How to print in Black and White in OS X

PrinterIconXIf you need to print in black and white or in grayscale from your Mac, you might be hard-pressed to find an option to do so in the standard print window. OS X supports a number of different printers; however, besides general “quality” sliders, many of the drivers do not have an option to limit color settings. Nevertheless, you can still use a relatively straight-forward OS X feature to print a document in either grayscale or black and white.

  1. Press Command-P to print your document
  2. Use the PDF menu and select “Open PDF in Preview”
  3. Choose “Export…” from the File menu
  4. Ensure “PDF” is used as the output format
  5. Choose either “Gray Tone” (for grayscale) or “Black & White” from the Quartz Filter menu.
  6. Save the document to your Desktop.

Now you can open the new PDF on your Desktop, which will only use the color scheme you selected in the filter. Unfortunately, in some printers, grayscale may still use color ink, so if you want to force the use of only your black ink, then you might consider exporting using the Black & White Quartz filter.

This option uses Apple’s built-in PDF-handling routines, which are part of the core image management framework in OS X called Quartz. One component of this framework is Quartz Filters, which give programs the ability to use centralized filters somewhat like plugins, and apply these filters to most graphic content rather easily.

Apple allows these filters to be applied to content in Preview when you export it as a PDF, so you can use this ability to limit colors in an exported document. In some cases, you can export a document and apply these filters directly in a program, but if not then this approach in the print dialogue should suffice.

PDF Quartz Filters in OS X

When you export your PDF, you can use the Quartz Filter options to limit the color output of your document, and then print the resulting PDF file.

9 thoughts on “How to print in Black and White in OS X

  1. Karen vB

    Alternatively, you can simply use a laser printer which only prints in black and white. This is a good idea if you mostly print text and can live with the occasional gray scale only picture. If you have the space, you could even have two printers and use whichever one is appropriate at the moment of printing. Problem solved.

    1. mdewakanton

      Love it. I’m going to buy a second car, so I’ll keep summer tires on one and winter tires on the other one. Good grip all year long.

  2. forkboy1965

    That’s me, Karen vB… I keep a laser printer for fast and high-quality text documents and a color inkjet for color needs. But I do purchase the better paper for the inkjet to help prevent color bleeding into the little valleys that are so typical on basic copy paper.

  3. Dot

    Thanks for this good hint.

    When I tried this, I also found the Quartz Filter menu in Preview’s File > Save dialog box. No need to Export?

  4. mikey

    This works, but it is so complicated. It was easier to print color documents in black and white 15 years ago. There was a box you could click for “print in greyscale.” Apple, why are you making computers less user-friendly?
    And, on that note, why is Preview becoming a weaker and weaker program?

  5. Joshua C

    Didn’t work for me. It’s saying toner empty because I have no color ink at all although I’m not even trying to use color ink.


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