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How do I change my printer settings to print in color?

Printing in color can make documents, photos, and other printouts look more vibrant and appealing. However, many printers default to black and white or grayscale printing to save ink. Fortunately, adjusting your printer settings to enable color printing is an easy process.

Check Printer and Printer Software Settings

The first place to check is in the printer software and driver settings themselves. Here are the steps:

  1. Open the printer software or driver interface. This can usually be accessed by going to Devices or Printers in the Control Panel (Windows) or System Preferences (Mac) and selecting your printer.
  2. Look for options related to color. There may be a dropdown to choose “Color” or “Black and White” printing. Make sure this is set to Color.
  3. Check for any additional color settings like “Color Mode” or “Advanced Color Settings.” Choose a mode like “Color” or “Vivid” instead of “Grayscale.”
  4. For more advanced control, look for sliders that individually adjust cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink levels.
  5. Make sure any economy modes like “Draft Quality” are disabled, as these may turn off color printing to save ink.
  6. For wireless printers, verify the connection status shows it is connected. Disconnected printers may default to black and white.

After adjusting any color settings in the printer software, try printing a color test page. If it prints in color, then you are all set. If it still prints in grayscale, move on to checking your application and computer settings next.

Check Individual Application Settings

The application you are printing from could override your printer color settings. Here is how to check:

  1. Open the application you want to print from, like Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop, or your Internet browser.
  2. Look for a Print dialog box or menu. There may be an option to select the printer.
  3. Choose your target printer and then check for any color settings in the same Print dialog.
  4. Applications like Word may have an option to print in “Grayscale” or “Black and white.” Deselect these to ensure color printing.
  5. Try printing a color test page from the application itself to see if the settings worked.
  6. Repeat these steps checking the printing options in any other applications you want to use color printing with.

Check Operating System Print Settings

A default print setting in your operating system could override any application or printer color settings. Here is how to check this:

  1. Go to your operating system’s main Print Settings/Printers/Devices page (Control Panel on Windows, System Preferences on Mac)
  2. Right-click on your printer and choose Printing Preferences or Properties
  3. Look for any setting or menu related to color, grayscale, black and white, or print quality
  4. Make sure color mode is enabled and any grayscale or black and white setting is disabled
  5. Check for print quality settings and disable any “Draft” or “Economy” modes which may disable color
  6. Run a test print from this menu to confirm your changes allowed color printing

Check if a Black Ink Cartridge is Installed

Most color capable printers require both a black ink cartridge and a color ink cartridge to print in color. If your color ink cartridge is installed but not your black ink, it may default to grayscale. Follow these tips:

  1. Examine your printer to look for the ink cartridges. There are usually separate slots for black and color.
  2. If there is no black ink cartridge installed, install one to enable color printing.
  3. If your printer has a single integrated color cartridge without black ink, purchase one with separate black and color as needed.
  4. Try printing a color test page to confirm if simply adding a black ink cartridge fixed the issue.

Check if Your Ink Cartridges are Empty

Even if color ink cartridges are installed, many printer models will automatically revert to black and white or grayscale printing when any of the color inks run out. Here is how to check your ink levels:

  1. Look at the ink cartridges themselves. You may be able to visually see low ink levels.
  2. Consult your printer software, as most programs will show ink levels for each cartridge.
  3. Consider third-party ink level utilities if your printer software does not show ink levels.
  4. Replace any empty or near-empty color ink cartridges. Pay particular attention to cyan, magenta, and yellow.
  5. Run a test print to see if replacing empty cartridges allowed color printing again.

Perform Color Calibration and Cleaning

Issues like color misalignment or clogged ink nozzle can affect color output. Try the following maintenance to resolve:

  1. Check your printer software for options like Color Calibration, Color Alignment, or Nozzle Cleaning.
  2. Run any available automated calibration, cleaning cycles, or printhead alignments.
  3. Print a color test page and check for any misaligned colors, missing colors, or lines/banding.
  4. If colors still seem off, remove and carefully reinstall the color ink cartridges. Wipe cartridge contacts if needed.
  5. As a last resort, perform a power cleaning which deeply cleans the print heads. Only do this occasionally as it uses more ink.

Contact Printer Support

If you have gone through all troubleshooting steps but are still unable to print in color, it is time to contact your printer manufacturer for further assistance:

  1. Lookup printer support on the manufacturer website or your printer documentation.
  2. Online chat or email support is usually available from most major brands.
  3. Be prepared to provide your printer model number, steps taken, and any error messages received.
  4. The support agent can walk through additional troubleshooting to resolve the issue.
  5. As a last resort, a service call may be needed for a hardware malfunction.

Summary of Steps

Here is a summary checklist of the key steps covered to enable color printing:

  • Confirm color mode enabled in printer and application print settings
  • Install both black and color ink cartridges
  • Check ink levels and replace empty color cartridges
  • Run cleaning and calibration to fix any color issues
  • Contact printer support if issue persists after troubleshooting

With proper printer configuration and working ink cartridges, you should once again be able to print in vibrant, high-quality color. Please consult your printer documentation or support resources if any issues arise.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my printer only print in black and white/grayscale even though it is a color printer?

The most common reasons are:

  • Color mode is disabled in the printer or application print settings.
  • The black ink cartridge is missing or empty.
  • The color ink cartridges are empty.
  • The printheads need cleaning or alignment to fix color quality.

How do I know if my ink cartridges are low or empty?

Ways to check ink levels:

  • Visually inspect the cartridges for low ink.
  • Consult the ink level indicators in your printer software.
  • Print a test page with ink level reporting.
  • Use third party ink level utilities if available.

What should I do if replacing cartridges doesn’t fix the issue?

Some other things to try:

  • Clean the printheads and contacts.
  • Run printhead alignment or calibration.
  • Check for paper jams or obstructions.
  • Contact printer support for troubleshooting help.

How can I conserve color ink when printing documents?

Tips for minimizing color ink use:

  • Select grayscale mode when color is not essential.
  • Set the printer quality to draft or economy mode.
  • Check for a “black ink only” option for text printing.
  • Choose ink cartridges with higher page yield ratings.


Enabling color printing can take your documents and photos to the next level. With the right printer settings and ink, you will be producing vibrant color prints in no time. Use the troubleshooting tips provided to resolve any color printing issues you encounter. Just follow the step-by-step process outlined to get your printer back to printing in color.

Issue Solution
Color mode disabled Enable color mode in printer and application settings
Missing black ink Install black ink cartridge
Empty color cartridges Replace empty cyan, magenta, yellow cartridges
Poor color quality Run cleaning, alignment, calibration
Other issues Contact printer support