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Is Your Printer Printing Dodgy Colors?

written by: Chris Hoffman•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 4/19/2010

Some printers may frustrate you by printing dodgy colors. This can happen for a couple of reasons, the most common being printer head issues. Your print heads may be clogged or misaligned. Read on to find out why this happens and how to fix them.

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    Clogged Print Heads

    The number one cause of an inkjet printer printing dodgy colors or any other sort of low quality printed document is clogged print heads. When an inkjet printer prints, color ink flows from the printer cartridge through holes in the print heads before reaching the paper. The ink that remains stuck in the print heads can dry up and plug these holes.

    Fortunately, printers generally come with software that you can use to clean these print heads. Selecting the cleaning option in your printer manufacturer's software will tell the printer to attempt to clean these print heads.

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    Misaligned Print Heads

    Dodgy or blurry colors could also be caused by misaligned print heads. The print heads need to be properly aligned with each other so your printer can properly print images and colors that come out looking crisp and sharp.

    Your manufacturer's printer software should also help you to fix print head alignment issues.

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Aka

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    How to Unclog or Realign Print Heads

    Use these tips to help you realign print heads and troubleshoot printing problems;

    1. On Windows, click the start menu and open the Control Panel.
    2. Open the Printers folder, then right click on your printer and select "Printing Preferences."
    3. When your manufacturer's printer utility comes up, look for an option to clean or re-align your print heads.
    4. If you choose to clean your print heads, your printer will fire a small amount of ink from the printer cartridges into the print heads and attempt to wet and loosen the ink clogging the print head holes.
    5. If you choose to realign your print heads, follow your manufacturer's instructions. Your printer may print a test document that will help ensure the alignment is correct.
    6. After you are done, try using your manufacturer's software to print a test page. This should allow you to see if the problem is fixed.
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    Empty or Dried Up Ink Cartridges

    Inkjet printers use separate print cartridges for red, blue, and yellow. These colors are combined to create other colors. For example, blue and yellow results in green. So, if you notice that your printer is printing a very yellow shade of green, there may be a problem with your blue ink cartridge.

    Your manufacturer's printer software should usually inform you if one of your print cartridges is empty, so be sure to check your printer's utility to view the status of your printer cartridges.

    Unfortunately, if you have a printer that uses a single inkjet cartridge that contains all three colors, you may have to buy a new one. Or, you can try refilling the inkjet cartridge yourself.

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    Laser Printer Color Problems

    While inkjet printers are generally cheaper and in use by more consumers, you may have a color laser printer. There is no risk of clogging because laser printers do not have print heads or liquid ink cartridges, but your printer's color toner cartridge may be empty and need to be replaced.

    If your printer is printing dodgy colors, use some of these tips here to correct the problem or read the manufacturer's instructions.