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

    You are a life saver!

    • Mack Atttack
    • 12/12. 2014 7:51pm

    You are awesome.

    • PB
    • 12/18. 2014 12:10am

    It works. Brilliant!

    • Amalia
    • 12/24. 2014 10:48am

    I can’t tell where you put the electrical tape. Can you be more specific or get a closer picture?

    • mahdi khan
    • 01/07. 2015 5:28pm

    you could put electrical tape or a piece wrapped in the place where you see the ink this should trick the printer any brother printer model
    form a 14 year old middle school student

    • Charile Brown
    • 01/28. 2015 3:07pm

    AWESOME, Thank you!!

    • natasha
    • 01/29. 2015 5:30pm

    you are literally a god send!seriously i live in the middle of nowheresville usa hahaha and i have a small business and i had to ship some super important international packages, i paid the $100 some odd money for the label and the damn things says nope your out of yellow so you can print black,…and the closest place that sells this ink is 45 minutes away, then in a moment of desperation i searched on line how to trick my printer and i found your article and it worked immediatley…i used cherry black nail polish because thats all i had, but it did it! you are so awesome, you literally kept me from pulling my hair out and probably having a heart attack

    • LQ
    • 01/30. 2015 10:44am

    So glad I found this!! Thank you so much for this great tip! I tried it and it worked!!!!

    • sara
    • 02/08. 2015 8:21pm

    thank you for this ! I have put some masking tape and it did the job.
    it was driving me insane. I could see the ink and the printer was telling me it had none. I have when people try and take advantage of you !!!
    I printed with the remaining ink and it looked perfect.

  1. addict!!! maybe you have a pendulum in your head?!! you’re great!!!thank’s man..

    • OJ
    • 03/07. 2015 2:39pm

    you are a genius…

    • gw
    • 03/12. 2015 3:46pm

    Brother mfc -495cw error message cannot detect magenta cartridge please help

    • Rogue84
    • 03/16. 2015 9:27am

    It worked!!!!! Thank you so much!

    • Olivia
    • 04/02. 2015 6:32pm

    It really works!!!!! Oh my! I had to print my resume for tomorrow and I almost got a heart attack. I went to the garage and I found slim black tape that fit perfectly to that cardrige. So lucky!!!! ????????????.

    • Eternally Grateful
    • 04/13. 2015 10:22pm

    This was amazing. I have been getting ripped off purchasing ink for this printer for the last two years…..was ready to chalk this up as a bad investment and move on.

    May I one day be able to return this favor to you.

    Greatly appreciated.

    • Lynne
    • 06/16. 2015 12:56pm

    Just tried this on all 3 color ink cartridges. It worked!!!! Yay!!!! Thanks for the tip!

    • JESS
    • 07/14. 2015 1:20pm

    excellent!!! IT WORKED..THANKYOU

    • dblues
    • 07/31. 2015 7:28am

    Wow! Amazing! Eat my shorts Brotha!

    • BKH
    • 08/04. 2015 4:32am

    Obviously, you are some sort of genius, as testified by so many happy printer users. I, however, must be some sort of dummy because it is not working for me. I first tried black cloth tape, then blue electrical tape, then black electrical tape…I’ve re-started the printer after each attempt. The printer cartridges have a black level indicator in the window that raises and lowers with the liquid. I am contemplating the possibility that there is no light sensor but a feedback from the level. But HOW???
    The light sensor makes the most sense, but not considering the success of everyone else using the tape and the fact that I cannot get it to work. (I am a technically proficient detail oriented crafty person, and professionally I am a dentist, so I am used to getting things to WORK)

    Any ideas?

    • BKH
    • 08/04. 2015 4:56am

    Okay, writing down my problems helped….I re-evaluated the level/lever issue. As ink gets low, the lever raises UP. So it blocks the light sensor to tell the printer that ink is LOW. (I am in Germany with a Brother DCP-J140W, so maybe things are different over here)
    Anyway, the lever blocks the light and indicates low ink, thereby effectively rendering this whole machine a piece of junk. That explains why the tape didn’t work.
    The problem is now SOLVED. With a handy small syringe I keep for household purposes, I was able to inject the cartridges with 3cc water each. PRESTO! The test print was PERFECT! I don’t know yet if this thing can be trusted for quality printing now that the ink is watery, but I CAN PRINT IN BLACK until I can replace the cartridges!

    Thanks for listening, I feel better.

    • Jason
    • 08/31. 2015 8:52am

    I used aluminum foil and it worked. I didn’t even use any tape. I threaded it through a small opening so it covered both sides. To figure out where to put it, take the ink cartridge out and tilt it to the side. You should see some ink (if there is any left) flow into a small clear plastic area (that is the part that needs to be covered up w/ tape, foil, etc).

    I printed out a page after doing this and it’s perfect. Brother asking me to go buy new ink is simply greedy. I imagine this will be enough ink for my sporadic needs for at least another few months. Thanks!

    • Mary
    • 09/12. 2015 5:34pm

    Thank you! I used my black eye pen and colored the window with it and now I can print in black 🙂

    • Clive
    • 09/20. 2015 3:44am

    Um. could you be more specific about exactly where to stick the tape? I think I have got it wrong, and cannot quite see from your picture where it should go. Thanks, Clive.

    • Sal
    • 09/23. 2015 1:58pm

    Thanks it worked great I’ll repace the empty cartridges soon.

    • Rafael
    • 10/22. 2015 8:26am

    You are my hero!!!! 🙂 I never print in color and this was driving me crazy!! Thx!

    • Gigi
    • 10/22. 2015 11:55am

    Problem with this is that eventually it will run out of ink- then it takes forever to get the ink to show up.

  2. I was about to throw my Brother printer out. Its a scam. My ink showed half full but the printer said no ink. Your tape worked perfectly!!! ty ty ty

    • Hugo
    • 10/22. 2015 1:33pm

    you saved my day

    • jodi wendt
    • 10/27. 2015 6:11pm

    You are so awesome!!! Thank you so much for your genius!! Life saver!!

    • Leone Gray
    • 10/29. 2015 1:04pm


    • Jeorme
    • 11/14. 2015 8:09am

    I thought this trick was going to be for older models because my printer has a chip in it. This WORKS and I your thinking is correct. These printer companies make their money in ink distribution. I have plenty of ink left in black cartiridge and as soon as I covered that windows I’m back in business.

  3. I have been getting this blog daily for a colupe months now and look forward to reading it every day. Lots of different categories, although they seem to come in waves (probably how Amazon makes free books avaiable), so lots of free faith based books, then lots of free business, then romance. The one tip that he gives you that you REALLY need to listen to if you want a book that is free download it immediately! Well worth the small monthly cost, actually it’s worth much more than that for all the money I save each month!I like that he includes the description from Amazon along with the number of reviews (and rating). It seems like some authors (or Amazon) list some of the books for free to generate a lot of downloads and then start charging (I am guessing so that the book will appear at the top of the paid download lists??), I love catching a good read while it’s free and he does a good job of pointing those out!I also enjoy the tips.

    • Lynn
    • 01/23. 2016 6:56pm

    Thank you!! Based on the pic it is a little hard to tell how to execute your great idea. For those who didn’t get it the first go around, you will have to pull out the cartridge and look below the pin that lets the printer know you have a cartridge in the printer and above the white circle that dispenses the ink. You will see a clear plastic strip. You may need to look at it under some light and pull out a cartridge that does have ink in it so you can see the difference. I took duct tape and covered the clear part width wise. This worked on a Brother 790cw. The printer now thinks that empty cartridge is full.

    • Jonathan Hesbol
    • 01/29. 2016 8:02am

    This post was so helpful, and worked like a charm. I had to ply round with where
    To place the tape, but in the end a total success. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Trace
    • 02/09. 2016 4:53am



    • john
    • 02/11. 2016 11:44am

    thank you so much for this… Just tried with a little black gorilla tape… Cyan is back up to FULL!!!

    • john
    • 02/11. 2016 11:45am

    you just saved me $15 bucks

  4. Very nice. I will try it on my mfc 990cw brother printer

    • Mama G
    • 04/10. 2016 4:59pm

    I tried other solutions all day – even followed one video in Spanish. The tape works!! I still had ink in my cartridges so now I’m able to use what I have. Thanks so much!!

    • suman
    • 05/14. 2016 6:49am

    u saved my life

    • Aimee Jimenez
    • 05/16. 2016 10:10am

    This is awesome! THANKS A MILLION!

  5. It worked like a charm!! Thank you, it helps a lot

    • Onalee
    • 08/06. 2016 12:50pm

    THANK YOU!! Our printer is on the way out the door. Just waiting for my best buy rewards to get a new one, and not wanting to buy new color ink cartridges!

    • Happy
    • 08/17. 2016 9:03pm

    THANK YOU!!!!

    • alfin
    • 10/04. 2016 1:29pm

    Great fix! couldn’t find any electrical tape but just used the sticky part of post it note to cover the window. Thanks heaps.

  6. Just letting you know this post is STILL helping people out. I desperately needed a document printed and this did the trick! Now I have bought myself some time before needing to change the color cartridges. Thank you! 🙂

  7. Thank you

    • Mike McGuire
    • 11/14. 2016 4:29pm

    MANY thanks…. as others have said – this was a lifesaver! Can’t believe they don’t provide an override in the OS. I guess they expect us to stock supplies at home so we never have to find a Staples in the middle of the night….

    Props to you… great mind – it worked like a charm!

  8. wow its cool man

  9. good work with any android program on house windows as well as Hotstar, ShowBox and MovieBox will be the best official source nice.

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