Out of the various issues printer users experience, we’d say that the HP printer not printing black ink is right up there (or is it down there?) with the basics. Why? Well, because ink is black, of course.

It’s more than that, though: while color printers have been a thing for decades, there are still plenty of non-color printers used and available at every price level, whether we’re talking two-digit or four-digit price tags. Plenty of offices don’t bother getting a color printer at all: since they will only be printing text documents, they need a printer that excels in areas besides creating a nice palette.

Therefore, this is an issue that affects the widest range of users and all kinds of HP printer ink cartridges. Whether you are someone with a color printer who’s getting rainbows but no black or a non-color users that needs those documents printed quickly, we’re going to guide you through the HP troubleshooting steps with this all-too-familiar problem.

Did you install the black ink cartridge properly?

For all their modern perks, printers still use a fairly rudimentary way of feeding the ink (or toner) to the printer. That suits the manufacturers just fine, as you need to constantly replace the cartridges.

It might not suit you, though, as you might have done something wrong while installing the black ink cartridge properly and now your HP printer is not printing black ink. This often happens to users who burn through an entire cartridge in less than a week: they often tend to forget that cartridge installation is a delicate process and needs to be handled carefully every time. While not a rule, it also more commonly happens with remanufactured HP ink cartridges than official ones, as not all remanufacturers adhere to the same standards.

So, let’s have you first check out the black ink cartridge. Remove it from the printer, ensure that the plastic cover is removed (you’d be surprised how often this is an issue) and then re-insert the cartridge in the position that your manual tells you to. Make sure everything is nice and tight and that the cartridge feels connected to the printer.

Did you calibrate your HP printer after installing the ink cartridge?

If you did the above and the black ink will not print, then we have some good news and bad news for you. The good news is that we know you didn’t do a bad job of installing the black ink cartridge. The bad news is that we still can’t figure out the reason behind your HP printer not printing black ink.

There’s a good chance you aren’t familiar with the calibration process at all. If you are, you probably don’t know that cartridges should be re-calibrated every single time a new one is installed. It’s far from a HP printer setup thing: it’s something you have to do regularly as the printer sees use.

The calibration process is entirely software-sided and much easier than the cartridge installation itself. After you’ve connected the HP printer to the computer, navigate your way to the HP Photosmart Toolbox software through the search option in your Start menu. Alternatively, if you don’t have that program, you can find your printer under the Printers and Faxes section, click on it and then go for Service this device. This option, however, requires you to have the printer’s drivers installed on the computer.

Either software should have some combination of Calibrate the device, Clean the print cartridges and Align the printer, depending on the model you have. Even if you have a new cartridge, there’s no harm in going through each of the three steps to ensure full calibration, and let’s hope you won’t run into anything from the HP printer error code list.

Do you own an older printer? When was the last time you cleaned the printheads?

By this point, we know your cartridge is properly installed and calibrated to the printer. If your HP printer won’t print black, that really leaves only one option: the printheads might be dirty. You can familiarize yourself with these things (and how hard they can be to clean) here: What are printer printheads?

This often happens on older printers that have seen too much use. Someone might tell you that you should just go out and get a new printer, but we disagree: printers eat up our money on ink or toner cartridges as quickly as slot machines do, so we don’t need to make it worse by buying a new printer every time there’s an issue.

If you suspect your printheads being dirty is the reason they won’t print black ink, you’re in for a bit of scrubbing. First, find your model in our HP printer manuals section so you know how to take the printheads out. Once they’re out, wash each of them with a damp piece of cotton cloth that’s soaked in a cleaning solution like this one. You’ll need a gentle touch and the process is a bit time-consuming, but it’s worth a shot if you’ve been using the same printer for a while. Afterwards, make sure that the printheads are re-inserted exactly as they were or you’ll have another problem on your hands.

InkEvolved Tip: This is only really worth doing if your printer isn’t new. If you’ve used it for less than a few months, it’s almost guaranteed that you aren’t facing a printhead issue.

If your HP Printer is still not printing black ink, you have one last option

You can probably see where this is going, but don’t worry: there’s one last thing to try. If your HP printer still won’t print black ink, take out the black ink cartridge and insert a colored one in its place. Calibrate the printer again, and then try printing a black-and-white document with it.

If it still doesn’t work, that means something’s wrong with the black ink cartridge slot or another component. We’re past the HP printer troubleshooting part: it’s time for the device to be taken to a printer repair shop. If it’s under warranty, take it to a HP repairing partner and the fixing will be done for free, although you might end up waiting a bit. If not, any old repair shop will do.

These kinds of repairs probably won’t be cheap, but they are almost always a better choice than buying a new printer unless you have the budgetest model out there, in which case you’re probably better off just getting a new one.


While all InkEvolved contributors are printer specialists with many years of experience in the tech industry, we will sometimes refer to other articles and websites. This gives our users a chance to both verify the information they’re getting and gives them a chance to explore additional venues of knowledge.

To cite this article, please use:

Bazmarov, Anya in “Why is my HP Printer not printing black ink?” on InkEvolved.com, Published 15/08/2019, Last Accessed 21/09/2019, https://inkevolved.com/why-is-my-hp-printer-not-printing-black-ink/

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