Faint Print – 5 Steps

Article updated 20/05/2019

Is your printer printing too light even though it has 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 prints example comes out at the end…

faint print windows test page

Naturally, for many of us, the first reaction will probably be to assume that our ink/toner levels are low, and of course sometimes your instinct could be absolutely correct, you might need new ink or toner cartridge, but there could be something else that’s throwing a proverbial spanner into the workings of your printer and causing faint prints or faded text.

If your printer has ink but prints faded, or your Epson, Canon, Oki, Brother or even Xerox printer is printing too light or printing faded, we’re going to help you to find out why and help you to fix it and we’ll do it without costing you the earth or you needing to buy a new printer! We will give more detail each of the following causes lower down but here are the most common causes of a printed printing faded text or images:

  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. Inkjet print head is clogged.

If you’re short for 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. Also for inkjet printers, check that the nozzles on the cartridges aren’t blocked and don’t have dried material preventing the flow of ink. If they do, clean them with a lightly dampened cloth (making sure your printer is turned off and cartridges is removed first). 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 print out 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 print out.

Ghosting is a sure sign of a problem with the fuser. Try removing your fuser unit (after unplugging your printer) and check to see if the upper roller has 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. Try not to touch the surface with your hands as this could make it even worse! Either wipe the surface with a dry cloth or use a can of compressed air to blow it clean.




3. A low ink/toner density setting

Some printers allow you to change the density settings of your ink and toner. Unbeknownst to you, your default setting could be low, causing you to get those faint prints. 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. Each ink or toner cartridge 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 or not humid enough! And remember that humidity levels will differ depending on the time of year.


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 print outs. 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.




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

For inkjet printer owners, over a period of consistent use the mechanism that transfers the droplets of ink on to the paper called the print head can become blocked or clocked and cause faint or missing areas of print on the paper. Another cause for faded areas of print can be air bubbles trapped in the ink cartridge well. The air bubbles are pushed out of the ink cartridge instead of the ink droplet and you get missing areas of print on the paper.

The solution or fix to each of these problems is to get a very lightly dampened cloth and to clean the ink cartridges where the ink comes out. Remove the ink cartridges before you do this and be careful not to get any ink on your skin or clothing as it can be very difficult to remove.After you have cleaned the cartridges, run the print head cleaning process from your printer menu or PC. To clear out any air bubbles that may be trapped inside, after the first print head clean process, wait 2 hours and run another clean process and repeat until 3 to 4 cleaning processes have been done with 2 hour break in between. It’s important to wait a few hours in between or you may make the clogging of the print head worse.


Bonus – 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


Hopefully your prints should now be as crisp as a new bank note!

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 density of print and it is possible withing 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.


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 visist Menu > Claibrate 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.