Faded Color When Printing

Most printers require very little maintenance and operate with very few problems, however issues such as faded color or absence of color can pop up from time to time. If you are seeing faded colors or white streaks on the page when printing with your color printer, there are a few possible causes, and the possible causes are often different depending on the type of printer you are using. If you own an inkjet printer, see the next paragraph to diagnose your problem. If you have a laser printer, skip to that paragraph below:

Inkjet Printers

Cause of Faded Color When Printing on an Inkjet Printer:

Color quality issues for inkjet models are typically as a result of dirty printheads or clogged nozzles. The nozzles are attached to the printheads and eject the color of ink in miniscule dots precisely placed on the paper to create images. If one or more nozzles are clogged, the amount of ink and the placement will be off, causing lower quality and noticeable fading or streaking. As you can see in the picture above, two large white streaks ruin the integrity of the vivid colors inkjet printers are known for producing.


The most common solution is to run the automatic internal cleaning system to unclog the nozzles and remove dust particles from the printheads. This process can usually be run from the diagnostics or utilities section of either the printer driver software or the control panel on the device itself.

Laser Printers

Determining the Cause of Faded Color When Printing on a Laser Printer:

Most color quality issues that affect laser printers are as a result of a scratched or damaged imaging drum. As the central component in laser technology, the drum has an image burned into it with a laser beam. Static electricity will then attract toner to the imaging drum, and the toner is applied to the page in the same shape of the burned image. Some printers have an imaging drum in the machine, while others are located inside (and are part of) the cartridge (and consequently replaced when you replace your toner).

A good way to determine whether the issue is with the imaging drum, or with the cartridge, is by examining the faded printouts. The drum transfers all colors simultaneously, so if the colors are equally faded across the board, the problem is in the drum. If only a single color is faded, this could be as a result of a faulty cartridge. To determine this, print a test page that shows each individual color.

In this test page example below, you can see that only the magenta is not printing properly, thus revealing that the issue is the cartridge itself.

Magenta cartridge not working


1. If you determine after you print your test page that you have a faulty cartridge, you will need to replace it with a new toner cartridge for laser printers. If your printer uses a toner cartridge that contains its own imaging drum, then replacing it will solve your print problem whether it results from the cartridge being faulty, or if something is wrong with the drum. Continue with the next paragraph if the test page you printed shows your imaging drum is the culprit (whether you have a printer with a separate imaging drum or if the printer drum is included inside of your cartridge).

2. If your test print shows that your imaging drum could be causing your faded color when printing, it is probably because the drum receives a lot of abuse which can result in damage. Even a simple scratch can make the toner stick to the drum when it is supposed to be transferred to the paper, or make the toner unable to stick to the drum at all. You can attempt to clean the drum yourself at your discretion, but the sensitivity of the imaging assembly could be an issue. A better solution is usually to replace the imaging drum, (or the toner cartridge in the case where the imaging drum for your printer model is built into the cartridge).

3. If you choose to clean the printheads or imaging drum yourself, be sure to run a test page immediately afterwards to see if the problem is resolved. Before replacing the imaging drum consider the cost of this versus the cost of purchasing a new printer.