How Do I Print in Black Ink Only?

By David Sarokin

A color computer printer is a marvel of modern technology, but often seems to go through its ink supply like a kid through an ice cream sundae. You're finally ready to print out your full color brochure when, Bam!, there goes your cyan cartridge. Using only black inks, especially for drafts and early copies, can save you money. According to PC World magazine, printing a page in color is about twice as expensive as printing with black ink. Even if cost is not a factor, you may want to vary your printing; one original document in color and a number of black and white copies as handouts, for example.

Choose a No-Color Printer

A sure way of printing only in black is to use a printer that only has black ink. This option is less obvious than it seems. Many organizations have large numbers of printers available on an internal network. You should familiarize yourself with the options in your office to see if a black-ink-only printer is available. Even in a small office or home network setting, it may be cost effective to install a no-color printer for routine use.

Print in Grayscale

Many printers include an option to print documents with only black ink, even if the original is richly colored. This option is usually known as grayscale. Your printer's dialog box, where you select options such as the number of copies or two-sided printing, will have a check box to "Print in grayscale" if the option is available. The language used might vary a bit and might also be as simple as "Print in black." Some software programs, such as Microsoft PowerPoint, allow you to both view and print your documents in grayscale from the "View" options within the program.

Use Reserve Mode

Some printers have a built-in "reserve mode" that prints only with black ink, if one or more color ink cartridges is empty, missing or not functioning correctly. You can force the printer into reserve mode by temporarily removing a color cartridge. Check your printer's user manual, as not all printers have this feature.

Create a Black and White Document

Of course, if your original document is black and white, the final printed version will also be black and white. Depending on your printing needs, designing a monochrome document can be a viable strategy for saving your color ink supply. Be mindful, though, that some printed areas that appear black to the eye may be a mixture of both black and color inks, known as "composite black". This is especially true for high-quality image printing for a photograph or professional illustration.

Print in Draft Mode

You can also conserve ink by selecting "Draft" from the options in the printer dialog box. Draft mode generally prints with both black and color inks, but prints at a lower resolution and uses less ink overall.