Print | Rate this content

HP Color LaserJet 5550 Series Printer - Image Formation Troubleshooting

The image formation system is the central hub of the printer. During image formation, an image of colored toner is formed and then fused onto the paper. The image formation system consists of the following physical components:

  • Four laser scanners

  • Four print cartridges

  • ETB

  • Fuser

Before beginning image formation troubleshooting, check that the media meets the specifications listed in the HP LaserJet Printer Family Print Media Specifications Guide .

Print quality problems associated with media

Some print quality problems arise from use of inappropriate media.

  • Use paper that meets HP paper specifications. See Tray 1 (multi-purpose tray) supported media specifications .

  • The surface of the media is too smooth. Use media that meets HP paper specifications. See Tray 1 (multi-purpose tray) supported media specifications .

  • The driver/printer is set incorrectly. Change the paper type setting to heavy or glossy .

  • The media you are using is too heavy for the printer, and the toner is not fusing to the media.

  • The transparencies you are using are not designed for proper toner adhesion. Use only transparencies designed for HP Color LaserJet printers.

  • The moisture content of the paper is uneven, too high, or too low. Use paper from a different source or from an unopened ream of paper.

  • Some areas of the paper reject toner. Use paper from a different source or from an unopened ream of paper.

  • The letterhead you are using is printed on rough paper. Use a smoother, xerographic paper. If this solves your problem, consult with the printer of your letterhead to verify that the paper used meets the specifications for this printer.

  • The paper is excessively rough. Use a smoother, xerographic paper.

Overhead transparency defects

Overhead transparencies may display any of the image quality problems that any other type of media will cause, as well as defects specific to printing on transparencies. In addition, because transparencies are pliable while in the print path, they are subject to being marked by the media-handling components.

Allow transparencies to cool at least 30 seconds before handling them.
  • In the printer driver’s Paper tab, select Transparency as the media type. Also, make sure that the tray is correctly configured for transparencies.

  • Check that the transparencies meet the specifications for this printer. For more information, consult the HP LaserJet Printer Family Print Media Specifications Guide.

  • Handle transparencies by the edges. Skin oil on the surface of transparencies can cause spots and smudges.

  • Small, random dark areas on the trailing edge of solid fill pages may be caused by transparencies sticking together in the output bin. Try printing the job in smaller batches.

  • The selected colors are undesirable when printed. Select different colors in the software application or printer driver.

  • If you are using a reflective overhead projector, use a standard overhead projector instead.

Print quality problems associated with the environment

  • The printer is operating in excessively humid or dry conditions. Verify that the printing environment is within specifications.

Print quality problems associated with jams

  • Make sure that all media is cleared from the paper path.

  • The printer recently jammed. Print two to three pages to clean the printer.

  • The media does not pass through the fuser causing image defects to appear on subsequent documents. Print two to three pages to clean the printer. However, if the problem persists see the next section.

Print quality troubleshooting pages

The print quality troubleshooting pages provide information on aspects of the printer that affect print quality.

  1. Press Menu to enter the MENUS for the HP Color LaserJet 5500 or press Menu to enter the MENUS for the HP Color LaserJet 5550.

  2. Press to highlight DIAGNOSTICS .

  3. Press to select DIAGNOSTICS .

  4. Press to highlight PQ TROUBLESHOOTING .

  5. Press to select PQ TROUBLESHOOTING .

The message Printing... PQ troubleshooting appears on the display until the printer finishes printing the print quality troubleshooting information. The printer returns to the Ready state after printing the print quality troubleshooting information.

The print quality troubleshooting information includes one page for each color (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black), printer statistics related to print quality, instructions on interpreting the information, and procedures to solve print quality problems.

If following the procedures recommended by the print quality troubleshooting pages do not improve print quality, go to for the HP Color LaserJet 5500 or for the HP Color LaserJet 5550.

Understanding color variations

The printed output might not match the computer screen, and the colors printed on successive pages might not match. While color variations are inherent in this printing method, they can indicate changes in the printing environment, print media, or printer components.

Print quality troubleshooting tool

The print quality troubleshooting tool is available to users and service personnel to help identify and troubleshoot print quality issues for the HP Color LaserJet 5500 and HP Color LaserJet 5550 printers. The tool is designed to provide intuitive, step-by-step instructions for printing PQ troubleshooting pages. It suggests solutions for eight print quality issues using standard images to ensure that the support agent and the user have a common diagnostic method for isolating the print quality issue.

The print quality troubleshooting tool is available at the following Web sites:

You can also access the print quality troubleshooting tool by going to and following these steps.

  1. From the Main page, click Support & Drivers .

  2. In the open text field, type CLJ5550 and click the forward arrows.

  3. In the box on the right side of the screen, under Hot Topics , click print quality troubleshooting tool .

Common causes of color variation

The following list outlines the major causes of color variations between computers, applications, and output devices.

  • Halftone patterns produced on monitors and the types of patterns used in the print jobs are different and might cause variations in the printed output.

  • The printed output differs from the image on the monitor because the monitor and the print media have different reference values of black and white. The monitor screen has charcoal gray for the black level, and the white on the monitor screen is actually blue. Black on the print media is limited only by the fill capability of the printer, and most good quality paper has a very high white level. In addition, phosphor (used in color monitors) and toner have entirely different spectra characteristics and different color-rendering capabilities. Differences between output are common. Blues generally match better than reds.

  • The color of the ambient light changes the perception of color. Fluorescent light lacks many colors present in incandescent light, and the color range of natural light is broader than any artificial light. When comparing color, choose a standard light source for reference and understand that the perceived color will change as the light changes.

  • Long-term color variations occur as paper ages. Use high-quality paper and protect the paper from sunlight to help minimize discoloration.

  • Environmental changes can cause color variation. The development process places a high potential across an air gap to attract toner to the imaging drum. Changes in relative humidity vary the point at which the toner travels to the imaging drum.

  • All consumable components have a finite life span. As these components reach the end of their useful life, their ability to produce consistent print quality diminishes.

  • Paper roughness can cause colors to look different. Use standard paper.

Color selection process

The user selects the color in the application, but the operating system might convert or modify some characteristics of the color before sending the information to the printer driver. The printer driver might also modify color characteristics depending upon the selected output mode.

Any color characteristics not addressed by the printer driver or applications are set to the printer default. The default color might not match the color the user selected.

Matching colors

The user can match colors using Pantone(R)* color matching systems or swatch book color matching.

PANTONE(R)* color matching

PANTONE(R)* has multiple color matching systems. PANTONE(R)* Matching System is very popular and uses solid inks to generate a wide range of color hues and tints. See for details on how to use PANTONE(R)* Matching System with this printer.

Swatch book color matching

The process for matching printer output to preprinted swatch books and standard color references is complex. In general, you can obtain a reasonably good match to a swatch book if the inks used to create the swatch book are cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. These are usually referred to as process color swatch books.

Some swatch books are created from spot colors. Spot colors are specially created colorants. Many of these spot colors are outside of the gamut of the printer. Most spot color swatch books have companion process swatch books that provide CMYK approximations to the spot color.

Most process swatch books will have a note on what process standards were used to print the swatch book. In most cases they will be SWOP, EURO, or DIC. To get optimal color matching to the process swatch book, select the corresponding ink emulation from the printer menu. If you cannot identify the process standard, use SWOP ink emulation.

Using color

This section includes information on ways to produce the best possible color prints.

HP ImageREt 3600

HP ImageREt 3600 is a technology that provides you with the best color print quality without having to change driver settings or make trade-offs between print quality, performance, and memory. HP ImageREt 3600 produces photorealistic images.

HP ImageREt 3600 provides 3600 dpi color laser-class quality through a multilevel printing process. This process precisely controls color by combining up to four colors within a single dot and by varying the amount of toner in a given area. As a result, ImageREt 3600, together with the 600-by-600 dpi engine resolution, creates millions of smooth colors.

Paper selection

For the best color and image quality, select the appropriate media type from the printer menu or from the front panel.


Standard red-green-blue (sRGB) is a world-wide color standard originally developed by HP and Microsoft as a common color language for monitors, input devices (scanners, digital cameras), and output devices (printers, plotters). It is the default color space used for HP products, Microsoft operating systems, the World Wide Web, and most office software sold today. sRGB is representative of the typical Windows PC monitor today and the convergence standard for high-definition television.

The latest versions of Adobe PhotoShop, CorelDRAW, Microsoft Office, and many other applications use sRGB to communicate color. Most importantly, as the default color space in Microsoft operating systems, sRGB has gained broad adoption as a means to exchange color information between applications and devices using a common definition that assures typical users will experience greatly improved color matching. sRGB improves your ability to match colors between the printer, the PC monitor and other input devices (scanner, digital camera) automatically, without the need to become a color expert.

Color options

Color options enable optimal color output automatically for diverse types of documents.

Color options use object tagging, which allows optimal color and halftone settings to be used for different objects (text, graphics, and photos) on a page. The printer driver determines which objects are used on a page and uses halftone and color settings that provide the best print quality for each object. Object tagging, combined with optimized default settings, produces great color out of the box.

In the Windows environment, the Automatic and Manual color options are on the Color tab in the printer driver.

Setting color options to Automatic will typically produce the best possible print quality for color documents. However, there may be cases when you want to print a color document in grayscale (black and white) or wish to change one of the printer’s color options.

  • Using Windows, print in grayscale or change the color options using settings found on the Color tab in the printer driver.

  • Using a Macintosh computer, print in grayscale or change the color options using the Color Matching pop-up menu in the Print dialog box.

Print in Grayscale

Selecting the Print in Grayscale option from the printer driver prints a document in black and white. This option is useful for previewing preliminary copies of slides and hardcopy output, or for printing color documents that will be photocopied or faxed.

Automatic or manual color adjustment

The Automatic color adjustment option optimizes the neutral gray color treatment, halftones, and edge enhancements used for each element in a document. For more information, see your printer driver online Help.

Automatic is the default setting and is recommended for printing all color documents.

The Manual color adjustment option allows you to adjust the neutral gray color treatment, halftones, and edge enhancements for text, graphics and photographs. To access the Manual color options, from the Color tab, select Manual , then Settings .

Manual color options

Manual color adjustment allows you to adjust the Color (or Color Map) and Halftone options individually for text, graphics, and photographs.

Some applications convert text or graphics to raster images. In these cases, the Photographs settings will also control text and graphics.

Halftone options

Halftone options affect the resolution and clarity of your color output. You can select halftone settings for text, graphics, and photographs independently. The two halftone options are Smooth and Detail .

  • The Smooth option provides better results for large, solid-filled print areas. It also enhances photographs by smoothing out fine color gradations. Choose this option when uniform and smooth area fills are top priority.

  • The Detail option is useful for text and graphics that require sharp distinctions among lines or colors, or images that contain a pattern or a high level of detail. Choose this option when sharp edges and details are top priority.

Neutral Grays

The Neutral Grays setting determines the method used for creating gray colors used in text, graphics, and photographs.

Two values are available for the Neutral Grays setting:

  • Black Only generates neutral colors (grays and black) using only black toner. This guarantees neutrals colors without a color cast.

  • 4-Color generates neutral colors (grays and black) by combining all four toner colors. This method produces smoother gradients and transitions to non-neutral colors, and it produces the darkest black.

Edge Control

The Edge Control setting determines how edges are rendered. Edge control has two components: adaptive halftoning and trapping. Adaptive halftoning increases edge sharpness. Trapping reduces the effect of incorrect color plane registration by overlapping the edges of adjacent objects slightly.

Four levels of edge control are available:

  • Maximum is the most aggressive trapping setting. Adaptive halftoning is on for this setting.

  • Normal is the default trapping setting. Trapping is at a medium level and adaptive halftoning is on.

  • Light sets trapping at a minimal level, and adaptive halftoning is on.

  • Off turns off both trapping and adaptive halftoning.

RGB Color

Two values are available for the RGB Color setting:

  • Default instructs the printer to interpret RGB color as sRGB. sRGB is the accepted standard of Microsoft and the World Wide Web Organization (www).

  • Vivid instructs the printer to increase the color saturation in the midtones so that colored objects appear more colorful. Printed blues and greens will likely appear darker than on your monitor. This option is good for business graphics or for producing colors similar to the HP Color LaserJet 4550.

  • Device instructs the printer to print RGB data in raw device mode. To render photographs properly with this selection, you must manage image color in the application or operating system.

Adjusting color balance

This printer features automatic color calibration to provide high-quality color output. In situations that require critical color control, you can manually adjust the density balance of the printer's four toner colors. The available range for each color is from -5 to +5. The default value is 0.

This procedure should only be performed by your network administrator. Performing this procedure changes the color balance of the printer by altering halftones and affects all print jobs.

To adjust color density

  1. Press Menu to enter the MENUS .

  2. Press to highlight CONFIGURE DEVICE .

  3. Press to select CONFIGURE DEVICE .

  4. Press to highlight PRINT QUALITY .

  5. Press to select PRINT QUALITY .

  6. Press or to highlight ADJUST COLOR .

  7. Press or to highlight the desired color.

  8. Press or to highlight the correct density setting.

  9. Press to select the density setting.

  10. Press to set the density for the next color.

  11. After setting the density for each color, press Stop .

Provide feedback

Please rate the information on this page to help us improve our content. Thank you!