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Why is My Printer Not Printing in Color? 5 Reasons (How To Fix)

As a printer owner, you know that they can be fickle. Color printers are great but they can glitch sometimes. If your printer isn’t printing in color, this guide will help.

Here’s why your printer is not printing in color: Your printer might be set to greyscale (or black and white). Your printer driver might be outdated. And there might be a problem with your printer cartridge, including a dirty, expired, or incorrect cartridge.

why is my printer not printing in color

So what do you do when your printer won’t print in color? Here are the most common problems and how to fix them.

Why Is My Printer Not Printing In Color?

As far as printer issues go, printers not printing in color is a common problem. You could print something fine one day and come back the next to find that your printer is only printing in black and white.

But what issues cause your printer to not print in color? Let’s review!

1. Set to Grey-scale or Black and White

The easiest mistake to make when you’re asking yourself why your printer is not printing in color is that your printer is set to print in black and white (or greyscale)! This issue is an easy one to miss.

Printer software customizes the features, and this software has many settings, including color types (color, black and white, greyscale, and other options). 

If you’ve selected grey-scale or black and white, then your printer is not going to print in color, no matter what you are printing. 

Remember that another user (or a driver update) might have changed the default setting.

How to Fix This Issue: To fix this issue, you should check the printer’s software to see what color option is selected.

You should un-select grey-scale or black and white and select color instead. You can even go so far as to disable printing options that are not color so that you avoid the issue in the future. However, doing so will cause your printer to only print in color. 

2. Printer Driver Software is Outdated

All printers rely on software to communicate with your devices. Printers have drivers that let computers send information, which the printer is then able to understand and print.

Manufacturers also have print management software, which is a program that lets you access your printer’s software much more quickly than you’d usually be able to on the device itself. 

So sometimes, when your printer isn’t printing correctly, it’s due to software or drivers that are not up to date.

How to Fix This Issue: When an issue with the driver or the software happens, that’s a malfunction. To fix this issue, you must update your drivers and install a new version of the software, which likely has many updates. After updating everything, your printer should work fine.

You can find your driver by searching your printer model number and brand. Manufacturers make it extremely easy for you to find driver updates and software updates.

They typically provide you a page that says update the firmware, etc., and then give you a few methods to go through until you can do your updates.

printer is not printing in color

3. Printer Cartridge Is Dirty

Ink printers move cartridges over the paper to follow the design you’re printing. The ink nozzle on the cartridge allows ink to spray.

So if you think you can’t print in color, but everything is fine on the software and driver’s end, your ink cartridges might just be stopped and need cleaning.

This issue looks like this: colored ink won’t print—or even one specific color—but black prints fine.

How to Fix This Issue: You can fix this issue by cleaning the printer cartridge. Specifically, you need to clean the printhead that sprays ink out. You can do this in two ways by instructing the printer to automatically clean the printer by going through the settings and selecting the option. 

Or, you can open the printer up and clean it with a solution of isopropyl alcohol and water, 50% of each. You should soak the printhead portion of the cartridge in the mix for roughly two minutes to clean out blockages. Remove the cartridge, then dry it before reinstalling it.

Here’s how to clean the Canon print head.

4. Expired or Dried Out Cartridge

While not that common, printer ink can dry out. Because black ink is the most common color (printing text) the other colors are more likely to dry out or expire.

How to Fix This Issue: If your ink has dried out, the only solution is to buy fresh ink.

Do you have an HP printer? Here’s how to fix an HP printer that won’t print in color.

5. Wrong Printer Cartridge

The market is filled with printer ink cartridges that are made by third-party companies. The manufacturers create these cartridges and tell you they’re compatible with your printer and will work normally. 

  • Pros: they’re extremely cheap.
  • Cons: they may not work with your printer.

Non-genuine ink cartridges can work for a while, but eventually, things may start going wrong. One of the usual outcomes is that the colored ink cartridges will not spray ink, leaving you unable to print in color.

It might even show that there’s a high volume of color ink in the cartridge, but the cartridge is not able to distribute the ink. 

How to Fix This Issue: If you’re using a third-party cartridge and are asking yourself why your printer is not printing in color, rest assured that the only thing you need to do is change the cartridge, preferably to one for your printer.

Manufacturer cartridges cost more, but the extra cost lets you know they’re going to work with your printer. 

Now you know how to fix many of the issues you might run into if you own a color printer that suddenly stops working. You know the reason behind such problems, which helps ease frustration. Printers are inconsistent, but don’t let them make you angry.


When you’re searching for why your printer is not printing in color, you might have other questions.

To try and help, we’ve gathered the most frequently asked questions and the right answers!

Why is my printer only in black and white?

Your computer may be printing only in black and white due to its settings. You should check your settings on the printer’s software and the printer itself.

You can also check the ink levels, though your printer should tell you if the ink is low.

How do I know if my printer’s nozzle is clogged?

Printers come with self-testing features for their printer nozzles. You can find this through the printer’s control panel or application.

Running this feature will reward you with the knowledge of whether your printer’s nozzle is clogged.

How do you unclog a print nozzle?

You can unclog a nozzle automatically with the printer’s feature to self-clean, or manually, use alcohol and water.

If you’re cleaning manually, you should hold your printhead in the water for two minutes. After this, dry and reinstall the printhead.

What does it mean when you print in greyscale?

Greyscale is when your printer prints in multiple shades of black and white. The typical black-and-white setting prints in one color, and you do not get any kind of shading or texture features. The image can appear much clearer when printed in greyscale.

Can a color printer work with just one cartridge?

Color printers cannot work with only one cartridge. It must have all of the cartridges, which means you’ll have a black cartridge no matter what. Most color printers need multiple color cartridges to function correctly alongside the black cartridge.

Your Turn

What worked for you? What was causing your printer to only print in black – with no color? Sharing your experience will help other readers with similar problems.