14 Jul
Posted in: Tutorials
By    144 Comments

How to use the other black ink cartridge when one is empty on your Canon Pixma MX850 Printer!

My Canon Pixma MX850 printer is one of the Canon series that uses the 4 small CLI-8 color cartridges (black, yellow, blue and magenta) and then has the large PGI-5 black cartridge, which is what the printer uses when printing regular black and white text. The smaller CLI-8 black cartridge is only used for printing photos and colored documents that require black coloration… now, in the world that us simple folk live in, you would think that if one black runs out, it would use the other black as a backup, right? Not so my friends, the Canon doesn’t use that kind of logic and there’s no way to bypass it within the printer’s menu. BUT FEAR NOT! With a couple of clicks, you can trick the printer in to using the other cartridge.

First off, this applies to when your large black cartridge is empty… the one used for printing standard black and white documents. So if you’re printing out your thesis at 4AM when everything is closed and run out of ink mid-way through, this will save your ink-starved derriere! Here’s how to force the printer to use the smaller ink cartridge:

  1. Click on print to get the print options window in whatever program you’re using… This is the window where you normally select the printer you want to use, how many copies etc.
  2. Within that window, you should see a link, button or icon that allows you to adjust the printer settings, such as paper, paper source, ink use etc.
  3. Switch the paper type from regular paper to “high resolution paper”.
  4. Click OK and close the settings window.
  5. Print your document.
  6. Post a comment on this post telling me if it worked.
  7. Mail me your underwear a check.


Hope that helps someone out there!  It saved my ass last weekend when I had to print tickets with barcodes 20 minutes before leaving for the St. Sauveur Aquapark!



  • Great suggestion. It Worked. Thanks!

  • Mate you are a SAVIOUR! I have been trying to get around this problem for a LONG time! Annoying how the thing doesn’t even let you scan things if it runs out of ink, even send a fax, totally ridiculous, ink expensive and wish i had NEVER bought it.

    Badly need to send off some documents so a big thanks!

  • Glad to help guys :)

    • Thanks Dan, i can finally use up the mountain of small black ink cartridges i have accumulated! Cheers mate :-)

  • hey man, thanks a bunch :) been having one of those ‘have to print something out in 10 mins but not enough time to get to printer shop’ crises! and im all good now :)

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! It worked perfectly!!!!!

  • Thanks, very useful – a great way to save!

  • it worked, thanks a lot!!!!

  • Genius, thanks :)

  • Legend, Thanks :)

    I also had to pretend I had replaced the cartridge by taking it out and putting it back in before it would print.

  • HERO

  • I love you more than anyone else in the whole world.

  • You are a life saver…. THANK YOU!

  • Can anyone tell me if there is a way to do the inverse? I have used up the smalll cartridge and need it to use the large one..

  • awesome! finally a solution! thank you

  • you are a life saver!

    *kisses with tongues*

  • woooohooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

  • Will you marry me?

  • Perfect fix for my problem awesome.

  • This is a great workaround for those “must print” situations. I’ve been searching for this kind of solution for a while. Thanks!

  • Dan, my MX850 will print only in green when printing out .pdf files or from the web. Any ideas what is wrong? Thank you Canon guru!

  • Hi found a way from following your instructions to force printer to use the large black cartridge if the small black has run out.

    1. Change printer settings on pc to high resolution (I also changed to greyscale although this may make no difference so might not be needed)

    2. Hold down the “stop” for 5 secs to reset the printer

    This is as you say only a temporary fix to get you out of trouble.

    Thanks for you efforts :)

    • This was the fix for me! Thanks!

    • Thanks for this! It worked. Crazy that we have to trick the damn printer to prin.

    • Thank you! This worked for me as well. Boom!

    • Thx Sarah… this has been my problem. Why doesn’t my printer use the large black ink cartridge in the first place? Grrrr…..

    • Sarah!! Genius!! Thank you!!! Almost 3 years later and this still works!!

    • you’ve now helped two of us on the same day – well done and many thanks.

  • you are the man!
    Thanks so much

  • Worked perfectly! You rock! Thanks for posting!

  • you are brilliant. thank you!

  • Does this work with other printers ie HP 309g?

  • I imagine it would, give it a shot.. just change from normal paper to photo paper and then if that fails try photo paper with highest quality print out.

  • Dan,

    Thanks a million! I can’t tell you how much time this simple fix save me today!




  • It did not work for me. I have a Canon MX850 printer.

  • Just make sure you select high resolution paper or one of the photo paper options and it should work fine.

  • My printer was printing a blank page even though I had a FULL black cartridge, one of five. Along the lines you suggested, I had to selected ‘Photo Printing’, as opposed to ‘Standard’ and it worked. THANKS… Junior was able to print out his homework and hand it in.

    These printers now days are a total scam. Just another tip.. when my printer (Cannon MX880) says I’m out of ink, it stops printing and you feel like you want to cancel, but if I give it a few minutes, it starts printing and most of the time, the print looks good. It’s a total fake out scam, they just want to through away full cartridges and buy new. When are teachers going to accept emailed assignments for god sakes!!!

  • Oh…my…god. Needed lyrics and a setlist for a gig. Ran out of blue and magenta when all I needed was BLACK ink (which I had PLENTY of). Followed instructions…loaded paper into the back tray and BAM! You just saved my musician in a cover band career!

  • Thanks, you saved my day!

  • Glad to help guys :)

  • Nice! It works for the ix6520 too.

  • OMG….I can’t thank you enough!!!! Made a late late night run to Walmart at 1am only to be disappointed by them being out of ink :( I am so thankful that you made this post…..thank you!!!!!

  • Yes, you totally saved my derriere. Thank you

  • Genius! There’s a blockage on the printer head of my large black which means there are white strips all over my printout; you solved it. So here’s another solution I found; this works on my iP4000 but might work on other Canons too. Select-all your document and give it a faintly coloured background; if you go into custom colours you can give it a background so faint that it doesn’t actually print! This tricks the printer into using the colour head for the printout instead of the large mono head. Obviously it works best in Word docs, but if you get some cheap pdf editing software you could do it to pdfs as well perhaps.

  • Was in a bind and needed my printer to print just 1 sheet asap! Thanks so much!

  • Actually, my problem was the other way around. All of my small cartridges were empty, except the big black one( which my printer doesn’t use alot of). There was absolutely nothing in the small black one. I followed your instructions, and it still worked for me. What a save and a relief from tons of trouble!

  • Fantastic! I used your info and was finally able to get my Canon MX 860 to print. I can’t figure out why the printer will not (until using your trick) print using black ink. The colored inks are fine, just no black. All cartridges are new. From everything I’ve read … perhaps the large black nozzle is clogged. Any suggestions? The problem just came up suddenly. Thanks for your tip.

  • Thannnnkkkkksssssss so much I’m working on my capstone i was about to have a heart attack. Such a life saver

  • THANK YOU! I ran out of black ink and needed to print few shipping labels with bar-codes. I could pay for shipping in person but when printed on-line delivery confirmation is included for free with USPS First Class (eBay specifically). I tried saving labels to .pdf with “CutePDF Writer” and changing color with Photoshop to dark blue, but it was not sharp print so I doubt it would be scanned right. This is a GREAT tip you shared. Also, my printer is HP but it had option for highest resolution so I used that option and photo (highest) quality paper settings while printing on plain paper. Worked great!

  • You’re very welcome guys, glad to help out :)

  • Here is another scenario: I want to print a document in BW. There is ink in the large BW cartridge, but two of the color cartridges are out (magenta and yellow). Printer is refusing to print since “ink may have run out” and pointing to Magenta and Yellow. I am trying to print in Greyscale. Any suggestions?

  • Hi guys,
    Did you know you can get generic cartridges, at a 1/5 of the original’s price?

  • Great ! Even works in Lao PDR with a MG5170 printer.

  • this really sucks beef

  • No but I have an MP970 =(

  • Praise. Jesus. You just saved the world from a loud shrieking scream.

  • thanks so much, saved my a$$ today.I had to print tickets with barcodes for the aquarium today.

  • worked for me canon mx860

  • Thank you so much!!! I have been trying to figure this out for months now! You are AWESOME!!!!

  • GENIUS!! I had to replace a brand new PGI-5 black cartridge with my empty one to get anything to print. For some reason my new PGI-5 black cartridge won’t work and I have no idea why. Thanks for the help!!

  • Thank you!!!!!

  • you saved my ass, this works on Canon mx870, thank you thank you thank you

  • Ha! This is so cool, glad to help out so many ppl that were on the brink of tossing their printer or PC out the window :)

  • Thanks man! One relieved girlfriend got her boarding card just in time :)

  • What a lifesaver!!! Thank you very much for sharing. This worked on an HP 7525.



  • You are the MAN! Thank you so much, I have been cursing and struggling with this stupid printer for nearly an hour to print a crochet charrt. Now I can finally go and crochet my Dalek doily in peace. Thank you!

  • Briliant! Did it on my Pixma 500. Had to pretend I had changed the cartridge like someone else did, so thanks to them too! Just saved me a twenty mile round trip.

  • Thank you so much ahah!

  • I have MP560. I tried same but not working. My big black tank still full but the colors are gone. I had Color Adjustment set to Manual, black. It worked for some time but now it does not at all. Once clicked Print button, a popup window jumped out with two options: “Shop Now” or “Cancel Printing”. Anyone has more suggestion?

  • Worked like a charm on my Canon Pixma MX712, thanks! My big black tank was dry but the small tank was nearly full. I didn’t have to do anything else than select Paper Source -> Other Papers -> High Resolution Paper. Thanks!

  • thank you so much!
    its 2 AM – iv’e been batteling this problem for about an hour.
    u’re a life saver!

  • I have a canon MG 5150, big cartridge ran out. Had to put paper in read tray, change to high resolution paper and set it to high quality standard. Took about 2 minutes a page to print, but it works! Thank you!

  • I tore my hair out looking for the last info I had on bypassing the ink cartridge out – wont print issue… Couldn’t find this blog at the time. Missed a copywriting dead line. Ouch!! mid of night of course. Now I find this. YOU ARE AWESOME…. Hey I have a MX870 as well as the other person mentioned, it worked with it as well… only thing it made me feed the paper from the rear instead of the regular paper cassette. Who cares??? it printed. AND OH YEAH it wouldn’t even let me scan with one of the color cartridges out!!! NO SCANNING just cause pink ran out. LOL. now I can scan as well.

  • HEY! Matt and WordPress related??? That reminds me I need to finish updating some WPress websites. Took CC courses back in March and have forgotten a lot of stuff. What happens when switching from .org to .com WP site? Can I copy over the old stuff that was on my .org site????

  • Thanks! Needed to print cassette inlays and didn’t feel like running to the store just for that, which used only black ink.

  • YOU ARE GREAT, and I mean GREAT!!!!! I won’t send you my underwear, but I’ll send you a lot of LOVE!

  • Thank you!!! it worked for me. I had to press and hold down the stop/reset button as someone suggested (thank you for suggesting that whoever it was that did) for my printer to start printing. thank you everyone!!

  • Boug refill cartridges and it doesn’t print. Can canon only use original?

  • You just saved my Mastersthesis with that tip man! (was on a mg5100)

  • Dan — Your thoughtfulness in posting this information is still being appreciated, over two years later…

  • worked on MP560

  • great, i didnt try yet, but will keep it in mind!

  • Dan, thank you so much for this wonderful idea! You are a star!!!!!!

  • Doesn’t work for me unfortunately. I have an MG5150 and it keeps asking me to replace the big black tank. I tried taking it out and putting it back in but I can’t fool it >.<

    • I have an MX860 and it won’t work for me either :(

  • Thanks Dan! You saved the day!

  • Thanks! It worked for me too. Also, I’m still working on the copy function, which still printed blank after changing the print settings on the pc. I switched the paper setting on the printer itself to matte photo paper and it printed a copy, but instead of black, it’s olive green, which is an improvement over a blank page. High resolution paper was not one of the choices, but I’ll try others. However, if anyone has already determined which paper setting to use for this, I’d love to save the ink on multiple trial and error attempts. Please share.

  • it worked perfectly here as well – I just had to push and hold “Stop” for 5 seconds to reset the printer in addition to your other steps, like someone else in the comments had said. You’re the best! Underwear on its way…..

  • I have a Pixma MX712 which seems to be using only the black photo ink, or blend of all the inks for greyscale which is how I’m trying to economize, when I ask to print in black only. I’m not sure what it’s using when I ask it to copy only in black directly on the copier. The big black cartridge seems totally full according to ink level display. the pink, blue photo black levels are way down, yellow not so much. Black very full. How do I get it use the black page cartridge only, even when I ask on the PC print selections to only print in black? Can’t seem to find true option or configurations to only use black page ink. Thanks.

  • Thanks!

  • Thanks a ton! This did the trick, so I can use up the ink I still have before replacing this heap!

  • My printer a canon will not let me print anything because the blue cart is empty. I can’t print a black text document even thought the black text cart is full. The thing is refusing to print until I replace the empty cart.

  • AWESOME!!!!! thank you so much

  • Worked for me!! Thank you!

  • You’re a stud! Thanks

  • You just saved my ink-starved derrière. Thank you.

  • Worked for my MX890. Thank you for posting these instructions!

  • Great! awesome! really helped me out printing mailing labels. thanks so much!

  • Yes! Saved me so much time!

  • Didn’t work on my MP560 either. Damn.

  • Dan, you are THE MAN!!! The names of my first 2 sons will be Dan and Richard!

    I was literally standing next to my printer, waaaay past my wits end, hypodermic needle and syringe in hand, about to suck the ink out of the full cartridge like a crazed ink vampire in order to transplant the life-giving blood into the lifeless husk of a cartridge (hey, that MIGHT have worked) when a little voice in my head said “Google it”….

    The rest, is history.

    PS: my nemesis is (was) a Pixma MP530

    • Hahah thanks, and best comment ever ;)

  • how about in mac ???

  • you freaking rock!!!!! i had to print out a picture for my son to take to preschool. thanks for helping me look like i have it all under control (while i’m a disaster inside). i have a pixar mp530.

  • Worked like a charm (little slow printing but OK).

  • yes,. that is amazing! Was about to run out to buy a small new printer at 2:00am so I had my speech ready to go at 7:00am. Now I can sleep! Thanks so much.

  • You are a life saver. It worked on my mg5220!

  • I love YOU! U saved my ass lol

  • Wow, such an old post, yet SO helpful. Thanks so much!

  • Thank you!!! It worked

  • Thank you so much for sharing!!!!!!! It also worked with the Canon Pixma IP3600!

  • Many thanks to Dan. It works.
    Another problem on my printer MX850 is it doesn’t work for “grayscale printing” even if any color ink is empty and 2 black ink are full. Why?
    I also noticed even I never print color document and photos, because of the color of this print is so ugly, the color inks are still used as normal. Why?

  • Dan, great MX850 hack!

    Just wanted to pay it forward and let people know that if you want to print duplex (that is, double-sided), changing your printer setting to “high resolution paper” won’t allow for it. BUT, the “photo paper plus double sided” option seems to do the trick.

    Happy printing!!!

  • Thank you!

  • Thanks! Really useful.

  • Awesome!!! You will go down in history :D

  • You rock! Starting work in 5 mins with NONE of my forms!! YOU SAVED ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Thank you!! it worked for my MG5150 Canon printer :)

  • I did not work for my MX860 either

  • You LEGEND!! Have been looking for a solution for this for years!! Now I can use all the other 8 black inks. THANK YOU!
    Got a trick to print out the faxes when all cartridges are empty except for the small black one (BK 8)?

  • It worked on my Canon MP560 – thank you!

  • It worked!! Thank you so much. I had no black toner in the small cartridge, but a full large cartridge. No color ink because my 12 year old daughter decided to print pictures of heart throbs to paste on her wall! It is frustrating that the printer will not print black (grey scale) even if there is no color ink. I changed the print job to grey scale, but that didn’t work. Also changing the paper to high resolution worked … after I realized I had to feed paper from the back paper tray, which I had never done before. THANK YOU! My daughter can now read her 41 page Korean War paper for an assignment. Mom (and Dan) saved the day. :) Cheers!

  • It worked perfectly in my MP560. Thanks I was never able to figure it out myself.

  • thanks it worked perfectly & smoothly ………hope this will resolve my printer problem.

  • After an hour-and-a-half yesterday trying various print settings, using alternate web-browsers (including uninstalling and reinstalling ie) and fiddling with menus on the accursed machine itself itself (including replacing the ink carts), a quick mental inventory told me that I was dangerously close to the hitting-it-with-a-fist option (with its kicking-it-to-bloody-hell sub-menu included) and the Canon Pixma MP960 (Premium All-In-One Photo Printer with3.5″ TFT Display and Easy-Scroll wheel!) would end as they all do – in a rattly heap in the trash. But I had to go to work so the fun would wait.

    I awoke at 11:30 o’clock and the first words I heard were my wife saying that the 24 hour deadline to print Alice’s bar-code was about to expire and she would have to pay 2x to post her parcel. Why this fell on me I don’t know but I knew my dad-status hinged for now on the print-job: 0 or hero. The bar-code was the only truly obligatory portion (the rest could be handwritten) but naturally it was the single piece that the beshrewed device ignored – leaving a blank patch where the vital symbolic representation of the postage paid should be. I’m not crazy but I swear the white paper hanging out looked for all the world like the despicable worthless son-of-a-whore was STICKING HIS TONGUE OUT AT ME. “Did you say something?” “Nothing, honey” So I did what all men do in a desperate situation. I googled it and praise-be-the-snotgreen-sea the solution was right here there all along!

    I made the simple adjustments sheepishly and as I read this long reply of users writing as if they had been suddenly released from jail I got all tingly like when you climb a rope in gym class and as the paper eased out of the printer’s orifice I danced triumphantly yes I said yes yes and she asked me with her eyes to ask again yes and then I asked her would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first she put my arms around me yes and I drew her down to me so I could feel her breasts all perfume yes and my heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes…

    Uh thanks by the way and thought you would enjoy this:


  • Dang mate, you rock!!! Worked like a charm.

  • You rock!!! Saved me today! Thank you!

  • Thanks to your help, I was just able to print a boarding pass for a trip and avoid a last-minute trip to FedEx. A shipment of my finest underwear is en route to you.

  • For MP560, you just have to choose Print Quality: High in the Printer Properties dialog to force it to use the 221 black ink.

  • This Epson I have, I believe, Only has online settings. I cant seem to find this setting…..any ideas?

  • THANK YOU SO MUCH! Now I won’t show up without resumes. You are a lifesaver

  • Just me that it doesn’t work for then! :-(

  • You are quite wonderful! Thank you sooooooooooooo very much for taking the time to provide this invaluable solution.

  • So where do I have to send that knickers? ;)

  • All I can say is that I agree with the “will you marry me?” Comment. But I’m married. So, a little less love than that. But it totally worked :) thanks dude.

  • Cheers Dan Yehaaaaa for the little people….love this tip…it works on my MP600 just fine:)

  • I.HEART.YOU Thank you!!!!

  • OMG!!! YOU ARE A GENIUS. I LOVE YOU! I am almost tempted to send you a pair of clean underwear. hehe Thank you so much and I’m glad that you are from the Montreal area like myself. I’m printing a Non-Disclosure Agreement that needed to be printed by tomorrow! <3

  • For those who replace their cartridges when your printer dialogue box says “you may have run out of ink of one color” just press O.K. on your printer and you will get many more printed pages before your ink will actually run out. You will notice this by the color printing much lighter.

  • My underwear is in the mail.

  • […] How to use the other black ink cartridge when one is … – How to use the other black ink cartridge when one is empty on your Canon Pixma MX850 Printer! My Canon Pixma MX850 printer is one of the Canon series that uses the 4 …… […]

So, what do you think?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: