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)



Did you remember to sign up for my The Art of Getting More Stuff done?  You can click here to do that right now.

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  1. Homer S. says:

    Will remember this when worse comes to worse. Great work 👍🏻

  2. fred says:

    Brilliant!! Thanks!

  3. Maria says:

    Thank you very much from Greece. This is one of the amazing things that the internet does. Connects people in a whole different level. I would never have found you and your amassing tip if it wasn’t for the internet. I wish you best of luck!! You are extremely smart!!

  4. Juliana says:


  5. Kun says:

    I am totally going to cry. You seriously saved my life and like 20 bucks! Driving to the public library to print something or a paper store is never fun.

  6. Agustini says:

    Lol, it’s amazing! I’ve just stumble across your blog, when I wonder can I print black color with just the color ink cartridge, because it looks like my black ink cartridge has been damaged 😢, and when i read this article, I am so eager to try this, but I didn’t remove the black ink cartridge, just setting the option to print only from the color ink cartridge in the printer properties section, and glad that it prints out well!
    By the way, I think your blog is awesome!

  7. LK says:

    Your trick worked well with my HP 3720, you’re an absolute genius!

  8. Sally Phillips says:

    Thanks! You just saved me from telling my daughter we can’t go to the ballet coz i can’t print the tickets!

  9. Verne Betts says:

    In most printers you can go to the control panel. Then select devices and printers. Right click on the printer you are working with then select printing preferences. Select the maintenance tab and then select ink cartridge settings. From there you can select the cartridge of your choice.

  10. Marie Lee says:

    That is neat! Thank you.

  11. Jo says:

    You literally just saved my life with this tip! I have an interview at 9am tomorrow and I needed to print off a copy of my CV, but I just realised I have no black in left in my printer! I was totally freaking out, as there’s no where nearby to print anything.


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