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 (50)
    • 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 😀

    • 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!

    • 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!

    • Marc
    • 09/27. 2014 6:18pm

    I would also like to express my undying gratitude for solving this annoyance that has plagued me for years!

    • Henro
    • 10/05. 2014 12:39pm

    took me a bit to find all the “windows”. but finally got it. thanks a bunch, this is a best magic trick I have seen so far!

    • Stefan
    • 10/14. 2014 9:34pm

    LOL – I am so p*$$*d at HP – like many others I guess. Anyway. After so many hours this is the first really good clue. I did a short and quick test on my HP OFFICET 6100 (HP611a), which wouldn’t work due to REGION LIMITATION SH**. For weeks. Now, I stuck a piece of black paper in that slot, in front of that said sensor window. Just for testing. No glue. Just made sure that the paper would sit properly while I slid the cartridge in the printer … and see …. Works!!!! Thanks. The blue cartridge is 100% okay. Now I will go for the next steps. If this all works out I make a little clip and post it … this looks good … finally!!!

    • Lachlan
    • 11/02. 2014 6:20am

    Thank you and Fuck you Brother

    • Tim
    • 11/05. 2014 8:53am

    I had trouble getting the cartridge to lock back into place with the duck tape so I sprayed the little windows with quick drying flat gray primer instead. Worked like a charm.

    Thanks all

    • erik
    • 11/05. 2014 9:38am

    I read all the comments because I couldn’t figure out where you put the tape. I was looking for sensors or something on the actual cartridge, but it’s just the plastic areas in the photos above where you put the tape. Worked like a charm! Thanks!

    • Myrna Gray
    • 11/06. 2014 9:06am

    Worked like a charm. I have a Brother J825DW and used. green tape. Thank you!

  3. Furrealz? That’s marvelously good to know.

  4. That’s a cunning answer to a challenging question

  5. Perhaps the most valuable (literally) blog post in history. I was SO angry with Brother when I received this alert yesterday and the materials I was printing looked just fine! Thank you, thank you.

    • krystelle
    • 11/19. 2014 7:03pm

    You are a life saver!

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