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Troubleshooting Print Quality Issues

  • PrintPrint

Issue

The quality of a printed document or photo is not as expected. The procedures in this document should help with streaked or faded printouts, color or black ink not printing, documents with blurred or fuzzy text, ink streaks or smears, and many other print quality problems.
Try the following solutions in the order presented to resolve the issue. When one of the solutions resolves the issue, there is no need to continue troubleshooting.

Solution one: Use genuine HP cartridges

NOTE:The following instructions assume that you are using genuine HP cartridges.
HP recommends that you use genuine HP cartridges. HP cannot guarantee the quality or reliability of non-HP cartridges, or refilled HP cartridges. If you are not using genuine HP cartridges, the following solutions might not resolve your print quality issue.
Click this link, HP Home & Home Office Store (US only), and then click Ink Toner & Paper to purchase cartridges or check cartridge compatibility for your printer.
If you are located outside of the US, follow these steps to purchase cartridges using HP SureSupply.
  1. Click this link, HP SureSupply .
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and make sure that the country or region location is correct.

Solution two: Allow automatic servicing to complete

Your HP printer has an automatic servicing routine that can solve many print quality issues. There is nothing you need to do. The print quality should improve a few hours after you experience the issue.
If you cannot wait for the automatic servicing routine to complete, continue with the following troubleshooting solutions.

Solution three: Check the paper

Use the following guidelines to make sure that the paper is appropriate for the print job. If it is not, reload the printer with an appropriate paper type.
NOTE:To learn the types of paper your printer supports, see the specifications for your printer.
To purchase paper, go to HP Home & Home Office .
  • Load the paper print side down in the input tray. Many papers have printing and nonprinting sides, like photo paper and other special media. Usually, the smoother side is the "print side," and sometimes the non-print side has a logo of the paper manufacturer on it.
  • Do not use wrinkled or curled paper. Load only clean, wrinkle-free paper into the product.
    Figure 1: Do not use wrinkled paper
    Image: Do not use wrinkled paper
  • Use the correct paper type for your project.
    • For everyday text documents, plain paper with ColorLok technology works well. Paper with ColorLok technology is industry-standard paper that works well with HP ink.
      Figure 2: Plain paper with ColorLok technology is recommended for text printing
    • For documents with dense printing, such as high contrast graphics or photographs, use HP Advanced Photo Paper for the best results.
    • Some media may not absorb ink as well as others. If your prints smear easily, make sure you are using a recommended paper.
  • Store photo paper in its original packaging inside a resealable plastic bag. Store the paper on a flat surface in a cool, dry place. Load 10-20 sheets of photo paper only when you are ready to print, and then put the unused paper back in the packaging.
  • Try using a different paper. This will determine if the problem is related to the paper.
NOTE:Inappropriate paper usually causes vertical streaks in printouts (or if the problem occurs on a copy, dirty scanner glass usually causes the issue). Do not replace cartridges to fix vertical streaks.
Examples of horizontal streaks and vertical streaks in printout
Figure 3: Horizontal streaks in printout
Image of horizontal streaks
Continue with the following troubleshooting steps if your printout contains horizontal streaks, or other print quality issues besides vertical streaks.
Figure 4: Vertical streaks in printout
Image of vertical streaks
Do not replace cartridges for vertical streaks in a printout. Instead, check the paper as described earlier in this document, or search for a document that covers this issue.
Try printing again after trying the preceding guidelines.

Solution four: Check the print settings

Follow these steps to check the print settings to make sure that they are appropriate for your print job.
NOTE:Microsoft designed the Windows 8 interface for use with touchscreen monitors. In some areas of this document, the instructions direct you to "click" an element on the screen. In Windows 8, users with touchscreens can also tap those elements to perform the task.
  1. In the software program that you are trying to print from, click File , and then click Print . The Print dialog box opens.
  2. Select your printer, and then click Properties . The Properties dialog box opens.
  3. Click the Paper/Quality tab.
  4. From the Paper Size drop-down list, select the option that matches your paper size. For example, if you have legal paper loaded in your printer, select Legal 8.5x14in .
  5. From the Media drop-down list, select the paper type that matches the paper loaded in the printer.
  6. Select a print quality option.
    NOTE:If you want higher quality printouts, select a higher quality output setting. Selecting the Best or Maximum dpi might resolve print quality issues.
  7. Click the Advanced button. The Advanced Options dialog box opens.
  8. Under Printer Features , make sure that Print in Grayscale is set to Off , unless you want to print in Grayscale intentionally.
  9. Click OK , and then click OK again to apply the settings.
  10. Click OK or Print from the Print dialog box to start the print job.
Follow the steps for your operating system.
  1. In the software program that you are trying to print from, click File , and then click Print .
  2. Select the Paper Type/Quality menu.
  3. Review the following options, and then make any necessary changes.
    • Paper type : If one of the options matches your paper type exactly, select that option.
    • Quality : If you are dissatisfied with the quality of your printouts, increase the print quality. To print more quickly, decrease the print quality.
  4. In the Paper Type/Quality menu, click Color Options , if it is available.
    • If you want color printouts, make sure that ColorSmart/sRGB is selected.
    • If the option is not available, continue to the next step.
  5. Click Print to try the print job again.
  6. Optional : To save these settings for future print jobs, follow these steps:
    1. In the Presets menu, click Save As , name the new preset, and then click OK .
    2. If you have multiple printers installed, open System Preferences ( ) on the Dock, and then click Print & Fax .
    3. Set the Default Printer to Last Printer Used .
  1. In the software program that you are trying to print from, click File , and then click Print .
  2. Select the Paper Type/Quality or Media & Quality menu.
  3. Review the following options, and then make any necessary changes.
    • Paper type or Media type : If one of the options matches your paper type exactly, select that option.
    • Quality : If you are dissatisfied with the quality of your printouts, increase the print quality. To print more quickly, decrease the print quality.
  4. In the Paper Type/Quality or Media & Quality menu, click Color Options , if it is available.
    • If you want color printouts, make sure that ColorSmart/sRGB is selected.
    • If the option is not available, continue to the next step.
  5. Click Print to try the print job again.
  6. Optional : To save these settings for future print jobs, follow these steps.
    1. In the Presets menu, click Save As , name the new preset, and then click OK .
    2. If you have multiple printers installed, open System Preferences ( ) on the Dock, and then click Print & Scan .
    3. Set the Default Printer to Last Printer Used .

Solution five: Check the ink levels, and then replace low or empty cartridges

Follow these steps to check the estimated ink levels on your printer, and then replace low or empty cartridges according to the results.
NOTE:Ink level warnings and indicators provide estimates for planning purposes only. When an indicator shows low-ink levels, consider having a replacement cartridge available to avoid possible printing delays. You do not need to replace cartridges until print quality becomes unacceptable.
From the home screen of the printer control panel, touch the Ink icon ( ). The current ink levels display.
Figure 5: Example of estimated ink levels
Image: Estimated ink levels displaying on the control panel.
  • If the ink-level graphic shows low or empty cartridges , and you are dissatisfied with the quality of your printouts, replace the cartridges now. See the instructions in this document for how to replace a cartridge .
  • If the ink-level graphic shows full cartridges , you do not need to replace the cartridges yet. Continue to the next solution.

Solution six: Print and evaluate a Print Quality Diagnostic report and troubleshoot defects

Follow these steps to print and then evaluate a test page.

Step one: Print a Print Quality Diagnostic report

Follow these steps to print a test page.
  1. Load plain white U.S. letter or A4 size paper in the input tray.
  2. On the printer control panel, touch the Settings icon ( ).
  3. Touch Tools , and then touch Print Quality Report . The printer prints the test page.
    Figure 6: Example of a Print Quality Diagnostic report with no defects
    Image: Example of a Print Quality Diagnostic report with no defects.

Step two: Check the Print Quality Diagnostic report for defects

In general, if the printer and its cartridges are working correctly, all the color bars on the test page should be present and unstreaked. The black text should not show ink streaks. The example in the previous step shows a test page with no defects.
Review the following table for examples of defects that can exist on the test page. These examples are not all-inclusive, but tend to represent the most common issues.
Examples of defects on a Print Quality Diagnostic report
DefectExample
Irregular streaksImage of irregular streaks.
Faded color barsImage of faded color bars.
Missing colorImage of a color missing.
Color bars with regular white streaksImage of regular white streaks in the color bars.
Jagged alignment patternsImage of jagged alignment patterns.
  • If you do not see defects on the test page , the print mechanism and cartridges work correctly. Do not continue the troubleshooting steps in this document. If printouts are still unsatisfactory , try the following general print quality guidelines.
    • Make sure that the image you are printing has sufficient resolution. Images that are enlarged too much might appear fuzzy or blurry.
    • If the issue is confined to a band near the edge of a printout, use the software you installed with the printer or another software program to rotate the image 180 degrees. The problem might not display on the other end of the printout.
    Garbled, illogical text, and incomplete printout (graphic)Windows only: If you are experiencing garbled, jumbled or illogical text, incomplete printouts, or missing text or graphics, go to Continuous Pages of Strange or Garbled Characters Print in Windows
  • If you see one or more of these defects on the test page , continue to the next step.

Step three: Make sure that the cartridges are properly vented and seated correctly

If the vent on the top of the cartridge is clogged or obstructed, the cartridge might not work properly. Follow these steps to make sure that the cartridges are properly vented and seated correctly.
  1. Press the Power button to turn on the printer.
  2. Open the cartridge access door.
    Figure 7: Open the cartridge access door
    Image: Open the cartridge access door.
  3. Press the tab on the front of the cartridge inward to release it, and then pull up on the cartridge to remove it from the slot.
    • If the error message mentions a specific cartridge, locate that cartridge, remove it from the carriage, and then continue with the next step.
    • If the error message does not mention a specific cartridge, remove all the cartridges one at a time, and then continue with the next step.
    Figure 8: Remove the cartridge
    Image: Remove the cartridge.
  4. Examine the vent area on each cartridge located above the HP logo on the top of the cartridge.
    Figure 9: Vent area on the top of the cartridge
    Image: Vent area on the top of the cartridge
  5. If the cartridge still has the orange pull-tab attached, pull to remove it.
    Figure 10: Orange pull tab
    Image: Orange pull tab.
  6. If the vent is clogged, use a straight pin to gently remove excess adhesive from the vent.
    Figure 11: Clean the clogged vent with a pin
    Image: Clean the clogged vent with a pin.
    1 - Clogged vent
    2 - With a straight pin, gently remove excess adhesive from the vent
    3 - Unclogged vent
  7. With the nozzle and the contacts facing down, push the cartridge into its slot. Press down on the cartridge until it clicks into place. Make sure that the color icon on the cartridge label matches the color icon on the slot.
    Figure 12: Insert the cartridge
    Image: Insert the cartridge.
  8. Repeat these steps to inspect the vents on each of the cartridges.
  9. Make sure that each cartridge is firmly in place in its slot. Run your finger along the top of the cartridges to feel for any that are protruding, and if any are, press down firmly until each cartridge snaps into place.
  10. Close the cartridge access door.
    Figure 13: Close the cartridge access door
    Image: Close the cartridge access door.
  11. Wait until the printer is idle and silent before proceeding.
  12. Print another test page.

Step four: Use an automated tool to clean the printhead

Follow these steps to run an automatic utility to clean the printhead.
NOTE:To avoid issues that require cleaning the printhead, always turn the printer off using the Power button on the printer itself. Make sure that you replace any missing cartridges as soon as possible to avoid print quality issues and possible extra ink usage or damage to the ink system. Never turn off the printer when cartridges are missing .
  1. Load plain white U.S. letter or A4 size paper in the input tray, if it is not already loaded.
  2. On the printer control panel, touch the Settings icon ( ).
  3. Touch Tools , and then touch Clean Printhead . The printer cleans the printheads and prints a test page.
  4. Check the test page for defects.
    • If you do not see defects on the test page, the print mechanism and cartridges work correctly. Do not continue the troubleshooting steps in this document.
    • If you see defects on the test page, try the second-stage cleaning option that the printer offers. If you still see defects on the test page, continue to the next step.

Step five: Align the printheads

  1. Load plain white U.S. letter or A4 size paper in the input tray.
  2. On the printer control panel, touch the Settings icon ( ).
  3. Touch Tools , and then touch Align Printer . After the alignment, a message displays on the printer control panel that tells you the alignment status.
    • If the alignment is successful , you can stop troubleshooting.
    • If the alignment is unsuccessful , continue to the next solution.

Solution seven: Replace the problem cartridges

If none of the preceding solutions resolves the issue, replace the cartridge that corresponds to the defect on the test page. For example, if one of the magenta color bars is defective, replace the magenta cartridge. Follow these steps to replace the problem cartridge.
Important: To check if your ink supplies can be replaced under warranty, go to hp.com/go/learnaboutsupplies , select your country, and look for ‘ink supplies warranty’.
Click this link, HP Home & Home Office Store (US only), and then click Ink Toner & Paper to purchase cartridges or check cartridge compatibility for your printer.
If you are located outside of the US, follow these steps to purchase cartridges using HP SureSupply.
  1. Click this link, HP SureSupply .
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and make sure that the country or region location is correct.
  1. Press the Power button to turn on the printer, if it is not already turned on. Wait until the printer is idle and silent before continuing.
  2. Open the cartridge access door. The carriage moves to the access area.
    Figure 14: Open the cartridge access door
    Image: Open the cartridge access door
  3. Press the tab on the front of the cartridge inward to release it, and then pull up on the cartridge to remove it from the slot.
    Figure 15: Remove the cartridge from the slot
    Image: Remove the cartridge from the slot
  4. Pull the orange tab to remove the new cartridge from the plastic wrap.
    Figure 16: Remove the new cartridge from the plastic wrap
    Image: Remove the new cartridge from the plastic wrap
  5. Twist the orange cap counter clockwise until it snaps off the new cartridge.
    Figure 17: Remove the orange cap from the new cartridge
    Image: Remove the orange cap from the new cartridge
  6. With the nozzle and contacts facing down, slide the cartridge into its slot. Press down on the cartridge until it clicks into place.
    Figure 18: Insert the cartridge
    Image: Insert the cartridge
  7. Close the cartridge access door.
    Figure 19: Close the cartridge access door
    Image: Close the cartridge access door
  8. Print another test page.

Solution eight: Replace the printhead

If none of the preceding solutions resolves the issue, replace the printhead assembly.
A printhead assembly consists of a printhead and the cartridges fitted in the printhead. If the printhead assembly sustains damage or is incompatible with the printer, you might need to replace it. Replacement printhead assemblies are available only from HP Support or authorized service providers.

Order the printhead assembly

If HP replaces your printhead assembly under warranty, you will receive a new printhead assembly, cleaning materials, and a full set of new cartridges.
If your printhead assembly is no longer under warranty, you can purchase a new one online.
  1. Click this link to go to the HP Parts store.
  2. Under Find your part(s) , type CN643A in the Search by part number text box.
  3. Follow the online instructions to order the printhead assembly.

Replace the printhead assembly

Follow these steps to replace the printhead assembly.
CAUTION:Wait until you have a new printhead assembly available before removing the cartridges. HP recommends that you do not leave the cartridges outside the printer longer than 30 minutes. This could damage both the printer and the cartridges.
Step one: Remove the old cartridges
  1. Press the Power button ( ) to turn on the printer if it is not already turned on.
  2. Open the cartridge access door. The carriage moves to the center of the printer. Wait until the carriage is idle and silent before continuing.
    Figure 20: Open the cartridge access door
    Image: Open the cartridge access door.
  3. To remove an old cartridge, press the tab on the front of the cartridge, and then pull it up to remove it from its slot.
    Figure 21: Remove the cartridge from its slot
    Image: Remove the cartridge from its slot.
  4. Repeat the previous step to remove each of the cartridges.
Step two: Remove the old printhead
  1. Lift the latch handle on the carriage until it stops.
    Figure 22: Lift the latch handle
    Image: Lift  the latch handle.
  2. Lift the printhead to remove it from the carriage.
    Figure 23: Remove the old printhead
    Image: Remove the old printhead.
Step three: Clean the electrical contacts inside the printer
NOTE:The printer shown in the following video might look slightly different than your printer, but the steps still apply.
For successful printhead assembly replacement, it is important to get the electrical contacts inside the printer as clean as possible. The replacement printhead assembly comes with pre-moistened wipes.
Figure 24: Pre-moistened wipes
Image: Pre-moistened wipes
Use these wipes to clean the electrical contacts inside the printer. Wipe from the top to the bottom of the electrical contacts, in one direction only. As the wipes become dirty, discard the used wipes, and then open new ones.
CAUTION:Do not wipe up and down or side to side, as doing so can damage the printer.
Figure 25: Clean the electrical contacts inside the printer
Image: Clean the electrical contacts inside the printer.
Step four: Install the new printhead
  1. Remove the new printhead from its packaging.
    Figure 26: Remove the new printhead from its packaging
    Image: Remove the new printhead from its packaging.
    CAUTION:Do not touch the copper-colored electrical contacts. Do not scratch the electrical contacts on the printer or any other surface.
    Figure 27: Do not touch the electrical contacts
    Image: Do not touch the electrical contacts.
  2. Hold the printhead upright with the colored icons on the top.
  3. Lower the printhead into the carriage.
    Figure 28: Install the new printhead
    Image: Install the new printhead.
  4. Carefully lower the latch handle.
Step five: Install the new cartridges
CAUTION:Do not reuse the old cartridges. Old cartridges might damage the new printhead.
  1. Pull the orange tab to remove a new cartridge from its plastic wrap.
    Figure 29: Remove a new cartridge from the plastic wrap
    Image: Remove a new cartridge from the plastic wrap.
  2. Twist the orange cap counter clockwise until it snaps off the new cartridge.
    Figure 30: Remove the orange cap from the new cartridge
    Image: Remove the orange cap from the new cartridge.
  3. With the nozzle and contacts facing down, slide the cartridge into its slot. Press down on the cartridge until it clicks into place.
    NOTE:Make sure that the colored icon on the cartridge matches the colored icon on the slot.
    CAUTION:Do not lift the carriage latch handle to install the cartridges. Doing so can result in incorrectly seated cartridges and printing problems. The latch must remain down to install the cartridges correctly.
    Figure 31: Insert the cartridge
    Image: Insert the cartridge.
  4. Repeat the previous steps until you have inserted all of the new cartridges into the printer.
  5. Close the cartridge access door.
    Figure 32: Close the cartridge access door
    Image: Close the cartridge access door.
  6. Load plain white paper in the input tray for the following alignment process.
  7. When you insert a new cartridge, the printer automatically prompts you to align the cartridges. Touch OK on the control panel to complete the alignment.
Step six: Return failed parts to HP
If the new printhead assembly came with a post-paid mailing label and instructions to return the failed parts to HP, please do so. HP wants to analyze the parts in order to improve our printers in the future.
If a post-paid return mailing label is not included with the new printhead assembly, you are done, and there is no need to continue troubleshooting.
  1. Put the old printhead into the plastic package that the new printhead arrived in.
    Figure 33: Put the old printhead into the package
    Image: Put the old printhead into the package.
  2. Peel off the lid sticker labeled B and use it to reseal the printhead package.
    Figure 34: Peel off the lid sticker
    Image: Peel off the lid sticker.
    Figure 35: Reseal the package with the lid sticker
    Image: Reseal the package with the lid sticker.
  3. Use the orange caps from the new cartridges to cap the old cartridges.
    Figure 36: Cap the old cartridges
    Image: Cap the old cartridges.
  4. Put the old parts and the form that came with the new parts into the box that the new parts came in. If possible, also include a sample printout that shows the issue with the old printhead.
    Figure 37: Put the old parts, form, and sample printout into the box
    Image: Put the old parts, form, and sample printout into the box.
  5. Close the box, apply the post-paid mailing label, and then put the box in the mail.
    Figure 38: Send the box back to HP
    Image: Send the box back to HP.

Solution nine: Service the printer

NOTE:Keep a print sample that shows the problem. If the ink cartridges, printhead, or printer is replaced under warranty, the support agent will request the print sample. If the printer is returned to HP, the print sample must be returned with the printer. Place the sample in the output tray when you package your printer for shipping.
If you have completed all the preceding steps and are still experiencing a problem, service the product.
Determine if your product is in warranty or out of warranty. If you need help determining your product’s warranty status, go to HP’s Warranty Check Tool .
  • If your product is in warranty , contact HP.
  • If your product is out of warranty , fees might apply for contacting HP.

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