Monochrome vs. Grayscale Printing

1800 Office SOlutions Team member - Elie Vigile
1800 Team

The difference between monochrome vs. grayscale printing boils down to what type of printer you have. Color printers operate differently than monochrome printers. This makes a difference in what kind of settings you have available to you and what your best choice will be for setting up your printer.

Depending on the exact device and printer that you are using, trying to print a color document to a black and white only printer often results in an error message and the device’s refusal to complete the command.

At the same time, there are occasions when a color printer is available but a black and white only copy is what is required. This is when it is important to understand monochrome vs grayscale printing options.

Both of these result in the same type of document that is only using shades of black and white. The differences in the settings and hardware used to achieve the document. Which one you choose will depend on the printer that you have available.

Monochrome Printing

Monochrome printing is generally used for printers that only offer black ink. This allows your device to set up the document so that it is specifically designed for a single color of ink.

Monochrome Printing

By setting up your device to work with your specific printer, you will ensure the quality of your printing is much better. This also means that the amount of ink you use will be as efficient as possible given your document and printer’s capabilities.


When choosing monochrome printing from your settings option, you let your software know what kind of hardware it will connect to. This allows for improved communication between your software and your hardware. When you make it clear to your software what kind of printer you are using, your application will automatically format your document so that it is ready to tell your printer exactly how much ink to use for each pixel of your paper. This means that your printing will be efficient and of the highest quality.


When you know that you will be connecting to a black-and-white printer, choosing the monochrome printing option under your settings will ensure that your document has a great deal of clarity. When your software knows that you will be using shades of black and white, it will automatically sharpen the edges and corners of your letters and design to ensure that your document is just as clear as it would be if printed in color.

This can be especially advantageous when trying to create the depth and clarity of a complex document without using a multitude of colors period since your color choices are limited, ensuring that your printer knows what to expect can help account for the lack of color variety.

Grayscale Printing

Grayscale printing is used when your printer is a color printer, but you only want to use black ink. When you do not want to use your colored ink or simply want a document to come out in all black and white, you can set your printing preferences to grayscale.

Grayscale printing, monochrome vs. grayscale

How to change the setting

This can easily be done in the settings portion under your printer options. Depending on the application you are using, you will likely go to either file or page layout and select print to change your printer preferences.

From here, you can let your application know that your document will be printed using only the black ink cartridge in your printer. This can make a smoother transition to copying as well.

Color Printers for Black and White Copies

Using a black-and-white copier to duplicate a color document does not always produce the best quality. By setting your printer to grayscale, you can easily duplicate those documents on a black and white copier.


Choosing between a color printer or a black and white printer can be a tough decision. If you know that you will mostly be creating black-and-white documents using the monochrome setting, then you may want to stick with a black and white printer. This is especially true if most of your documents will then be duplicated using a black-and-white copier. On the other hand, if you want to be able to easily print full-color documents that will either be duplicated on a color copier or will not need duplication, a color printer will give you the option to print using grayscale when necessary.

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