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HP OfficeJet Pro X451 and X551 Series - Improve print quality

Issue

The quality of the printout or printed image is not as expected. The procedures in this document should help with streaked or faded prints, prints without black or other colors, prints with blurred or fuzzy text, prints with ink streaks or smears, and many other problems.

Solutions

Try the following solutions in the order presented to resolve the issue. When one of the solutions resolves the issue, there is no need to continue troubleshooting.

Solution one: Use genuine HP cartridges

HP recommends that you use genuine HP cartridges. HP cannot guarantee the quality or reliability of non-HP cartridges, or refilled HP cartridges. If you are not using genuine HP cartridges, the following solutions might not resolve your print quality issue.
note:
The following instructions assume that you are using genuine HP cartridges.

Solution two: Check the paper

Use the following guidelines to make sure you are using the right media for the job, and in the right way. If you are not, reload the printer with an appropriate paper type.
  • Load the paper print side up in the input tray. Many papers have printing and nonprinting sides, like photo paper and other special media. Usually, the smoother side is the “print side,” and sometimes the non-print side has a logo of the paper manufacturer on it.
  • Do not use wrinkled or curled paper. Load only clean, wrinkle-free paper into the printer.
    Figure : Do not use wrinkled paper
  • Use the correct paper type for your project.
    • For everyday text documents, plain paper with ColorLok technology works well. Paper with ColorLok technology is industry-standard paper that works well with HP ink, providing better saturation, less bleed, and crisper images.
      Figure : Plain paper with ColorLok technology is recommended for text printing
      Paper with ColorLok technology is industry-standard paper that works well with HP ink, providing better saturation, less bleed, and crisper images.
      Figure : Improved Edge Sharpness with ColorLok® Technology (right)
    • For documents with dense printing, such as high contrast graphics or photographs, use HP Brochure Paper for the best results.
    • Some media may not absorb ink as well as others. If your prints smear easily, make sure you are using a recommended paper.
  • Store photo paper in its original packaging inside a resealable plastic bag. Store the paper on a flat surface in a cool, dry place. Load 10-20 sheets of photo paper only when you are ready to print, and then put the unused paper back in the packaging.
  • Try using a different paper. This will determine if the problem is related to the paper.
After trying the preceding guidelines, try printing again.
  • If these steps resolved the issue, you do not need to continue troubleshooting.
  • If the issue persists, continue to the next solution.

Solution three: Print and evaluate a Print Quality Report

Step one: Print the Print Quality Report

Follow these steps to print and then evaluate the Print Quality Report:
  1. Load the printer with regular, unused white paper.
  2. Press the Home button on the printer front panel.
  3. Press Setup.
  4. Press Print Reports.
  5. Select Print Quality Diagnostic. The report prints.
    Figure : Print Quality Report
    Tip: Mark this page with a ‘1’ in a corner. If you clean the printhead later, you will want to keep track of which page was printed first, in order to note any progress.

Step two: Check the Print Quality Report for defects

In general, if the ink system is working correctly, all the color bars are present and not streaked. Each bar has three distinct shades, but otherwise the color should not vary across the bar. The bars should also be evenly lined up. The black text on the page should not show ink streaks.
The following table shows some representative examples of defects on the Print Quality Report.
Examples of defects on the Print Quality Report
Defect
Example
Color variation across bar
Color intensity variation across bars
Bars not even (this picture shows an exaggerated defect)
Vertical dark lines
Vertical white lines
Ragged bars (check to make sure cartridges have ink and are properly snapped into place; then try a printhead cleaning)
If your Print Quality Report has defects like the ones in the table above, clean the printhead as follow:
  1. Load the printer with regular, unused white paper.
  2. Press the Home button on the printer front panel.
  3. Press Setup.
  4. Press Tools.
  5. Select Clean Printhead. The cleaning process has several steps. After each of them, the Print Quality Report prints again. Evaluate each of these pages to determine if the original defect has been fixed – if it has, there is no reason to go on to the next cleaning stage.
    Tip: Number each of the Print Quality Diagnostic Pages so you don’t lose track of the prints later.
  6. If your problem is smeared ink on the back of the page, try the following steps:
    1. Press the Home button on the printer front panel.
    2. Press Setup.
    3. Press Tools.
    4. Select Clean Ink Smear.
  7. If you finish the cleaning process and still see defects on the Print Quality Report, retry cleaning, especially if you have seen improvement in the Print Quality Diagnostic Pages.
  8. If the Print Quality Report still shows defects after a second cleaning, go to the final section of this document to service the printer.
    Special case: If the defect on the Print Quality Report is color variation across the bars (see the table of defects above), and if the problem seems to go away after a cleaning, but then reoccurs in the same location on the color bar the next day:
    1. Check to see if any of the following are true:
      • Prior to the print quality problem, the printer was unused for more than 3 weeks
      • The printer was recently moved or experienced a large temperature shift
      • There was a recent paper jam
      • The print quality problem seems to be getting better as the printer is used (especially if prints with dense backgrounds are printed)
    2. If none of the conditions above are true, the color problem is likely to reoccur, even if a cleaning fixes it temporarily. Go to the final section of this document to service the printer.
    3. If any of the conditions above are true, a printhead recovery may solve the problem. Contact HP for assistance with this step.
If your Print Quality Report has no defects, then the ink system is working correctly. There is no reason to clean the printhead! (cleaning the printhead unnecessarily wastes ink and paper). Do the following:
  1. Retry your original print job. Just printing the Print Quality Report can solve some problems. If your print job looks okay, stop troubleshooting here.
  2. If you still see problems on your print job, review the earlier steps in this document: make sure your ink and paper are appropriate, and that your print settings are correct. In addition, these suggestions may help with some problems:
    • If you are printing an image, make sure it has sufficient resolution. Images that have been enlarged too much might appear fuzzy or blurry.
    • If the problem is confined to a band near the edge of a printout, use the software you installed with the printer, or another software program to rotate the image 180°. The problem might not appear on the other end of the printout.
    • Always use the power button to turn the printer off. This protects the printhead from exposure to air.
  3. If none of these suggestions helps to resolve the problem, go to the solution below, to service the printer.
    If there is no issue with your Print Quality Report, got to the solution below, to check the print settings.

Solution four: Service the printer

Follow these steps only if the preceding troubleshooting sections instructed you to do so.
If you have completed all the preceding steps and are still experiencing a problem, service the printer.
  • Determine if your printer is in warranty or out of warranty. If you need help determining your printer’s warranty status, go to HP’s Warranty Check Tool.
  • If your printer is in warranty, contact HP.
  • If your printer is out of warranty, click here to view additional printer support options starting as low as $20.

Solution five: Check print settings

Follow these steps to check the print settings to make sure that they are appropriate for your print job.

Step one: Check the print quality settings

  1. Open the Print dialog box in the software program you are trying to print from.
    • Windows XP: Click File, and then click Print. The Print dialog box opens.
    • Windows Vista: Click the Windows icon, move the cursor to Print, and then click Print. The Print dialog box opens.
  2. Select your printer, and then click Properties. The printer Properties dialog box opens.
  3. Choose the correct tab to find the settings.
    • Windows XP: Click the Printing Shortcuts tab, and then click the type of job you are trying to print.
    • Windows Vista: Click the Paper/Quality tab.
  4. Review the following options, and then make any necessary changes.
    • Paper sizes: Make sure that the selected option matches your paper size.
    • Paper type: If one of the options matches your paper type exactly, select that option.
    • Print quality: If you are dissatisfied with the quality of your printouts, increase the print quality. To print more quickly, decrease the print quality.
  5. Click OK, and then click OK again to start the print job.

Step two: Check the Print in Grayscale setting

  1. Open the Print dialog box in the software program you are trying to print from.
    • Windows XP: Click File, and then click Print. The Print dialog box opens.
    • Windows Vista: Click the Windows icon, move the cursor to Print, and then click Print. The Print dialog box opens.
  2. Select your printer, and then click Properties. The printer Properties dialog box opens.
  3. Choose the correct tab to find the settings.
    • Windows XP: Click the Features tab.
    • Windows Vista: Click the Color tab.
  4. Under Color Options, make sure that Print in grayscale is not selected.
  5. Click OK, and then click OK again to start the print job.

Step three: Check Drytime, Saturation, and Black Ink Spread

note:
This step only applies if the regular HP software has been installed.
  1. Open the Print dialog box in the software program you are trying to print from.
    • Windows XP: Click File, and then click Print. The Print dialog box opens.
    • Windows Vista: Click the Windows icon, move the cursor to Print, and then click Print. The Print dialog box opens.
  2. Select your printer, and then click Properties. The printer Properties dialog box opens.
  3. Choose the correct tab to find the settings.
    • Windows XP: Click the Features tab.
    • Windows Vista: Click the Color tab.
  4. Unselect HPEasyColor.
  5. Click Ink Settings. The Ink Settings dialog opens. Adjust the sliders to address issues discussed below:
    • Increasing Dry Time will slow down throughput but helps issues like:
      • Roller Tracking
      • Ink smearing
      • Starwheel tracking
      • Most effective for plain paper
    • Decreasing Saturation could make prints look faded but helps issues like:
      • Roller tracking
      • Ink smearing
      • Starwheel tracking
      • Most effective for brochure/photo media
    • Increasing Saturation may make plots look more vibrant
    • Decreasing Black Ink Spread will improve areas where black and color are adjacent if the black is spreading into the color.
    Figure : Ink Settings
  • If these steps resolved the issue, you do not need to continue troubleshooting.
  • If the issue persists, continue to the next solution.

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