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HP Designjet T920, T1500, T2500, and T3500 ePrinter series - Troubleshooting print-quality issues

General advice

When you have any print-quality problem:
  • To achieve the best performance from your printer, use only genuine manufacturer's supplies and accessories, whose reliability and performance have been thoroughly tested to give trouble-free performance and best-quality prints. For details of recommended papers, see Order paper.
  • Make sure that the paper type selected in the front panel is the same as the paper type loaded into the printer (see View information about the paper). At the same time, check that the paper type has been calibrated. Also make sure that the paper type selected in your software is the same as the paper type loaded into the printer.
      caution:
    If you have the wrong paper type selected, you could experience poor print quality and incorrect colors, and perhaps even damage to the printhead.
  • Check that you are using the most appropriate print-quality settings for your purposes (see Printing). You are likely to see lower print quality if you have moved the print-quality slider to the 'Speed' end of the scale, or set the custom quality level to Fast.
  • Check that your environmental conditions (temperature, humidity) are in the recommended range. See Environmental specifications.
  • Check that your ink cartridges and printhead have not passed their expiration dates: see Maintain the ink cartridges.
For the latest information, please visit http://www.hp.com/go/T920/support or http://www.hp.com/go/T1500/support.

Print-quality troubleshooting wizard

The print-quality troubleshooting wizard can help with the following problems:
  • Horizontal lines across the image (banding)
  • The whole image is blurry or grainy
  • Lines are too thick, too thin or missing
  • Colors are inaccurate
To start the wizard:
  • From the HP Designjet Utility for Windows: Go to the Support tab, and select Print Quality Toolbox.
  • From the HP Utility for Mac OS X: Select Print quality troubleshooting in the Support group.
  • From the Embedded Web Server: Go to the Support tab, then select Print quality troubleshooting.
  • From the front panel: Press , then , then Image quality maintenance.
Alternatively, or if you have other print-quality problems, you can continue reading this chapter.

Recalibrate the paper advance

Accurate paper advance is important to image quality because it is part of controlling the proper placement of dots on the paper. If the paper is not advanced the proper distance between printhead passes, light or dark bands appear in the print and image grain may increase.
The printer is calibrated to advance correctly with all the papers appearing in the front panel. When you select the type of loaded paper, the printer adjusts the rate at which to advance the paper while printing. However, if you are not satisfied with the default calibration of your paper, you may need to recalibrate the rate at which the paper advances. See Troubleshooting print-quality issues for steps to determine if paper advance calibration will solve your issue.
You can check the paper advance calibration status of the currently loaded paper at any time from the front panel. Press , then , then Image quality maintenance > Calibration status. The status may be one of the following.
  • DEFAULT: This status appears when loading any paper that has not been calibrated. HP papers in the Front Panel have been optimized by default and unless you experience image quality problems in your printed image such as banding or graininess it is not recommended to recalibrate the paper advance.
  • OK: This status indicates that the loaded paper has been calibrated before. However you may need to repeat the calibration if you experience image quality problems such as banding or graininess in your printed image.
    note:
    Whenever you update the printer’s firmware, the paper advance calibration values are reset to factory default, see Update the firmware.
  caution:
Transparent papers and films must be calibrated by pressing , then , then Image quality maintenance > Paper advance calibration > Adjust paper advance, from step four in Recalibrating the paper advance procedure.

Recalibrating the paper advance procedure

  1. From the front panel, press , then , then Image quality maintenance > Paper advance calibration > Calibrate paper advance. The printer automatically recalibrates the paper advance and prints a paper advance calibration image, which you can send to stacker or basket.
  2. Wait until the front panel displays the status screen, then reprint your print.
    note:
    The recalibration procedure takes a few minutes. Do not worry about the paper advance calibration image. The front-panel display shows any errors in the process.
    If you are satisfied with your print continue using this calibration for your paper type. If you see improvement in your print, continue with step three. If you are dissatisfied with the recalibration, return to the default calibration, see Return to default calibration.
  3. If you would like to fine-tune the calibration or are using a transparent paper, press , then , then Image quality maintenance > Paper advance calibration > Adjust paper advance.
  4. Select the percentage of change from –100% to +100%. To correct light banding, decrease the percentage.
    Figure : Light banding
    To correct dark banding, increase the percentage.
    Figure : Dark banding
  5. Press OK on the front panel, to save the value.
  6. Wait until the front panel displays the status screen and reprint your print.

Return to default calibration

Returning to the default calibration sets all the corrections made by the paper advance calibration to zero. To return to the default paper advance calibration value, you must reset the calibration.
  1. From the front panel, press , then , then Image quality maintenance > Paper advance calibration > Reset paper advance.
  2. Wait until the front panel displays the operation has completed successfully.

Horizontal lines across the image (banding)

If your printed image suffers from added horizontal lines as shown (the color may vary):
Figure : Banding
  1. Check that the paper type you have loaded corresponds to the paper type selected in the front panel and in your software. See View information about the paper.
  2. Check that you are using appropriate print-quality settings for your purposes (see Printing). In some cases, you can overcome a print-quality problem merely by selecting a higher print-quality level. For instance, if you have set the Print Quality slider to Speed, try setting it to Quality. If you change the print-quality settings, you may wish to reprint your job at this point in case the problem has been solved.
  3. Print the Image Diagnostics Print. See The Image Diagnostics Print.
  4. If the printhead is working correctly, go to the front panel and press , then , then Image quality maintenance > Calibration status to see the paper advance calibration status. If the status is DEFAULT, try performing paper advance calibration: see Recalibrate the paper advance.
If the problem persists despite all the above actions, contact your customer service representative for further support.

Lines are too thick, too thin or missing

Figure : Thin and missing lines
  1. Check that the paper type you have loaded corresponds to the paper type selected in the front panel and in your software. See View information about the paper.
  2. Check that you are using appropriate print-quality settings for your purposes (see Printing). If printing on photo paper, select the custom print-quality options in the driver dialog, and try turning on the Maximum detail option (if available). You may wish to reprint your job at this point in case the problem has been solved.
  3. If the resolution of your image is greater than the printing resolution, you may notice a loss of line quality. If you are using the PCL3GUI or the HP-GL/2 driver for Windows, you can find the Max. Application Resolution option in the driver dialog's Advanced tab, under Document Options > Printer Features. If you change this option, you may wish to reprint your job at this point in case the problem has been solved.
  4. When printing on uncoated paper in Fast mode, try loading the paper as Bright Bond.
  5. If the problem remains, go to the front panel and press , then , then Image quality maintenance > Calibration status to see the printhead alignment status. If the status is PENDING, you should align the printhead. See Align the printhead. After alignment, you may wish to reprint your job in case the problem has been solved.
  6. Go to the front panel and press , then , then Image quality maintenance > Calibration status to see the paper advance calibration status. If the status is DEFAULT, you should perform paper advance calibration: see Recalibrate the paper advance.
  7. If lines are too thin or missing, print the Image Diagnostics Print. See The Image Diagnostics Print.
If the problem persists despite all the above actions, contact your customer service representative for further support.

Lines appear stepped or jagged

If lines in your image appear stepped or jagged when printed:
Figure : Stepped line
  1. The problem may be inherent in the image. Try to improve the image with the application you are using to edit it.
  2. Check that you are using appropriate print-quality settings. See Printing.
  3. Select the custom print-quality options in the driver dialog, and turn on the Maximum detail option (if available).

Lines print double or in the wrong colors

This problem can have various visible symptoms:
  • Colored lines are printed double, in different colors.
    Figure : Colored lines printed double
  • The borders of colored blocks are wrongly colored.
    Figure : Colored blocks wrongly colored
To correct this kind of problem:
  1. Align the printhead. See Align the printhead.
  2. Reseat the printhead by removing and then reinserting it. See Remove the printhead and Insert the printhead.

Lines are discontinuous

If your lines are broken in the following way:
Figure : Vertical lines wavy or blurred
  1. Check that you are using appropriate print-quality settings. See Printing.
  2. When printing on uncoated paper in Fast mode, try loading the paper as Bright Bond.
  3. Align the printhead. See Align the printhead.
  4. Reseat the printhead by removing and then reinserting it. See Remove the printhead and Insert the printhead.

Lines are blurred

Figure : Blurred lines
Humidity can cause ink to soak into the paper, making the lines blurred and fuzzy. Try the following:
  1. Check that your environmental conditions (temperature, humidity) are suitable for high-quality printing. See Environmental specifications.
  2. Check that the paper type selected in the front panel is the same as the paper type you are using. See View information about the paper.
  3. Try changing to a heavier paper type, such as HP Heavyweight Coated Paper or HP Super Heavyweight Plus Matte Paper.
  4. Select a paper type that is slightly thinner than the paper you have loaded; this will persuade the printer to use less ink. Here are some example paper types in ascending order of thickness: Plain Paper, Coated Paper, Heavyweight Coated Paper, Super Heavyweight Plus Matte Paper.
  5. If you are using photo paper, try changing to a different type of photo paper.
  6. Align the printhead. See Align the printhead.

Line lengths are inaccurate

If you have measured your printed lines and find that the lengths are not sufficiently accurate for your purposes, you can try to improve line length accuracy in the following ways.
  1. Print on HP Matte Film, for which your printer's line length accuracy is specified. See Functional specifications.
    Polyester film is about ten times more dimensionally stable than paper. However, using film that is thinner or thicker than HP Matte Film will reduce line length accuracy.
  2. Set the Print Quality slider to Quality.
  3. Maintain the room at a steady temperature between 10 and 30°C (50 and 86°F).
  4. Load the roll of film and let it rest for five minutes before printing.
  5. If you are still not satisfied, try recalibrating the paper advance. See Recalibrate the paper advance.

The whole image is blurry or grainy

Figure : Graininess
  1. Check that the paper type you have loaded corresponds to the paper type selected in the front panel and in your software. See View information about the paper.
  2. Check that you are printing on the correct side of the paper.
  3. Check that you are using appropriate print-quality settings (see Printing). In some cases, you can overcome a print-quality problem merely by selecting a higher print-quality level. For instance, if you have set the Print Quality slider to Speed, try setting it to Quality. If you change the print-quality settings, you may wish to reprint your job at this point in case the problem has been solved.
  4. Go to the front panel and press , then , then Image quality maintenance > Calibration status to see the printhead alignment status. If the status is PENDING, you should align the printhead. See Align the printhead. After alignment, you may wish to reprint your job in case the problem has been solved.
  5. Go to the front panel and press , then , then Image quality maintenance > Calibration status to see the paper advance calibration status. If the status is DEFAULT, you should perform paper advance calibration: see Recalibrate the paper advance.
If the problem persists despite all the above actions, contact your customer service representative for further support.

The paper is not flat

If the paper does not lie flat when it comes out of the printer, but has shallow waves in it, you are likely to see defects in the printed image, such as vertical stripes. This can happen when you use thin paper that becomes saturated with ink.
Figure : Waves in the paper
  1. Check that the paper type you have loaded corresponds to the paper type selected in the front panel and in your software. See View information about the paper.
  2. Try changing to a thicker paper type, such as HP Heavyweight Coated Paper or HP Super Heavyweight Plus Matte Paper.
  3. Select a paper type that is slightly thinner than the paper you have loaded; this will persuade the printer to use less ink. Here are some example paper types in ascending order of thickness: Plain Paper, Coated Paper, Heavyweight Coated Paper, Super Heavyweight Plus Matte Paper.
  4. If you see horizontal stripes, try printing the same job rotated; this sometimes reduces the visibility of the stripes.

The print is scuffed or scratched

The black ink pigment can be scuffed or scratched when touched by a finger, a pen or some other object. This is particularly noticeable on coated paper.
Photo paper may be extremely sensitive to the basket or to anything else that it contacts soon after printing, depending on the amount of ink used and the environmental conditions at the time of printing.
To reduce the risk of scuffs and scratches:
  • Handle prints carefully.
  • Catch your prints as they are cut from the roll and do not let them fall into the basket. Alternatively, leave a sheet of paper in the basket so that freshly printed sheets do not make direct contact with the basket.

Ink marks on the paper

This problem can occur for several different reasons.

Horizontal smears on the front of the paper

When a lot of ink is used on a paper-based material, the paper absorbs the ink quickly and expands. If the paper is stiff and curled, near the end of the roll the leading edge of the paper may rise slightly in the print area. As the printhead moves over the paper, it may come into contact with the paper and smear the printed image.
Figure : Smears
Whenever you notice this problem, cancel the printing job immediately. Press on the front panel and also cancel the job from your computer application. Soaked paper can damage the printhead.
Try the following suggestions to avoid this problem:
  1. Increase the margins by relocating the image to the center of the page, either with your software or with the front panel’s Move Paper option (see Move the paper). To prevent such smears most effectively, the distance from the image to the leading edge of the paper should be at least 20 mm.
  2. Select a faster print mode: change from Best to Normal, or from Normal to Fast mode.

Other smears on the paper

The following suggestions may be used for all kinds of smears, including those on the front of the paper:
  1. Check that the paper type you have loaded corresponds to the paper type selected in the front panel and in your software. See View information about the paper.
  2. Use a recommended paper type (see Order paper) and the correct print settings.
  3. If using sheet paper, try rotating the sheet 90 degrees. The orientation of the paper fibers may affect performance.
  4. Try changing to a thicker paper type, such as HP Heavyweight Coated Paper or HP Super Heavyweight Plus Matte Paper.
  5. Select a paper type that is slightly thinner than the paper you have loaded; this will persuade the printer to use less ink. Here are some example paper types in ascending order of thickness: Plain Paper, Coated Paper, Heavyweight Coated Paper, Super Heavyweight Plus Matte Paper.

Black ink comes off when you touch the print

This problem may be caused by printing with matte black ink on photo paper. The printer will not use matte black ink if it knows that the paper will not retain it. To be sure of avoiding matte black ink, you can select Photo Gloss Paper as the paper type (in the Photo Paper category).

Edges of objects are stepped or not sharp

Figure : Unsharp edges
If edges of objects or lines appear to be poorly defined or lighter in density, and you have already set the print-quality slider to Quality in the driver dialog, select the custom print-quality options, and try setting the quality level to Normal. See Printing.

Edges of objects are darker than expected

Figure : Dark edges
If edges of objects seem darker than expected, and you have already set the print-quality slider to Quality in the driver dialog, select the custom print-quality options, and try setting the quality level to Normal. See Printing.

Horizontal lines at the end of a cut sheet print

This type of defect affects only the end of a print, within approximately 30 mm of the trailing edge of the paper. You may see some very thin horizontal lines across the print.
To avoid this problem:
  1. Print the Image Diagnostics Print. See The Image Diagnostics Print.
  2. Consider printing with roll paper.
  3. Consider using larger margins around your image.

Vertical bands of different colors

If your print has vertical bands of different colors along it:
  1. Try using higher print-quality settings (see Printing). For instance, if you have set the Print Quality slider to Speed, try setting it to Quality.
  2. Try using thicker paper, choosing from the recommended paper types such as HP Heavyweight Coated Paper and HP Super Heavyweight Paper. See Order paper.

White spots on the print

You may notice white spots on the print. This is probably due to paper fibers, dust or loose coating material. To avoid this problem:
  1. Try cleaning the paper manually with a brush before printing, to remove any loose fibers or particles.
  2. Always keep the cover of your printer closed.
  3. Protect your paper rolls and sheets by storing them in bags or boxes.

Colors are inaccurate

Figure : Inaccurate colors
If the colors of your print do not match your expectations, try the following:
  1. Check that the paper type you have loaded corresponds to the paper type selected in the front panel and in your software. See View information about the paper. Also, press , then , then Image quality maintenance > Calibration status to check the color calibration status. If the status is PENDING or OBSOLETE, you should perform color calibration: see Color calibration. If you have made any changes, you may wish to reprint your job in case the problem has been solved.
  2. Check that you are printing on the correct side of the paper.
  3. Check that you are using appropriate print-quality settings (see Printing). If you have selected the Speed or Fast options, you may not get the most accurate colors. If you change the print-quality settings, you may wish to reprint your job at this point in case the problem has been solved.
  4. If you are using Application Color Management, check that the color profile you are using corresponds to the selected paper type and print-quality settings. If you have doubts about which color settings to use, see Color management.
  5. If the problem consists of color differences between your print and your monitor, please follow the instructions in the “How to calibrate your monitor” section of the HP Color Center. At this point, you may wish to reprint your job in case the problem has been solved.
  6. Print the Image Diagnostics Print. See The Image Diagnostics Print.
  7. Try using the color adjustment options to produce the colors you want. See Color adjustment options.
If the problem persists despite all the above actions, contact your customer service representative for further support.

Color accuracy using EPS or PDF images in page layout applications

Page layout applications such as Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress do not support color management of EPS, PDF or grayscale files.
If you have to use such files, try to ensure that the EPS, PDF or grayscale images are already in the same color space that you intend to use later on in Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress. For instance, if your final goal is to print the job in a press that follows the SWOP standard, convert the image into SWOP when you create it.

Colors are fading

If you print on instant-dry photo paper, your prints will fade rapidly. If you plan to display the prints for more than two weeks, you should laminate them to achieve longer life.
Prints on swellable coated papers will fade much less rapidly. However, lamination will increase the life of prints (depending on the type of lamination) with all paper types. For more information, consult your laminate provider.

The image is incomplete (clipped at the bottom)

  • Did you press before all the data were received by the printer? If so, you have ended the data transmission and will have to print the page again.
  • There may be a communications problem between your computer and the printer. Check your network cable.
  • Check to make sure that your software settings are correct for your current page size (for example, long-axis prints).
  • If you are using network software, make sure it has not timed out.

The image is clipped

Clipping normally indicates a discrepancy between the actual printable area on the loaded paper and the printable area as understood by your software. You can often identify this kind of problem before printing by previewing your print (see Preview a print).
  • Check the actual printable area for the paper size you have loaded.
    printable area = paper size – margins
  • Check what your software understands to be the printable area (which it may call "printing area" or "imageable area"). For example, some software applications assume standard printable areas that are larger than those used in this printer.
  • If you have defined a custom page size with very narrow margins, the printer may impose its own minimal margins, clipping your image slightly. You may want to consider using a larger paper size, or borderless printing (see Select margins options).
  • If your image contains its own margins, you may be able to print it successfully by using the Clip Contents by Margins option (see Select margins options).
  • If you are trying to print a very long image on a roll, check that your software is capable of printing an image of that size.
  • You may have asked to rotate the page from portrait to landscape on a paper size that is not wide enough.
  • If necessary, reduce the size of the image or document in your software application, so it fits between the margins.
There is another possible explanation for a clipped image. Some applications, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW, use an internal 16-bit coordinate system which means that they cannot handle an image of more than 32,768 pixels.
note:
An image 32,768 pixels long would print at a length of 1.39 m if you select Best or Quality in the driver, 2.78 m if you select Fast, Normal or Speed in the driver.
If you try to print an image larger than this from these applications, the bottom of the image may be clipped. To print the whole image, try these suggestions:
  • Try using the PostScript printer driver to print your job, if you have not already tried it.
  • The Windows HP-GL/2 driver dialog includes an option called Max. application resolution, which enables you to print successfully in this situation. You will not normally need to change the default setting, which is Auto. However, you can find the option in the Advanced tab, under Document Options > Printer Features.
  • Save the file in another format, such as TIFF or EPS, and open it with another application.
  • Use a RIP to print the file.

Some objects are missing from the printed image

Large quantities of data may be necessary to print a high-quality large-format print job, and in some specific workflows there may be issues that can lead to some objects missing from the output. Here are some suggestions to help you to avoid this problem.
  • Try using the PostScript printer driver to print your job, if you have not already tried it.
  • Select a smaller page size and scale to the desired final page size in the driver or in the front panel.
  • Save the file in another format, such as TIFF or EPS, and open it with another application.
  • Use a RIP to print the file.
  • Reduce the resolution of bitmap images in your application software.
  • Select a lower print quality in order to reduce the resolution of the printed image.
note:
If you are working under Mac OS X, not all of these options are available.
These options are suggested for troubleshooting purposes and may adversely affect the final output quality or the time necessary to generate the print job. Therefore, they should be cancelled if they do not help to solve the problem.

A PDF file is clipped or objects are missing

In older versions of Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader, large PDF files could be clipped or lose some objects when printing with the HP-GL/2 driver at high resolution. In order to avoid such problems, update your Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader software to the latest version. From version 7 onwards, these problems should be solved.

The Image Diagnostics Print

The Image Diagnostics Print consists of patterns designed to highlight printhead reliability problems. It helps you to check the performance of the printhead, and whether it suffers from clogging or other problems.
To print the Image Diagnostics Print:
  1. Use the same paper type that you were using when you detected a problem.
  2. Check that the selected paper type is the same as the paper type loaded into the printer. See View information about the paper.
  3. At the printer's front panel, press , then , then select Image Quality Maintenance > Print diagnostic image.
It takes about two minutes to print the Image Diagnostics Print.
The print is divided into two parts, both of which test printhead performance.
  • Part 1 (top) consists of rectangles of pure colors, one for each ink. This part represents the print quality that you will get from each color.
  • Part 2 (bottom) consists of small dashes, one for each printhead nozzle. This part complements the first, and aims more specifically to detect how many faulty nozzles each printhead has.
Please look carefully at the print. The names of the colors are shown above the rectangles and to the left of the patterns of dashes.
Figure : Image Diagnostics Print
First look at the upper part of the print (part 1). Each colored rectangle should be a uniform color without any horizontal lines across it.
Then look at the bottom part of the print (part 2). For each individual colored pattern, check that most of the dashes are present.
If you see horizontal lines in part 1 and also missing dashes in part 2 for the same color, you should clean the printhead, selecting the relevant color group. However, if the rectangles look solid, do not worry about just a few missing dashes in part 2; these are acceptable because the printer can compensate for a few clogged nozzles.
Here is an example of a gray printhead in a good state:
And here is an example of the same printhead in a bad state:

Corrective action

  1. Clean the printhead if necessary (see Clean the printhead). Then reprint the Image Diagnostics Print to see whether the problem has been solved.
  2. If the problem remains, clean the printhead again, and reprint the Image Diagnostics Print to see whether the problem has been solved.
  3. If the problem still remains, replace the printhead (see Handling ink cartridges and printhead), or contact HP Support (see Contact HP Support).

If you still have a problem

If you still experience print-quality problems after applying the advice in this chapter, here are some further things that you can do:
  • Try using a higher print-quality option. See Printing.
  • Check the driver you are using to print with. If it is a non-HP driver, consult the driver vendor about the problem. You could also try using the correct HP driver, if feasible. The latest HP drivers can be downloaded from http://www.hp.com/go/T920/drivers or http://www.hp.com/go/T1500/drivers.
  • If you are using a non-HP RIP, its settings may be incorrect. See the documentation that came with the RIP.
  • Check that your printer's firmware is up to date. See Update the firmware.
  • Check that you have the right settings in your software application.

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