Faint Print – 5 Reasons and how to fix

Article updated 21/05/2024

Is your printer printing too light even though it has a full ink / toner?

Faint print or faded text is one of the most common printer issues and at one time or another we’ve all sent something to the printer, only to be left frustrated and irritated when something like this faded print example comes out at the end…

Naturally, for many of us, the first reaction will probably be to assume that our ink/toner levels are low. Whilst you might just need to replace the ink or toner cartridge, there could be something else wrong with your printer that’s causing faint prints or faded text.

If your printer has ink but prints faded, or your HP, Epson, Canon, Oki, Brother or even Xerox printer is printing too light, we’re going to help you to find out why, and help you to fix it without you needing to buy a new printer!

 

Here are the most common causes of a printer printing faded text or images:

 

Click each of the 5 reasons below to see the explanation and its solution:

  1. Low ink or toner levels
  2. Toner sticking to the fuser roller or problems with the transfer roller.
  3. Low ink or toner density settings
  4. Low or high humidity
  5. The inkjet print head is clogged.

If you’re short on time, get your faint print cheat sheet here otherwise keep on reading…

 

 

The 5 most common causes of light or faded prints:

 

1. Low ink and toner levels

 

As mentioned above, your cartridges could simply be empty or running low, so give them a check.

You can do this on your PC by going to the control panel and looking at your printer properties / cartridge status. This will tell you exactly how much ink or toner is left in the cartridges and whether they are causing a problem.

If you have a laser printer, it’s also worth giving your toner cartridge a shake (make sure you don’t do this with an ink cartridge or you might end up spilling ink on yourself or your surroundings). This redistributes the toner powder around the cartridge, giving you quite a few more pages before you need to replace it.

Just grab the cartridge with both hands and gently shake it from side to side, and up and down, for about 10 seconds. Then pop it back into your printer and try printing.

 

 

 

 

2. Toner sticking to your fuser roller or problems with the transfer roller

 

Problems with the fuser roller – Ghosted images on the page

 

In your laser printer, the fuser is the part that heats the toner powder, helping it to stick and seal the paper to create a print. (Find out more about how laser printers work).

Occasionally, toner can stick to a fuser’s upper roller. This could well be your problem if you can see a ghosted image of your printout somewhere else on the page. This occurs because the last thing that was printed out leaves toner particles that weren’t completely melted stuck to the fuser, when the next thing is printed it then transfers onto the paper and gives the effect of a faint ghostly picture over the top of the new printout.

How to fix this:

Try removing your fuser unit (after unplugging your printer) and check to see if the upper roller has the toner stuck to it. If it does, then it’s probably worth replacing it with a new one which you should be able to buy online and get one delivered pretty quickly.

 

toner sticking to fuser unit

Image courtesy of Lexmark

 

Problems with the transfer roller

Your transfer roller uses its electrical charge to get the toner from your cartridge’s drum unit onto the page. Sometimes, it may be incorrectly positioned in your printer, causing those light prints. Carefully remove it using the hooks it comes with and try inserting it again. When properly inserted, it should look nice and flat. (If you’re having trouble removing it, don’t break out the tools or try and rip it out! Ask a technician for assistance).

Alternatively, it could have something on its surface that’s having a detrimental effect on its electrical charge and, thus, its ability to transfer toner properly onto your page, causing a faint print. 

How to fix this:

Either wipe the surface with a dry cloth or use a can of compressed air to blow it clean. Try not to touch the surface with your hands as this could make it even worse!

 

 

 

3. A low ink/toner density setting

Some printers allow you to change the density settings of your ink and toner and often switch themselves to a low density setting after replacing a cartridge. Your default setting could be set to low, causing you to get those faint prints.

How to fix this:

If your printer does have ink/toner density settings, you should be able to find them once you’ve clicked on your printer in ‘Devices & Printers.’ If it looks like you’re printing at a low density, increase it slightly and then try printing.

 

HP printer utility screenshot

Image courtesy of HP

 

 

 

 

4. Your printer might be located in an area of low or high humidity

We covered this a while ago, but the humidity in your office can actually affect the performance of your printer. Ink or toner cartridges and also the paper you use has an optimum operating humidity rating and if the humidity is too high, problems can quickly occur.

If your printer is in a room that’s got a low humidity level, ink can have a pretty tough job being able to set and dry properly on the page, causing prints that look faint and light. The best place for your printer to be is somewhere that’s neither too humid nor humid enough! And remember that humidity levels will differ depending on the time of year.

hygrometer

Another reason for faint prints caused by high humidity in your office is that the paper you are printing on can get damp or absorb water in the air around it causing the paper to slightly ripple and become uneven. Then when you try to print, the ink or toner is distributed unevenly across the page and you get poor-quality faded printouts. A good tip is to move any spare paper into a dry non-humid area where you know it can be kept in tip-top condition.

How to fix this:

Position your printer away from windows, doors or near kitchen areas, and make sure you store spare printer cartridges / paper in a dry area.

 

 

 

5. Inkjet print heads are blocked or air bubbles are trapped in the ink well.

If you haven’t used your inkjet printer in a while, the mechanism that transfers the droplets of ink onto the paper (called the print head) can become blocked or clogged and cause faint or missing areas of print on the paper.

Air bubbles can also get trapped in the ink cartridge well and are pushed out of the ink cartridge instead of the ink droplet causing missing areas of print on the paper.

How to fix this:

  1. Remove the ink cartridges from the printer (be careful not to get any ink on your skin or clothes).
  2. Wipe the nozzles where the ink comes out of the cartridge with a lightly dampened cloth or paper towel (and remove any dried ink that may have built up).
  3. Re-insert the cartridges and run the print head cleaning process from your printer menu or PC.
  4. To clear out air bubbles, wait for 2 hours and run an additional print head cleaning process (retry this stage up to 4 times with a 2-hour break in between each). It’s important to wait a few hours in between or you may make the clogging of the print head worse.

For printers where the print head is built into the printer, you can sometimes purchase print head cleaning cartridges that flush the system clean.

 

Tips for specific printer Brands

 

HP printer has ink but prints faded

If your HP printer has plenty of ink but you still get faded prints or text is too light, then the problem will be related to the print head or nozzles being blocked or damaged.

This could be because your printer has been sitting unused for a long period of time (as regular use keeps the ink from blocking the nozzles and maintains the printer)

Solution:

  1. Run a diagnostic print from the printer menu to confirm which colours are causing a problem.
  2. Remove the cartridges and using a dampened cloth or ear bud (q-tip) gently wipe where the ink comes out until clean.
  3. Place the cartridges on a damp paper towel until the ink starts to flow (careful not to spill ink on skin, clothes or furniture).
  4. Wipe clean the cartridge carriage where the cartridge connects to remove any dried ink (make sure the printer is off and unplugged).
  5. If the printhead is built into the printer, clean where the ink comes out with a damp cloth.
  6. Re-install cartridges and run a print head cleaning process.

This should correct the issue. If this doesn’t work, you may need to replace the print head.

 

Epson printer, printing too light or faded

There are several causes for an Epson printer printing too light / faded.

Epson manufacture their own paper for specific purposes that work in conjunction with their ink technology, and if you select the incorrect type of paper, it can effect the quality of print outs.

Another reason for light or faded prints is a blocked / clogged nozzle in the cartridge or printhead.

  1. Make sure you have picked a compatible paper type before trying to print (eg. inkjet paper for an inkjet machine, photo paper for photo prints etc…).
  2. Make sure you have also selected the correct paper type in the page setup settings on your pc before you click print as this can cause the ink quality to change.
  3. Do a printer nozzle check to see if any are clogged (this can be done from the printer menu or a computer).
  4. If the nozzles are blocked, initiate the printhead cleaning process from the printer menu.
  5. If this doesn’t work remove cartridges and with a damp paper towel, gently wipe where the ink comes out of the cartridges until any blockages are removed. Then do the same with the print heads (where the cartridges are inserted).

 

This should get your Epson printer working again. If you still have any issues, you may need to replace the inks or print head.

 

OKI printers with LED heads

Some Oki laser printers have what’s referred to as LED heads located under the top cover of the printer / above the toner cartridges when the cover is closed. Each time you replace a toner cartridge you get a cleaning cloth that you are meant to use to gently wipe down the LED heads. If these become dirty over time, they can cause faint print, faded text and black smudged lines on the page. See the image below to give you an idea of how to clean the LED heads.

Oki LED head cleaning

 

 

Xerox printers – Colour Density setting

Some Xerox laser printers have a menu setting that allows you to control the colour density (darkness of the prints). If your Xerox printer is printing faded, try to find the setting by visiting Menu > Calibrate Colours > Print Reference page.

This will allow you to see what the current density setting is for each colour and how dark the printer is able to print. If you wish to change the density of a colour visit Menu > Calibrate Colours > Adjust colour (eg. if you want to change the black it would say ‘Adjust Black’). Select that option for the colour you wish to change, and use the arrow keys to adjust the setting.

Remember, when you change the toners, you may need to reset the settings as a new toner will naturally print darker than an older toner.

 

Hopefully, your prints should now be as crisp as a new banknote!

Lastly, there have been a few comments mentioning faded prints when attempting to print PDF’s off. It seems that some PDF’s have their own settings for the density of print and it is possible within the advanced PDF settings to change this for a better result.

If you’re still having problems with faint prints, leave a comment below or tweet us @TonerGiant – we’d be delighted to help or simply tell us about your tips on how you fixed a faint print problem.