Black and White Printing

Color printing is king, but for all. Simple black and white is still among us. Even though they are not as popular as in the past, they still cover a real need in the communication sphere. Find some interesting details below.

Black and White Copies (+ B/W Overprint on Color Copies and Forms)

Black and white printing and (b/w) black and white copy printing is mostly used in two types of applications:

  1. Documents such as manuals, forms, single, 2 or 3 part invoices, trade show binders and books
  2. Variable Data Printing, overprinting on templates (preprinted sheets) with relevant information (such as bank statements printed on sheets that had the logo, pre-printed in full color)

Check our interesting F.A.Q section on this same page

How and When Black and White Copies Started

This type of copies used to be called "Xerox copies" and the industry used to be known as xerographic copying at the time when black and white copying became available. In 1959 Xerox introduced the first plain paper photocopies with their Xerox 914 copier, that revolutionized the document-copying industry. At the time, it was fast and economical when compared to other reproduction options. One of those printers (which weighed 648 pounds) can be seen at the Smithsonian Museums. The maximum printing size was 9" x 14" and every now and then, the machine caught fire due to overheating. Those copies where pale, had a tint all over the page and did not reproduce details with enough clarity.

Xerox 914 First Black and White Copier on Regular Paper

In 1949 Xerox had introduced their Xerox Model A that required special papers (see picture on the left). The regular paper printing was a big breakthrough.

Significant progress has been made since those early days in the black and white printing technology, permitting nowadays black and white copying with quality that challenges that of offset printing (considered the most perfect printing technology still for long run printing).

Color Copies USA can print black and white copies in sizes of up to 12" x 18" plus bleed on different substrates.

About the cost of black and white prints or B/W:

Because black and white prints only use one ink color (black, which also happens to be the cheapest), the cost of black and white printing is actually the cheapest option. That is why most of the "transactional documents" (meaning those documents that we get in the mail that need us to take action such as paying bills, etc.) get printed in black and white.

Get low cost, high quality color copies, place your order today!

Black and white copy prices start at about 2 cents per piece for single sided printing on 20# paper, rate that applies for large volumes.

Black and white printing is not limited to obtaining copies of the same document as in the early stages of xerography. The same technologies that allow customizing every single piece of paper that is printed in full color printing (which is technically known as Variable Data Printing) is available as well for black and white printing. Therefore each printed copy of your document could contain the full contact info of the recipient, their picture and much more personal information.

Personalization using black and white copies is much more affordable than in the personalization of full color pieces. You will most likely recognize having received statements with personalized offers in the mail.

Specialty papers

  1. Linen, Crest and Columns (among others) can be used. We obtain nice and evenly covered areas with beautiful solid printing coverage. The practical application of this possibility is the opportunity to print classy invitations, personal cards such as fold-over cards and corporate event announcements, printed in low quantities, can be done without sacrificing on quality.
  2. Card stock either glossy, matte or uncoated look beautiful with black and white printing as well. Black and white copy printing on glossy card stock produces beautiful mailing postcards among other uses.

In the early days, Xerography permitted only copying (not printing from files). Since then, printing technology has become so much more potent and flexible.

Preparing artwork for black and white copy printing:

  1. The same precautions than for printing color copies must be kept.
  2. Resolution should be above 200dpi in black and white photography, but for copy to look sharp and not jaggy, we do recommend the highest resolution settings to be used at the time of creating the artwork.
  3. Shades of gray are permitted in black and white copy printing. If you looked closely with a loupe you would realize that gray is made out of tiny black spots next to tiny white spots (provided you are looking at a white paper printed with black ink). The higher the density of black dots, the darker the shade of gray. The lower the density of black dots, the whiter the shade. Your desktop publishing tool will most likely allow for shades of gray.
  4. Black and white clipart copied from internet sites: The vast majority of images that we see when browsing the internet is actually in a very low resolution. Printing requires higher resolutions than those required to show images online. What happens to graphics, icons and pictures that are grabbed from the internet is that when printed they look fuzzy. In addition, when printing color images in black and white, the colors are to be transformed into gray scale and they often come out looking very bad and pixelated. There are CD collections with thousands of hundreds of black and white clipart graphics that can be used with better results at stores such as Best Buy. (Vector images). There are web sites as well where you will either be able to get images for free that are adequate, or some paid sites

    I've listed a couple of sites that offer free vector clip arts. We do not endorse any particular website. We are just sharing public information with you.



Q: Can you print black and white on a colored paper?
A: When you hear that "black and white" printing is being done, it is actually applying black ink on the substrate on which printing is taking place. Therefore, if the paper on which you are printing is not white, there's no way to get "white" spots. All you could get would be colored un printed spots.


Q: Does the quality of black and white printing on cheap paper look much different from the same printing on an expensive glossy sheet?
A: It pretty much depends on what you are printing: If it's a form printed on one side only, either option will work (without considering any particular circumstances). If it is graphs and pictures that need to be presented in the document, then pricier paper will turn out a better job. The reason is that higher quality stock is smoother (if you looked at the paper with a loupe you would be able to see a porous surface) and the ink (or toner in digital printing) spreads better creating higher quality continuous images.


Q: I'm printing a form on both sides but do not want to see what's on the other side. In other words, I do not want a "translucent" paper. Which paper should I select?
A: You should select either 24# paper or 28# paper in order to be on the safe side.


Q: I want to print my document in black and white only, but when I created it I used a variety of colors, color pictures and images that I downloaded from the Internet. Can I still print the document in black and white?
A: We can take a document designed in full color and print it in black and white without any problems. You should know that in doing so, we need to convert each color into a different shade of gray. And we do so with automated software. It usually happens that some colors that look vibrant get transformed into darker shades of gray, thus creating darker images with some loss of contrast when compared to the original colorful image. In short: it can be done but you risk losing some quality