Can I Print with Black When Another Ink Cartridge is Empty?

Banding HP OJP 8600 CISSThis is one of the most frequently asked questions from our readers, and answering it is always difficult because, as you will see, even within a single brand there is no hard and fast answer. Nearly everybody has experienced this frustrating issue, and it’s even more aggravating if you have a printer that requires you to replace a more-expensive tri-color cartridge (and dispose of what’s left of the other two ink colors) versus only a single, one-color ink cartridge.

  301 Ink Pack364 Ink Pack

In our latest search for an answer, we stumbled upon this – a complete list of HP printers that cannot print with black ink once a color ink cartridge is empty.


HP Printers – Cannot Print When One of the HP Ink Cartridges is Empty

This document is for the following printers:

HP Officejet 6100 ePrinter
HP Officejet Pro 8600 Premium e-All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet 6600 e-All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet Pro 8610 e-All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet 6700 Premium e-All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet Pro 8615 e-All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet 7110 Wide Format ePrinter
HP Officejet Pro 8620 e-All-in-One Printer
HP OfficeJet 7510 Wide Format All-in-One Printer
HP OfficeJet 7512 Wide Format All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet 7610 Wide Format e-All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet Pro 8625 e-All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet 7612 Wide Format e-All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet Pro 8630 e-All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet Pro 8100 ePrinter
HP Officejet Pro 8640 e-All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet Pro 8600 e-All-in-One Printers
HP Officejet Pro 8660 e-All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One Printer

“The printers listed in this document cannot print when an ink cartridge is empty even though the other ink cartridges have ink.

Your printer is designed to print only when all ink cartridges have ink. A little ink from all the ink cartridges is used in periodic servicing tasks. This helps to prevent issues such as print-head clogs and poor print quality. There is no way to bypass this feature.”


Note that the explanation for why these printers cannot print with black ink only makes sense: “Your printer is designed to print only when all ink cartridges have ink. A little ink from all the ink cartridges is used in periodic servicing tasks. This helps to prevent issues such as print-head clogs and poor print quality.” All of the printers listed above feature print heads that are separate from the ink cartridges. If any of the print-head nozzles are starved of ink, drying may occur and permanently damage the print head, which will require considerable cost and effort to replace.

What About Canon, Epson and Brother Printers?

We’re researching this issue and will update this post if and when we find a definitive answer. During our research we noticed that there are indeed tweaks and tricks available to defeat the built-in mechanisms that prevent printing when a cartridge is empty. However, in the meantime:

What Should I Do?

If you own one of the printers on the above list and have already reached this point, shop around and pony up the cash to buy the OEM replacement cartridge with the highest ink capacity. HP calls them “XL” ink cartridges. When you purchase the ink cartridges with the highest page yield you’ll pay the least expensive ink Cost per Page. Cost per Page is determined by dividing the cost of the ink cartridge by the number of pages it’s rated to yield, and remember, Cost per Page is more important than the price of the ink cartridge.

If you haven’t reached this point, go into the printer folder, right-click on the printer, select Advanced Settings, then select “Black Ink Only” from the drop-down dialog as shown below:

HP 8600 Black Ink Only

This will ensure that you’ll print with the cheapest ink with the highest capacity – hence the lowest possible ink Cost per Page. Since you’ve done this from the printer folder, “Black Ink Only” will become your default print setting. When you need to once again print in color, select “Properties” from the print dialog and check the “Normal” radio button on the “Paper/Quality” tab as shown below:

HP 8600 Print Driver Paper/Quality

Note that some of the less-expensive HP printers don’t have the easy “Quality Settings” selection, and that you will click “Advanced” and change your “Print in Grayscale” setting to “Off” in order to restore color printing. Additionally, most other brands also allow you to print with black ink only, and if they don’t, they will allow you to print in grayscale, which is your second best option. Note however that grayscale printing uses a miniscule amount of color ink but far less than that when printing in color.

This may sound cumbersome, but you should do this on all of your PCs with all of your printers anyway. This ensures that you’ll save the most money on ink, and that only a few knowledgeable users will seek out the color printing options when it’s most needed – rather than waste the more expensive color ink what it’s not needed, for instance, printing Web pages.

5 Responses

  1. Frances says:

    It is not true that color ink is only used in “periodic servicing tasks”! I use black ink only and the color ink runs out very quickly anyway. The color is being used up despite the black ink only setting.

    • Terry Wirth says:

      This is unusual. However, many printers do not have the “black-ink only” feature. Perhaps you using grayscale thinking it is black-ink only? Grayscale uses some color ink.

  2. paulo says:

    I’ve got this issue with hp 6230. Hp, this is not fair

  3. Inkjets NEED to be left on all the time, to save ink consumption. As opposed to turning on and off, which causes a full head purge of all inks. Thus
    Why its not cost effective to have a inkjet for one off runs either.

    • Terry Wirth says:

      Correct. Inkjet printers use extremely little standby power and each time that they are powered on a cleaning/priming cycle is performed. It does not use a lot of ink but it is senseless and wasteful to power them off anyway.

      As far as you comments on one-off runs. I disagree because no ink will be wasted.