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HP Photosmart C4200, C4400, and C4500 All-in-One Printer Series - Uneven Darkness in Black Text


Black text or solid black figures in the printed output show uneven or non-uniform darkness.

Figure 1: The pattern of uneven darkness may not look exactly like the sample below


Follow the steps below to solve this issue.

Step one: Check estimated ink levels

The ink supply level shows an estimate of the amount of ink remaining in the print cartridges. Replace the cartridge if the cartridge is empty or has very low ink level.

Visit HP SureSupply to check ink cartridge compatibility or purchase replacement ink cartridges.

  1. Go to the HP SureSupply website.

  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page, then make sure the country/region location is correct.

  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to order new ink cartridges or check ink cartridge compatibility with your printer.

Genuine HP ink cartridges can also be purchased from other retailers.

NOTE: The HP All-in-One can detect the ink levels for genuine HP print cartridges only. The ink levels in print cartridges that are refilled or have been used in other devices might not register accurately.
  1. In the HP Solution Center , click Settings , point to Print Settings , and then click Printer Toolbox .

    NOTE: The Printer Toolbox can also be opened from the Print Properties dialog box. In the Print Properties dialog box, click the Services tab, and then click Service this device. The Printer Toolbox appears.
  2. Click the Estimated Ink Levels tab. The estimated ink levels for the print cartridges appear.

    Figure 2: HP Photosmart C4200 All-in-One series - Estimated Ink Levels

Step two: Run the clean print cartridges utility

  1. Open the Printer Toolbox . There are two ways to do this:

    • Open HP Solution Center , select the Settings menu, then the Print Settings submenu, and finally the Printer Toolbox .

    • If the HP Solution Center method does not work, open Printers and Faxes in the Windows Control Panel , then right-click your printer icon and choose Properties . Click Printing Preferences . Click the Services tab, then the Service This Device icon.

  2. The Printer Toolbox opens. On the Device Services tab, click Clean the Print Cartridges , then follow the on-screen instructions. Up to three levels of cleaning are available. Discard or recycle the page that prints.

Step three: Clean the contacts

If the steps above have not solved the problem, clean the electrical contacts on the print cartridge and in the carriage in the printer.

  1. Gather the following items to clean the cartridge and print carriage:

    • Clean distilled water. Use bottled or filtered water if distilled water is not available. Tap water may contain contaminants which could damage the cartridge.

    • Clean cotton swabs or any soft, lint-free material that will not stick to the cartridges (coffee filters work well).

    • Sheets of paper or paper towel to rest the cartridges on during cleaning.

  2. Open the printer lid and wait until the print cartridge carriage stops moving.

  3. Remove the cartridge and place it on a piece of paper with the nozzle plate facing up.

    NOTE: If you are removing a tri-color, photo, or gray photo print cartridge, try to clean the contacts quickly enough that the cartridge is not outside of the printer for more than 30 minutes. The ink can dry and clog the nozzles if the cartridge is outside of the printer for too long.
  4. Unplug the printer.

  5. Dip a swab in the clean water, then squeeze it to remove most of the moisture. The swab should be only slightly damp.

  6. Clean the print cartridge contacts. Do not touch the nozzles.

    Figure 3: Cartridge electrical contacts

  7. Clean the contacts in the print carriage, inside the printer.

    Figure 4: Carriage contacts

  8. Either let the cartridge sit for ten minutes to allow the cleaned area to dry, or use a new swab to dry it.

  9. Reinstall the cartridge, plug the printer back in, and close the printer cover.

Step four: Black cartridges only: remove and rest for two hours

NOTE: The procedure below will not fix missing lines or streaked bars printed by the tri-color, photo, or gray photo cartridges, or other color printing problems. Only perform the steps below if the black print cartridge has printed defective patterns, or if you notice non-uniform black text darkness.

In the black print cartridge, this problem may be caused by sediments collecting in the nozzle area. Follow the steps below to solve this problem:

  1. Remove the black print cartridge.

  2. If the carriage has a latch, relatch it and then close the printer.

    CAUTION: If the printer is not closed, it cannot adequately protect the remaining tri-color cartridge.
  3. Place the cartridge on a level surface with the nozzles up (label down).

    Figure 5: Cartridge with the nozzles up

  4. Allow the cartridge to sit undisturbed for two hours.

  5. Reinstall the cartridge and print another diagnostic page.

    1. Load letter or A4 unused plain white paper into the input tray.

    2. Press and hold the Cancel button and then press the Start Copy Color button.

    3. Make sure the test patterns show a complete grid and the thick color lines are complete.

    • If more than a few lines in a pattern are broken, this might indicate a problem with the nozzles. You might need to clean the print cartridges.

    • If the black line is missing, faded, streaked, or shows lines, this might indicate a problem with the black print cartridge in the right slot.

    • If any of the color lines are missing, faded, streaked, or show lines, this might indicate a problem with the tri-color print cartridge in the left slot.

  6. Look for defects on the page.

    If the diagnostic page shows no defects for the black cartridge, and if the cartridge was new, align the cartridge. To align the cartridge, follow the steps below:

    1. Load letter, A4, or legal unused plain white paper into the input tray.

    2. In the HP Solution Center , click Settings , point to Print Settings , and then click Printer Toolbox .
      NOTE: You can also open the Printer Toolbox from the Print Properties dialog box. In the Print Properties dialog box, click the Services tab, and then click Service this device .

      The Printer Toolbox appears.

    3. Click the Device Services tab.

    4. Click Align the Print Cartridges and a print cartridge alignment sheet is printed.

    5. Load the print cartridge alignment sheet print side down on the right front corner of the scanner glass.

    6. Press the button next to OK to scan the sheet.

    7. When the On button stops flashing, the alignment is complete and the page can be removed. Recycle or discard the print cartridge alignment sheet.

Step five: Replace the problem cartridge

If the problem has not been solved by the steps above, either the printer or the problem cartridge is defective.

  • If you have not tried cartridge replacement previously to solve this problem, replace the problem cartridge now.

  • If you have already tried cartridge replacement and it did not help, the printer may need to be serviced.

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