How to trick your printer’s sensors into letting you print b/w when you’re out of color ink

Cannot Print. The printer does not have enough ink to maintain print quality.

I bought some movie tickets online the other day and had about 10 minutes to print my tickets before I had to run out the door. I hit print and looked expectantly at my printer, but as usual it was blinking at me saying that one of my color cartridges was empty. I rummaged through my ‘stuff’ drawer and noticed that I was clean out of ink, so I switched adobe reader to print in greyscale and hit print again. My black cartridge was full and brand new, but the printer said this:

Are you kidding me? Not enough ink to maintain image quality? on a black and white document? Obviously my lovely printer manufacturer (I have a Brother MFC-495CW) is trying to make more money on ink cartridge sales. Tough luck. So I pulled out one of the color cartridges and took a peek. This is what I saw:


The ink cartridge has a little window on it that shows you how much ink is left inside. After a bit of searching the web, I found out that the printer shines a light through the ink window to see how much ink is left. So I proceeded to see if I could fool the printer into seeing ink in the cartridge. I first tried to sharpie the window but that didnt seem to help.

Next, I grabbed a roll of electrical tape and stuck some on a few strategic spots as you can see below


Success! All three cartridges are now showing as full!


Some of you may be wondering if you lose print quality if you dont select greyscale mode at this point. Dont worry, I’ll show you what happens with a little help from Teddy Roosevelt:


It seems like a lack of color cartridges has little negative effect. Success!

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  • Comments (92)
    • Statz
    • 08/11. 2013 5:44pm

    You just might be the coolest person on the planet!

    Many Thanks! It works try it…

    • kim goldstein
    • 08/12. 2013 12:10am

    I cannot tell from the pics where the “stratigic” places are you please tell me?


    • kim goldstein
    • 08/12. 2013 12:26am

    think I got it!!!! great!!!this is a terrific tip and now I do not have to waste $ constantly buying cartridges when mine are not even empty!!you r a genius!!

    • G
    • 08/23. 2013 7:07am

    You, my friend, are ozzum.

    • colleen
    • 09/14. 2013 12:10pm

    Amazing! This really works! Thanks!!!!

    • Lauren
    • 09/27. 2013 11:03am

    You are a life saver. I hope that movie was the best ever!

    • k muhammad
    • 11/18. 2013 11:16am

    I live in the Caribbean and spend $450. tt dollars for ink. Ridiculous because yellow always runs out. The tape is a $$$ saver …thanks

    • Lwmons
    • 12/01. 2013 11:57pm

    You sir are both a gentleman and a scholar.

    • Elise
    • 12/03. 2013 7:10pm

    Thank you !! I always buy the colours but barely use them and if they do get used they wear out so quickly – you have saved me some $$$
    I could not find tape so I coloured it in with permanent black texta! It still worked!

    • Jay
    • 12/05. 2013 4:30pm

    You are a boss! My printer (J315w) has been sat on the shelf for months. We have two full black toner cartridges, but the colour ones are empty and they’re really expensive to replace here, so we’ve not been using it – I’ve been using the printer at work instead. I came across this post by accident while reading something about printers, and I’m so happy right now :) I only had a black marker, which worked fine for the yellow and cyan cartridge, but didn’t work for the magenta for some reason. I managed to find an old piece of black card, though, and tore off a small part and placed it over the window. I’m now printing like a madman :D

    • Gena P.
    • 12/31. 2013 12:24pm

    You are a genius. I had almost given up…and then I came across your AMAZING post. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

    • HELPPP
    • 01/14. 2014 5:11pm

    I cant see the strategic tape spots

    • Maria
    • 01/29. 2014 2:55pm

    You are awesome, such a money saver! Thanks so much!

    • Louis
    • 02/03. 2014 4:00pm

    Hi sir ! Thank you so much ! you’ve saved me time! I though i’d thank you too WOW! All good ! Merci bien !

    • B
    • 02/14. 2014 2:34am

    THANK YOU SO MUCH. You saved me a lot of time! Genius!

    • Mary
    • 02/27. 2014 11:11am

    Thank you you genius! Saved me a trip round the town looking for a printer for stuff I need to have filled out for a meeting 1st thing in morning!

    • Chucks
    • 03/17. 2014 1:43pm

    Thanks man! My brother printer had decided that my ink levels of all colors will slowly drop over time, even if I’m not printing or using those colors. This trick fixed everything for me!

    • JoBo
    • 03/20. 2014 1:14pm

    You are a genius. Thnx.

    • Chandra
    • 03/29. 2014 4:01pm

    Thanks a lot,it worked. Actually I sticked a small paper in front of the ink film you have shown in the picture and it worked.

    • nicole
    • 04/06. 2014 8:58pm

    Thank you!!! My son has a report due in the AM, we went and bought black ink thinking it would work, I was so mad!! It was almost 11 at night and he needs it by 8am..You are a life saver:)

    • Yoli
    • 04/22. 2014 8:47pm

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This solution worked on my MFC-J435W. I didn’t have electrical tape so I used duct tape. I cut little stips to size and it worked perfectly!

    • ki
    • 05/01. 2014 8:50pm

    I am beyond amazed!!! I stmumbled across this by luck. All 3 of my color cartridges were low and kept me from printing. Couldnt find any electrical nor duck tape, so what do I have dark in my purse? Eyeliner!!!! My bf is at this point, is looking at me weird, what in the world are you doing? My reply, performing a miracle!!! It actually worked!!! :-) You are amazing! I am amazed! Thanks a bunch!

    • B
    • 05/06. 2014 7:53pm

    Thank you! No one was selling the print cartridge and my son had to print a paper tonight!!

    • johnny
    • 05/11. 2014 8:43am

    Thanks a lot!!

    • Double D
    • 06/12. 2014 6:18am

    You my FRIEND is awesome!!!!! Got stuck at first , but quickly figured it out……!!!! You saved me on the very same thing on printing in an emergency……!!! Thanks again!

    • Andrea
    • 06/12. 2014 6:46pm

    This worked brilliantly! Instead of using tape, I just used a small strip of paper to cover the ink indicator on each of the colour catridges.

  1. e liquid reviews How to trick your printer’s sensors into letting you print b/w when you’re out of color ink | signaltheorist

  2. e cig juice How to trick your printer’s sensors into letting you print b/w when you’re out of color ink | signaltheorist

    • Ann
    • 06/22. 2014 5:00pm

    Thank you so much!

    • NALU
    • 06/24. 2014 3:23pm

    Thanks for the quick fix. It worked like a champ on a BrotherMFC-J825DW with some painters blue tape. Doing the happy dance now. :)

    • M
    • 07/13. 2014 1:31pm

    OMG!!! thanks sosososo much!!!! Can”t believe it worked!

    • Jason
    • 07/15. 2014 6:27pm


    (used modeling clay instead of electrical tape)

    • Tim
    • 08/05. 2014 10:30pm

    no way, it really worked! Thanks!

    • Elizabeth
    • 08/18. 2014 2:51pm

    THANK YOU!! You just saved my printer from going out the window:)

    • Ramona Sims
    • 09/01. 2014 3:17am

    Totally worked!! Unbelievable!! Thank you so much!!

    • Jessica
    • 09/01. 2014 11:13am

    Heck yes! This is awesome, THANK YOU!

  3. Jackie, I am a watercolor panetir and occasional teacher who lives in a cottage in the woods, on a tiny peninsula poking out into the Pacific on the west coast of the US Washington state. I have followed your blog for several years and love your work as well as the way you share your life with those of us who lurk here. My morning visits to your studio brighten my predominately gray days we get over two and half meters of rain here every year. I love your reports on all the new techniques you try and find them inspiring. I tried the gold leaf on a painting of young cowboys and ponies and sold it for a tidy sum. I was wondering if you get bothered by the solitude of your studio at times? Pat

  4. Seattle is about 4 hours north and a bit east of me, but not too far to go for a special event! I will let a frnied know and perhaps we can come and listen to your talk. Be sure to bring your rain gear and January is crab season in this part of the world, so if you like seafood it’s a great time to visit. By the way, I love the way you portray bears. This tiny peninsula is two miles wide and 29 miles long and we have a resident black bear population of over 700. They are daily visitors to my yard, unsuspecting drawing models and I love them for their wildness, the curiosity in their eyes, their shyness and patience they show to their cubs.

  5. What a beautiful way to put it. This book was a wouredfnl find! I once chose not to take a class from one particular artist, because I noticed that all her student’s work looked exactly like hers after taking her class, and though I appreciated her work, did not want my marks to become too much like another’s. You understand! Practice, practice, practice that’s the only way to develop your own style .

    • glen
    • 09/11. 2014 5:27am

    good trick man it worked for me too saved me $120 for 3 colour cartridges when all i normaly print is black and white well done son

    • Amani
    • 09/13. 2014 12:37am

    You are a legend!!

    • Leigh-Ann Brann
    • 09/14. 2014 4:37pm

    Thank you so much! It really worked!

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