Why Does My Printer Print Photos With Lines?

It’s nice to be able to save a trip to the store, or some time on an online order, to print photos with our printers at home.

But when that awesome Canon, HP, Brother, or Epson printer starts printing lines across those photos, it can feel like a total waste of ink, time, and fancy photo paper.

So why does a printer print photos with lines?

When a printer prints photos and words with visible white or faded lines, the cause is usually due to a clogged nozzle, a printer head that is not dispensing ink properly, or the type of software used. Depending on the printer brand and model, manually clean the printhead, activate self-cleaning mode on the printer, and try a different software to print.

I dove deep into the research to find out why this mysterious problem keeps appearing for so many printers, and came at the issue from as many solution angles as possible.

Read on as I begin with the most common causes for these printed lines, and end with the more rare instances, while finding the best ways to fix each one fully.

Why Does My Printer Print Green Lines?

It seems almost effortless to wirelessly print over Wifi from an iPhone, MacBook, or Email. But over time you might notice that pictures and documents aren’t printing exactly the way they used to.

If your printer is printing with a certain dominating color, or a lack thereof, that appears different from the original file, you should be in luck.

This issue is one of the easiest of the pack to solve, and involves only a couple steps to get your photos printing with top quality again.

So what could be the cause of discolored print lines?

The cause is most likely that there is a low ink cartridge or an ink cartridge that is not letting out enough ink from its unit to produce full color.

In most cases there may be a lack in black ink in your printer, since that is the color that is used most commonly in word documents. If you are using your printer for photos and black and white worded documents, your green line issue most likely falls here.

Here are the steps that can help fix the print color lines from your photos:

  1. Check your ink levels by looking on the ink gauge of your screen or within the home screen menu of the printer and determine if any of the colored ink cartridges are running low, including black.
  2. If the gauge is showing low ink for one of the cartridges, simply swap it for a new unit and do a test print. If the photo prints are back to normal, the issue was a lack in color from that specific cartridge.
  3. Your gauge may read that all the printer ink levels are above a quarter left. If that is the case, swap out each cartridge starting from the lowest level one, and do a test print with each successive swap until there are no more noticeable lines.
  4. If you are still finding lines throughout your photos even after swapping every cartridge for a new unit, keep reading on.

Replacing every ink cartridge with a new one ensures that all of the levels are full and that they are dispensing properly. Now that the easiest is out of the way, let’s move on to the next.

Why Is My Printer Printing Lines Through Everything?

Are you noticing that there are white lines that are crossing through your photos, or stripes that present glaring spaces in areas that there shouldn’t be?

Your issue might likely be that the printer head itself is not dispensing ink properly, and could even be clogged in some spots. The printer head, or printhead, is the module that applies the ink to the document or photo after it is dispensed from the appropriate ink cartridges.

If you followed the previous steps above and fully swapped out all of the ink cartridges in your printer with fresh, new ones, the next step will be to manually clean the printer head so that the clog is removed.

But before we move on to that next step, check what software you are running to print your photos or documents.

If it is a third party software, like Sony Memory Maker, Adobe Photoshop Elements, or Picasa, try printing the same photos on a more native platform like HP, Cannon, Brother, or Epson’s.

Although they can be great photo editors, these third party applications may not be optimized for the specific make and model of your printer. This can lead to a miscommunication in the way certain colors are applied, streaks in pictures, or missing color altogether.

By trying an original application to print the same photo, we are eliminating the variable that it is the software that is creating the lines.

Now that you’ve replaced the ink cartridges and tried different softwares, it’s time to run a print head nozzle check before doing a manual clean.

How Do I Run A Print Head Nozzle Check?

Running a check for a printhead nozzle should show that there is a potential clog, and will confirm why the lines might be appearing on the photo prints.

Each make and model has a different process for checking the health of the print head nozzle, but are generally similar in nature:

For HP Printers:

  1. In the front panel, select the Ink menu icon
  2. Select Printhead Information
  3. Select the printhead on which you want information
  4. The front panel will display information on that printhead

You can visit the HP support website here to lookup how to check the printhead for your specific make and model number.

For Canon Printers:

  1. Select Setup on the HOME screen. The setup menu screen will appear.
  2. Select Maintenance, then press the OK button. The Maintenance screen will appear.
  3. Select Print nozzle check pattern, then press the OK button. The confirmation screen will appear.
  4. Select Yes, then press the OK button.

You can visit the Canon support website here to lookup how to check the printhead for your specific make and model number.

For Epson Printers:

  1. Load a few sheets of plain paper in the product.
  2. Press the up or down arrow button, select Setup, and press the OK button.
  3. Select Maintenance and press the OK button.
  4. Select Print Head Nozzle Check and press the OK button.
  5. Press one of the Start buttons to begin printing.
  6. Check the printed pattern to see if there are gaps in the lines.

You can visit the Epson support website here to lookup how to check the printhead for your specific make and model number.

For Brother Printers:

  1. Press the Ink button on the printer’s control panel.
  2. If it does not have an Ink button, press the Menu key, use the up or down arrow to scroll to the Ink option, and then press the OK button.
  3. Use the up or down arrow to scroll to Test Print, and then press the OK key to select it.

You can visit the Brother support website here to lookup how to check the printhead for your specific make and model number.

The nozzle check might take some time, but will help to confirm that the reason your printer is showing lines on photos is that the head needs to be cleaned.

Once the check confirms that there the printhead needs to be cleaned, proceed to the next steps.

Note: Older printers may not have a print head nozzle check option in their menus. If that is the case, you will still want to manually clean the print head, since it may have been clogged due to age and length of use.

How Do You Unclog A Print Head Nozzle?

Why Does My Printer Print Photos With Lines Large

There are several methods to the unclog a print head, but you want to use the least aggressive process possible so that you avoid damaging any additional components that are around the print head.

If you discover that it is indeed the print head that is clogged, and the print head check confirms that, here’s how you can unclog the nozzle:

  1. Turn the printer off and wait for the clogged print head to return to its removable docked position
  2. Remove the clogged print head
  3. With an eyedropper, cotton swab, or Q tip, slightly moisten or fill with a non-corrosive cleaning substance like Window cleaner.
  4. Taking care not to spill the cleaning substance anywhere around the printer or print head, turn the head to the clogged nozzle and apply Cleaner until the nozzle appears full.
  5. Allow the Cleaner to work through the clogged area and/or dry ink until the nozzle becomes dislodged
  6. Replace the fresh cleaned Print head to its docked position once dry and Power on the printer.
  7. Complete a few test prints to determine if the lines disappear.
  8. Move on to full photo prints and determine if the colors are accurate with no flaws.

Depending on your specific manufacturer make and model number of printer, there may be a slightly different procedure to cleaning your print head.

You can visit the HP support site here, Canon’s here, Epson’s here, and Brother’s here to find more specific cleaning instructions.

Can You Clean Printer Heads With Alcohol?

If you feel that cleaning the printhead with a dry or slightly damp cloth isn’t working, you can try using a bit of alcohol to dislodge the ink that is clogging the nozzle.

However, use only Isopropyl alcohol.

Also be sure to only clean the clogged nozzle with alcohol, as this is the most aggressive ways to clean the area. This can dry out the nozzle and ink in the future and lead to more clogging down the line, so use the least amount possible.

Be careful and avoid any wires or electrical components. Alcohol is a corrosive substance and can damage contacts and wires. Only clean the nozzle that is clogged from ink. A moist cotton swap or Q tip can help pinpoint the cleaning area without impacting the components around the clogged part.

Can I Use Nail Polish Remover To Clean My Printer Head?

Nail polish remover is not recommended for cleaning printer heads and its nozzles, as it can corrode the opening even further and lead to additional damages.

Made of acetone and other corrosive chemicals, nail polish remover is a highly abrasive substance, which is why it is so effective at removing the layers of paint on nails.

You want to take the least aggressive approach to cleaning your printer head nozzle first, which is a dry and lint-free cloth.

Then slowly work your way up to window cleaner and then isopropyl alcohol on a very small Q tip or cotton swab if you continue seeing lines or discoloration in photos or documents.

How Do I Run A Cleaning Cycle On My Printer?

Once you have installed new ink cartridges and manually cleaned the impacted print heads, it’s a good idea to routinely run a cleaning cycle on your printer every few months, especially if you are using your printer often.

Most modern printers have a quick cleaning cycle as an easy-to-access option somewhere on the control panel home screen or within the settings menus.

Once you activate the quick cleaning cycle, your printer will run a number of its own cleaning procedures automatically.

Note: Don’t be alarmed if you hear unusual air purge sounds or weird gear turns, since these aren’t the same as those in a normal print job.

When the cleaning cycle is complete, your printer may produce a test page that shows a number of lines and colors. Make sure to look closely at these test results to see if the print heads and ink cartridges are working properly.

Recommended Products And Websites That Helped Me Research This Article:

  • Canon SELPHY CP1300 Wireless Compact Photo Printer with AirPrint (Check out with Amazon here) – Small enough to fit on your hand, this mighty unit prints some of the best color photos with the same, rich Canon quality that’s truly award winning. Print photos wirelessly at a moments notice from your iPhone or from your DSLR camera’s memory card with the built in USB and card reader.
  • HP Envy Photo 7155 All in One Photo Printer (Check out with Amazon here) – Print documents, photos, and business cards with the breeziness of HP efficiency. This printer has the capability to connect to your Amazon smart devices so that you can tell Alexa to crank out that next family photo, all with the power of your voice.
  • HP Printer Support: https://support.hp.com/us-en/printer
  • Canon Printer Support: https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/support
  • Epson Printer Support: https://epson.com/Support/sl/s
  • Brother Printer Support: https://www.brother-usa.com/brother-support

John Hammer

Hi i'm John Hammer, Founder and Author of Gizbuyer Guide. Ever since the original Xbox, PlayStation, and iPhone I've purchased and worked on all kinds of consumer tech products, gaming gadgets and operating system softwares. To this day my curiosity has never left, and my aim is to guide and share my knowledge on technology as I continue to experience the latest of the consumer electronics industry.

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