about.  I, strangely, saw the dress both ways.  Sometimes as white and gold and sometimes as black and blue.  When it turned black and blue right before my eyes when I was looking at it, it REALLY freaked me out.  I had to sit down and eat a cookie.

So this half tone thing.  The night before I was supposed to bring my half tone image into the class I had already, quite grandly graduated myself from … I ran out of printer ink.  I tried the thing where you fill up your old ink with even older ink you bought at Costco 10 years ago but … it didn’t work.  My printer is onto me.  They do that now, you know.  Printer inks come with a little code that lets the printer know it’s already lived in there for a while.  When you fill it and try to tuck it back in, the printer kicks it out onto the street.  There’s a way around that but I didn’t have the stuff I needed.

So there I was.  An important graduate from a highly esteemed small town night course about to walk into class without her assignment done.  In highschool I could have talked my way out of it, but at night school??  No, no night school is kind of important.  I’d never get away with it.

So I did what any desperate girl looking for a way out would.  I ate a cookie.

Then I got to work.

I needed to get my printer to print black.  I *needed* to do this because I had declared myself the greatest small town screen printer taking a night course on a Wednesday in the land to all of my class the week before.  a But I had no black ink left.

What do you do if you need to print something in black but  have no black ink left?




As long as your printer also has a colour cartridge, all the colours from it will print together to make … BLACK.

You’re welcome.  (Maybe not today of course, but the day will come when you too graduate yourself from a small town screen printing night course and trust me … you will thank me then)



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  1. Nys says:

    Life savour!

  2. Sesa says:

    Thank You!!! Would have never ‘thunk’ it. 👍

  3. habib says:

    Bruh you’re a lifesaver forreal! Thanks

  4. Bethany says:

    It worked! You saved the day. Thank you!

  5. Rebecca says:

    totally worked. Awesome. Thank you.

  6. Uday R Date says:

    You just saved my skin!

  7. Ahmad says:

    It worked today on my HP OfficeJet 4650 which uses ink 63/63XL. Thank you.

  8. Dominique says:

    You are a godsend!! My instaink cartridge will not arrive for another week (I lost the replacement they sent out months ago). I needed to print a bunch of pages for university. Thank you TREMEDOUSLY!!

  9. Melissa says:

    I was desperate to try anything and I cant believe this worked!!! Thank you!!!

  10. Rafael Baliú says:

    A big thank you from Brazil!
    It works! It really does work!
    It’s alive!!

  11. Yep Karen it would have been a disaster, the French Prefecture makes no allowances for a lack of black ink l am sure. LOL xx

  12. Melinda Hogan says:

    A Big THANK YOU. Preparing for a visa interiview the next day and l ran out of ink to print of our Dossier. Nothing open in France on a Sunday. So l googled this and can’t thank you enough.

    Kind regards

  13. Sarah Follen says:

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Charlotte says:

    AMAZING. Just saved me in a printing emergency – thank you so much!

  15. Heather Lynn says:

    You just saved me! and I needed to say THANK YOU!!!!!! I can’t believe that worked. thank you!

    • Karen says:

      Yay! I’m glad it worked. It usually does. 🙂 And trust me, I’ve been in the exact place you were, lol, desperate to print and out of ink! ~ karen

  16. dragonmago says:

    Well I’d be damned, it worked.

    I am subscribing to this page!

    • Karen says:

      Ha! I only post things that I actually do or have done. So if I say it works, it works. Well … most of the time. 😉 ~ karen!

  17. Matt says:

    Ahhhhh THANK YOU. I’d been trying to find a software setting to use the color cartridge to print in black… all I had to do was remove the black cartridge.

    Wish I’d found this post 2 hours ago before I tried EVERYTHING ELSE.

    Of course, now I’ve missed the pickup time at the post office, but at least I have a label now!

  18. Winnie Loh says:

    and here I am , opting color cartridge only on my Canon E510 (black cartridge blocked) and scratching my head why I can still print in black .

    ***all the colours from it will print together to make … BLACK*** just solved the big question mark I have in my head.

    Thank you. I can finally sleep now.

  19. Jaime says:

    Amazing. just googled this and exactly what i needed for my HP printer. thank you

  20. RICAHRD PLANK says:


  21. Macarena says:

    You have no idea how thannkfull I am!!! You saved me!!!

  22. JC says:

    Wow. This worked. Mind = blown. Thank you!

  23. Tora Geirs says:

    LOL I L O V E reading your posts they always make me laugh but also make me LEALRN a few things 🙂 thank´s for sharing 🙂

  24. starchynne says:

    Printers have to have all cartridges inserted to print. Epson cartridges DO not have an expiration date like hp and the printers print a composite black using all 3 colors When black is low. People use chip setters to reset the chips to refill.

    • Karen says:

      No. They really don’t starchynne. I don’t tend to make up things out of the blue and put them on this site, lol. I did it myself. Ripped out the black cartridge and printed black with only the colour cartridge in. ~ karen

      • Shelly says:

        This isn’t working for me either, I took the black cartridge out and now it’s telling me the cartridge isn’t installed correctly, so I can’t print.

        • Karen says:

          Some printers do that. Sometimes they’ll also warn you that the cartridge is missing but if you dismiss the warning it’ll still print. If you haven’t tried that then try doing that, otherwise your printer might be too “smart” to allow you to print with one cartridge. ~ karen!

  25. Cred says:

    Unfortunately, my laser printer won’t let me do that either nor would my old inkjet.

    I saw both the black and blue and the white and gold- Whyyyyy?

    And definitely highschool… and I have the same preference for homeschool. But night school is night school- I don’t know why, I’m just following the rules in my head.

  26. Martha says:

    Yowzer, I could’ve used this tip a week ago when my husband stayed up until 2:00 in the morning trying to get our hp printer to print out black. Why, oh why does it always run out of ink when the adults in the house need to print something out for the next day and not on the weekends when the kids are printing out full-colour pictures of pokemons and cute animals wearing clothes??

    Oh, Karen, I think you’ve started something in the world of snazzy magazine cover shots:

  27. JMC says:

    My little Epson printer gives me the option of mixing other colours to make black when it’s run out. Good little printer – I need to remember to give it a gentle appreciative pat today.

  28. Jennie Lee says:

    As for the printers that count pages and assume you’re out of ink: I bet you could take out the cartridge, then put the same one back in. I bet it will not know it’s the same one!

    • Karen says:

      It does know Jennie. Each cartridge has a chip or serial number or whatever. The printer can indeed recognize it. However, with some printers you can get around this by saving your old printer cartridges and inserting them. You need to insert 2 or 3 different ones before it will recognize your new (old refilled) cartridge as a new one. It’s all about selling the printer cartridges for the printer companies and they’ve invested a lot of time and money to make sure you have no other option than buying a new cartridge from them. ~ karen!

  29. Melissa says:

    mine won’t do that. I’ve tried many times. It will literally not print anything unless all the cartridges are in place and full at an acceptable level. I’m convinced its a conspiracy with the ink company.

    But, it is the only printer that I’ve ever owned that will constantly print wirelessly, so it has its good side.

    • Bonnie says:

      My color cartridge ran out, so I took it out and tried to just print in black, but no! It would not work without both cartridges in. It is an HP Deskjet 990c.

      Does anyone else find that cleaver of Karen’s disturbing? It creeps me out.

  30. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Funny thing..I saw “The Dress” both ways too..white/gold during the day and blue/black at night..weird huh…I didn’t have a cookie but I wouldn’t have turned one down if someone had offered..Thanks for the black ink could come in handy sometime..And..shouldn’t night school be one word????

  31. Ben says:

    OMG !!! Now I need a cookie to help my brain figure this out.

  32. Rondina says:

    If it is “highschool,” why would it not be “nightschool?”

    Yes … the post was completely lost on me because I got hung up on your personal choice of how to spell “high school.”

  33. Kate S. says:

    My Epson printer has a setting that will allow you to fall back on the color ink cartridges when your black ink is low. You can access it through the settings menu on the printer, but it also (at least in my case) pops up on the screen along with the low ink warning during printing, allowing you to turn the option on. It wont print if one of the ink cartridges has been removed, though.

  34. Laura Bee says:

    Neat trick…we have a effin’ printer that uses toner. Which is good for some things, but not so much for others. I miss my HP scanner/copier/printer we had.
    Now I need a cookie.

  35. Chris says:

    Well, durn. I just got schooled, once again. Thanks!

  36. Tigersmom says:

    Don’t get me started on my Epson. It is such an ink hog. More like an ink glutton, actually. Greedy little piggy.

  37. Mary Werner says:

    I run out of colors first so can I removed those cartridges and let the black print in color? Around these parts a lot of people say small town high or small town middle and forget the school part. high school s/b 1 word! I’ve thought a lot about color and I think I’ll go with Cuddles favorite – pink and orange.

  38. KimS says:

    Ah…I was reading expectantly…only to be dashed at the end–my printer is black ink only! I thought it was going to be a recipe-like homemade yogurt!!!

  39. Su says:

    what kind of cookies?

  40. Beckie says:

    Some printers automatically allow for composite printing and some printers will not work at all if one cartridge is empty (or removed). Check your printer’s settings, you might have an option for automatic composite.

  41. ~JackieVB says:

    I happen to be taking a small town night course next week! It’s not screen printing though, it’s about doing MORE stuff… but I don’t think we’re going to have to print anything for that 😉

  42. Mary says:

    No that’s thinking outside the ink cartridge box!

  43. Jamie says:

    I agree HIGHSCHOOL…one word!

  44. Stephbo says:

    Oh. My. God. That’s brilliant!

  45. You’re not kidding about the printer knowing…..I fought with my Canon but I am proud to say I won!!! haha Canon

  46. Lynn says:

    Geez I have never ever managed to refill my cartridges an get them to work … You must use magic Karen as all I ended up with each time was as huge mess

  47. Lynn says:

    Geez I have never ever managed to refill my cartridges an get them to work … You must use magic Karen as all I ended up with each time was as huge mess

  48. barbee says:

    What!?! You just blew my mind!

  49. Jennie Lee says:

    I thought if you didn’t have both color a d B&W cartridges in there, it wouldn’t work? I know mine wouldn’t work when all I had was black. All I needed was B&W, but NO! It wouldn’t work without color ink. (This was HP.)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jennie Lee! This is an HP I’m using and it works like a charm. Probably a 3 year old printer or so. Maybe it only works with removing the black ink as opposed to the colour? ~ karen!

    • Carmen says:

      Yep, mine’s the same. So annoying! Plus, it’s not actually out of ink in the first place…HP just counts pages. so once you’re at 500 pages (or whatever the number is), it tells you it’s out of ink regardless of whether it is actually out of ink or not. True story!

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