Why is my colour ink almost as empty as my black ink despite only printing black and white?
Question by Richard /

I’ve noticed recently that after printing with my Canon MX870 multifunction printer that all of my ink levels seemed low, even the color ink. I say this because when I first started printing with this printer, I was copying and printing items that were strictly in black and white. I noticed that after printing several items, not only was my black ink lower which was obvious, but my color ink was dropping too.

Another interesting issue I have is that I have three color cartridges: cyan, yellow, and magenta and two black cartridges: one small and one big. For some reason the smaller black ink cartridge is still completely full when observing on the ink menu. Any reason for these situations occurring?

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Answers (27)
  • Jason Edwards

    None of the idiot comments address the issue of color ink cartridges depleting themselves while having “only’ used black. The manufacturer has the lemmings believing that in order to keep color cartridge ports clean and open there must be color ink usage each time one prints. Get it? It’s a ploy to sell you more ink!

  • Anonymous

    That printer is the biggest piece of garbage I’ve ever used. I have the same problem. I print black text only and it goes through the color ink just as fast as the black ink. That’s just one of the problems with this horrible printer.

    This printer feels like an extortion device to me, nothing more. I don’t use it any more and went back to my Lexmark 5150 from like 2004. Much better printer, no joke.

    • Smayonak

      When Canon made the MX700 series printer it made two big mistakes: first, its ink clips have excellent capacity and, second, it uses clear plastic so you can see if the clips are completely filled. Previously, manufacturers used opaque clips which allowed them to half fill the cartridges. It seems that Canon wanted to lure consumers back.

      Canon “corrected” the first problem in the MX870 by cutting the ink volume in half. It kept the clear plastic for some reason.

      Older black and white only printers are excellent choices. Unfortunately, for those of us who need color ink, there are only a handful of options that manufacturers. :-(

  • Thurmswifesanurse

    The big black ink well is ur primary when the alert comes on that the black is out and you hit ok to continue then it will begin to use the smaller black (kind of as the reserve so to speak). I do not know why ur other colors run out too fast if ur not using color printing. But it many see as if the color is running out faster than the black, because you have 3x’s as much black ink as color in your printer at a time……(I have this printer, I love it!)

  • Thanks for Nothing

    You people giving advise are idiots. Please don’t give advice if you don’t know what you are talking about.

    If you Select the ‘Black’ Copy Button on the the MX870, the MX870 uses color probably for the same reason the comment about the HP Printer using color to create ‘True’ black. If you run out of color, you can not print in Black – you get blank pages. Truly disappointing…

    • Smayonak

      It is likely that your computer is defaulting back to color printing. Alternatively, it could be that “Greyscale” is still using small amounts of color ink for a variety of purposes, such as self cleaning and (as Erwin pointed out) duplex printing!

      The MX870, like most inkjets, is designed to stop printing once the color clips run dry. The “out of ink” warning can be bypassed fortunately by holding the “stop” button. My cyan is almost out on my MX870 – I’ll run it dry and use the reset method for verification shortly.

    • Smayonak

      Hopefully you are still reading this – to perform the “out of ink” bypass method for the MX870 or MX700 you need to take the following steps:

      1. Cancel your current print job, if there are any prints in the queue.

      2. Hit the “OK” button on the printer. This button is in the center of the directional pad.

      3. Hold the “STOP” button down on the printer. The printer will fidget a bit after thirty seconds. The alarm light will flash.

      After this you should be able to print with an empty color clip. Remember to select Gray-scale or Print in Black. The computer will default to color if you do not, for unknown reasons.

    • Dpinning

      Thanks Smayonak for a solution that works. How did you figure out using the stop button would bypass the empty color clip?

    • Smayonak

      You’re very welcome Dpinning, thank you for the positive feedback.

      There are reset/override methods available for most inkjets – unfortunately they aren’t well publicized, for opaque reasons. Often, the override method is available by calling the company and making an inquiry.

      In my experience, the stop button method is the most common override type.

      By the way, it is important to mention that keeping dry ink clips in your printer may have unintended consequences. For example, one of the reasons printers use so much color ink, even when the printer is set to gray scale, is because its cleaning cycle squirts liberal amounts of color into a hidden reservoir. It is conceivable that the printer won’t complete its cleaning cycle without a steady supply of ink. Or not.

    • Mschuler

      This approach appears to have worked perfectly.  I’m going to keep running it using this method and see if there are any cleaning issues (as you mention below).

    • Tina

      Thanks for the feedback, Mschuler!

    • Smayonak

      Thanks for letting me know. I should probably elaborate on the warning I received:

      The override method is supposed to cause the ink to dry on the print head, which should cause clogging and serious problems with image clarity. In truth, this sounds somewhat fishy – which is why it’s great you’re testing it!

      Fishy as it sounds, that was the warning.

  • Erwin

    Reaction from canon tech support to the above question. The first step
    is a “well duh” step. The others are quite interesting though.

    – Select the box for Grayscale Printing. If the document to be printed is in black only, then this step may be skipped.

    – Select Plain Paper as the Media Type. If any other paper type is selected, color ink will be used to create black. The pigment black ink will only be used when printing on plain paper.

    – If either Borderless Printing or Duplex Printing are enabled,
    grayscale will be created using a combination of the color (dye) inks to
    prevent smearing.

    And there I was, thinking I had such a brilliant printer because it
    could do duplex printing without me turning over the paper. I had this
    on by default (and I think many people do). It turns out to be a costly
    feature, for no reason at all, really. They could have insert a pause before
    printing the flip side if they were so afraid of smearing.

    In fact, because of this feature, cheap duplex printing has become
    HARDER. Other printer drivers first print all even pages and then wait
    for you to turn over the stack. The Canon printer does not do this,
    because it offers duplex printing in the machine. Using color ink. Sigh.

    Mind you, the printer has TWO BLACK TANKS and still needs to use color ink??

    Erwin Timmerman

  • Erwin

    Reaction from canon tech support to the above question. The first step
    is a “well duh” step. The others are quite interesting though.

    – Select the box for Grayscale Printing. If the document to be printed is in black only, then this step may be skipped.

    – Select Plain Paper as the Media Type. If any other paper type is selected, color ink will be used to create black. The pigment black ink will only be used when printing on plain paper.

    – If either Borderless Printing or Duplex Printing are enabled,
    grayscale will be created using a combination of the color (dye) inks to
    prevent smearing.

    And there I was, thinking I had such a brilliant printer because it
    could do duplex printing without me turning over the paper. I had this
    on by default (and I think many people do). It turns out to be a costly
    feature, for no reason at all, really. They could have insert a pause before
    printing the flip side if they were so afraid of smearing.

    In fact, because of this feature, cheap duplex printing has become
    HARDER. Other printer drivers first print all even pages and then wait
    for you to turn over the stack. The Canon printer does not do this,
    because it offers duplex printing in the machine. Using color ink. Sigh.

    Mind you, the printer has TWO BLACK TANKS and still needs to use color ink??

    Erwin Timmerman

  • Joe Flood

    This is a real major pain. I only ever use my Brother MFC425CN printer for black and white (mostly for photocopying important documents) and I only ever press the mono button – yet the colour cartridges are always emptying and preventing me from printing until I make a long and expensive trip to the printer shop.

    • larry

      It called SCAM!!!!  I just spoke with HP regarding my Photosmart C6180. It has 5 color cartridges in addition to the black. I print in in B & W only, yet all 5 of my color cartridges consistently run out of ink. The HP rep said that “Standard B & W” is not really black and white – and that all printers lay down color under the black to give it a true black. That’s how capitalists survive – by scamming people. I asked how I could set it to use only the black cartridge. He said that is NOT POSSIBLE with any HP software. 

    • Smayonak

      HP is definitely one of the worst offenders, when it comes to extracting value from their customers. But it’s a dirty industry in general.

      Larry, I realize you weren’t asking a question, but the customer rep you spoke to was mistaken. They do have ways to print only in black and white, but it requires that you (1) run out of color ink (2) use the color-ink-out override method (http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/Document.jsp?lang=en&cc=us&taskId=120&prodSeriesId=446153&prodTypeId=18972&objectID=c00314429_).

      For your specific model of printer, I also found this thread: (http://www.fixyourownprinter.com/forums/printer/50063)

    • Mayorchapstick

      Your the kind of person who makes me question whether I’m just really smart, or everyone else is really stupid… It’s not a scam… nor a capitalist plot to create war on foreign countries in an effort to take over oil.. I mean ink fields… CMYK is required to create a true “black”.. “K” is technically black, but it actually is a medium grey. By using all 4 colors, you get black, just like you need zero colors to make white. The 5th color is a pigment K. It’s used to make longer lasting black, and somewhat sun and water resistant. Enjoy your paranoid ignorance

    • Michaeleschuler

      Sorry, but I have owned a number of inkjet printers that contained a single “black” cartridge and was completely happy the output.  Engineers could very well configure a consumer-grade printer that has a “high quality” black that uses multiple pigments (as do high-end giclee printers) and a “standard quality” that uses only the black cartridge and produced adequate quality blacks.

    • Mr. T.

      Well Mr. who’s just really smart, howcome then that my 5-tank Canon printer uses only the big black cartridge to print black when duplex is turned off? Please explain. According to you this would not be possible or produce inferior results. Well, I must say I’m perfectly happy the way my letters and shopping lists turn out using the black cartridge only.

    • Anmana34

      wow. You don’t have many friends, do you?

  • Mate

    Printers use color cartrige too, in some printers can be set in printer settings to use the black only.

  • Smayonak

    There are many reasons for why color ink levels deplete at faster rates than black, but one cause is the most likely: You are probably printing in color, despite the image itself being black and white. This is because printer makers charge more for color clips, than for black and white. Their printers are often designed to use color by default.

    To create a black print out, it combines all four colors (CMYB). Of course, black alone would have done the job just fine.

    This problem is fixed by going to print something, then find ‘properties’ and then choose ‘gray scale’ or ‘black and white’ from the options menu.

    From what I have learned, Tina is also very right in saying leaks cause ink loss. There’s several reasons for ink “leaking”. Here’s a couple:

    * Defective cartridge (very common with re-manufactured ink cartridges).

    * The printer’s automatic cleaning causes the printer to squirt ink in large quantities into a hidden ink depository. Cleaning cycles should be activated judiciously.

    There’s quite a few other reasons for why printers waste huge amounts of color ink – but the most common one is that it’s profitable for some companies to design their printers in such a manner. They’ll keep doing it until we, as consumers, start buying more ink efficient designs, such as “continuous ink” designs.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=sohojet+continuous+ink&hl=en&tbs=shop%3A1&aq=f#sclient=psy&hl=en&tbm=shop&source=hp&q=sohojet+continuous&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=19be93ff8c446596

    • Mike

      I agree with Smayonak

      Especially with scanned documents (copy) black can often shift into a different color scheme like a very dark blue-black, brown-black etc. There are some tolerance levels but most of the time those tones will be printed using a mixture of CMY instead of the black ink. With the color cartridges being smaller and having lower ink levels in general they will be depleted faster than the black one.

      If you are printing you should select the gray-scale or black&white option as suggested. As for copying make sure you are using the button labeled “Black” and not the one for color copies.

    • Guest

      I had no idea these existed.
      I own a canon MX860 and it slowly depletes ink no matter what I do, whether it’s on duplex printing or grey-scale. Whether I use it at all in fact.

      My only conclusion is some kind of odd maintenance system.

      While owning a continuous ink system won’t stop it from wasting it, it will certainly cost considerably less.

      I’d jump ship and simply purchase a printer from a company that wasn’t so clearly trying to rip people off.
      I liked the idea of being able to replace separate cartridges with the Canon and not whole blocks at a time, only to find they’d installed a chip system to make using anything other than their own brands difficult.
      Not that this isn’t avoidable or hack-able, but it’s the intent that really bothers me. Canon brand ink cartridges are astonishingly expensive, making even considering purchasing them over re-manufactured or gray market out of the question.

      Won’t be purchasing a Canon again if there’s an honest alternative out there.

    • Smayonak

      For black and white printing, I’m told that a Brother laser printer is the end-all-be-all of inexpensive designs. The toner cartridges are definitely pricey, but they literally print thousands of pages. Friends of mine swear by Brother monochrome laser printers.

      One friend purchased his printer about five years ago or so (more or less) and has yet to change his toner cartridge, despite using it regularly. He said once it hits the point where it displays signs of running out of ink, it will go on for years more. Also, toner cartridges don’t dry out over time.

      Unfortunately, I cannot say first hand whether or not these are truly as inexpensive as rumors say they are.

  • Tina

    Richard,

    I don’t know why the printer would use color ink when you’re printing or copying a black and white document. I can only speculate that it is a ‘leak’ and that the scanner recognized color when you copied a document.

    A leak like this should definitely not happen when you print a black on white text document. Nevertheless, I would recommend to go to your printer settings / preferences and set the printer to print in grayscale only.

    I’m curious to hear any other suggestions!