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Issue #683 – Publication Week: August 23-29, 2020

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Q: When printing a document from Word to my Brother B&W laser printer it prints anything that is in color as shades of grey, as it should. When printing the same document to an HP OfficeJet color printer from the same computer it will not print color. The Brother is connected through USB, the HP is on a wireless connection. When printing the document from a different machine to the HP, it will print in color. Print settings on both machines indicate a color print and all other parameters are identical. Why does the document not print in color when connecting to the HP printer over the wireless network?

 – Fred W.
Shalimar, Florida

A:  The first thing that I thought upon reading your question, Fred, is that your issue bears a striking resemblance to a question I answered in another column once upon a time.  So, I delved into my past issues, and sure enough, I found a question from reader David S. a couple years back (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. #560, April 15, 2018).  I encourage you to start by visiting my website, and reading that issue in the column archives.

Mr. David S. was having problems with Outlook, where you state you’re having problems printing from Word (and possibly other applications).  As I said in my reply to David, “There are at least two, possibly three places that I can think of where color can be turned on and off.”  So, your statement that “Print settings on both machines indicate a color print” is a bit suspect to me. Color print must be configured in all locations, or you’re very likely to see what you’re seeing: grayscale printouts.  Unless you can tell me that you’re aware of all the places that color can be disabled, and have verified that it is enabled in all the locations, print settings are still going to be my number one suspect cause, followed immediately by driver issues.

You didn’t mention whether the networked printers used to be able to print in color and stopped functioning, or whether they have never been able to print in color.  If the former, settings might have been changed by a Windows Update.  If the latter, it should be a simple matter to check and update to the latest and greatest drivers for your printer.

If you’ve eliminated the above, then by all means, check the following places where color can be enabled or disabled in printouts: First, look at the instance of the device located in the “Printers & scanners” snap-in in the Control Panel.  From here, you can set what I can best describe as the “Master Configuration” for the device on this PC.  You can also print a test page that will show up in color if the driver and settings are properly configured for color.  Second, when you initiate a print job, there is a “Printer Properties” box that allows you to control the settings of the print, and all of the features of the printer.  Make no mistake – although it might bear a remarkable resemblance to the dialog under “Printers & scanners” it is a separate function, and it is possible for color to be enabled in one place and disabled in the other.  There should be some sort of visual indication in the dialog of whether the driver intends to print in color.  I don’t know exactly what the driver for your particular HP model presents to you, but one I have at home will show a page preview, and it will be very obvious that parts are in color.  One I use at work has a small checkerboard that appears with squares in either black, white, and gray, or typical cyan, magenta, yellow, black. I strongly urge you to be sure that what you want, and what the print driver thinks you want, are in agreement before you submit the print job.  If they are, and you still get grayscale, it’s time to check the printer itself to be sure it is capable of color printing, that color hasn’t been somehow disabled, and that it has an adequate supply of ink available in all possible colors.  If even one of the color ink tanks is empty, the printer won’t be able to print in color, and will revert to grayscale.  Best of luck in your troubleshooting! 

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