How to Tell if Your Ink Toner Is Empty

person checking printer inkjet levels

 Not everyone is extremely savvy with a printer, and it’s not always clear how they work or how to use one. Some of the latest models are designed to make printing projects as streamlined as possible so your printer is doing most of the work for you.

If you’re not sure how to tell if your ink toner is empty, there are a few different things you can do or things you can look for. Some of the newer models will make this process easier, but even older models should be fairly straightforward.

If you’re really struggling, be sure to check with someone who has experience with printers or talk to the manufacturer. It’s better to be safe than to damage your printer for no reason.

For some simple guidance on the topic, the following are some tips for how to tell if your ink toner is empty.

Visual Warnings

In older models, a printer that is low on toner will be able to tell you something is wrong with a blinking light or a message on the screen. Not all of these signs are obvious right away and you may need to turn to your manual to understand what the warning sign is telling you.

In some of the best modern printers, you’ll also be warned ahead of time when your toner is getting low so that you have ample time to get a new toner before the current one runs out. Whether you’re working with a laptop or tablet, it is common that a small warning message will pop up on the screens of these devices.

Low Functioning

Many of the all-in-one printers on the market require toner in order to perform many of their functions. If your ink toner is empty, your printer won’t be able to perform these functions and, as a result, it may disable these actions altogether.

Look for scanning and faxing to be disabled, as well as printing options. Most of these systems are designed to work together so when one portion is broken, the other will shut down in response.

Don’t assume right away that something serious has happened; check for simple issues like low toner or a lack of paper before pulling everything apart.


 When ink cartridges and ink toners are low, it is often easy to tell by looking at the quality of the print job they’re doing. For the most part, when toner is low you’ll be looking for horizontal streaks across your images and words, but sometimes they can be vertical as well.

Any kind of streaking that is not supposed to be in your photo suggests that one of the printer products is low and needs replacing.

concept cmyk levels inkjet

Faded Colors

 Are your images not as vibrant as you’d like them to be? Are your graphs not quite making the statement you wanted them to? It might not be the colors you chose; it may be low toner!

The brightness and vibrancy of your projects tend to fade when colored ink and toner cartridges are low, or the colors may change altogether. It is common that blacks will fade to grays, reds will fade to pinks and greens will fade to blues.

If you suspect that your ink or toner is empty, look closely at the print job. If you can see that colors are fading, cancel the project early so as not to waste more paper.

When to Replace Your Toner

someone replacing office printer toner

If your computer alerts you, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to replace your toner immediately. As mentioned, some printers will alert you when toner is relatively low so that you have time to replace it.

However, this still means that there is some toner left over which is accessible. If you try to use your printer with no toner, there is no reason to worry about potential damage. The only thing that will suffer is the quality of your printed project.

When the quality of the print is no longer suited to your needs, a replacement toner is absolutely necessary. For those who print a lot of projects on a daily basis, they will need to be more diligent in seeking a new toner.


If you’re not sure how to tell if your ink toner is empty, you can usually rely on your printer or desktop to notify you. Replacing a toner is fairly straightforward; however, reference your printer manual when you do so.

Depending on the model of the printer, there may be a very specific way to replace the empty toner.  Keep your manual close by at all times as this will ensure the longevity of your printing supplies.