Gustavo Baner from ColorCopiesUSA

Gustavo Baner


Date Published: 2020-03-01 // Updated: 2020-07-29


People have preferred full color printing in the last few years. Black and White printing, also called "One color printing", is still in high demand and very much appropriate in many cases. B&W printing still covers a real need in the communication sphere. Find some interesting information about this printing technology below.

For Many Years Black and White Copies Were the Only Digital Printing Option Available.

Black and White Printing

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

  1. Standard documents such as manuals, forms, multi-part carbonless invoices, trade show binders and books

  2. Transactional Documents such as  , statements sent by mail, invoices that get delivered by mail, template-pre-printed documents that will pass through a second printing process at the clients house to fill in information generated at a point of sale.

  3. 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)

  4. Blueprints: Every construction project needs these and they can be printed in toner-based equipment or inkjet equipment


How and When Black and White Printing Started

When did Analog Printing Start?

Between the 14th and 15th centuries the Europeans start to use metal movable type. It was the first time that it was used to produce multiple copies of a document. The concept of movable had been already developed in Asia, but the European model allowed the developement of a mechanical device; a printing press in which applying pressure to an inked surface, an image was transfered. The Gutenberg Bible was printed in that way in 1455. For more details check Wikipedia's article: History of Printing

Digital Printing:
When did Digital Printing Start?

Copier or photocopies machines started development in 1887 when David Gestetner invented the stencil duplicatior, but it was only in 1959 when Xerox was able to perform what we know know as a Xerox Copy of a document. 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 machine revolutionized the document-copying industry and launched what is the prevalent technology for low-volume printing.

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 development that permitted theuse of regular paper to print 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).

What is the Maximum Size of Paper to print Black and White Documents?

  1. Black and white copies up to a size of up to 13" x 19" on different substrates including paper, card stock and synthetics.

  2. Banners printed in digital toner machines of up to 13" x 26" on many substrates including card stock

  3. Large format printing that uses ink jet technology, in widths of 54" and several feet long. There are plastic and paper substrates available



What is the cost of black and white printing compared to full color?

There are three main areas that generate cost that we should consider:

  1. Cost of ink

  2. Cost of the equipment involved

  3. Cost of labor involved

1 - Cost of Ink: In order to print in black and white, the use just one ink, in a single color, is required. The ink is usually black, which also happens to be the cheapest.
Full Color printing requires at least four different inks. Therefore the cost of black and white printing is actually the cheapest option.

2 - Cost of the equipment involved in the printing process: In order to apply each ink color, a printing unit is necessary. Therefore full color printing requires at least four stations as opposed to just one printing station for black and white printing. Therefore black and white printing is cheaper on this regards as well.Th is true both for analog-offset printing and for digital printing

3 - Cost of Labor involved: Each and every printing unit have to be maintained so that their operation is accurate, which means that maintining a machine with several prining units is higher than the cost of maintaining just oneunit. On top of the maintenance, there is additional labor required when one color has to register with the others, Those adjustments take time and increatse the labor cost. Printing with one color black and white is less expensive than printing in full color.

Conclusion: 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 because the strict cost is lower. We have not discussed the fact that from a marketing point of view, single color printing could not be as effective as full color, but that is part of another convesation.

What is the cost of printing in black and white?

Get low cost, high quality color copies, place your order today!The cost of printing a copy in black and white at about 2 cents per piece for single sided letter-size print on 20# paper, a rate that applies for larger volumes. Using different stocks and different final sizes has a significant impact in the price.

Can you print "variable data" as well as "static image reproduction" with black and white printing?

When printing using offset technology (traditional ink-plate-paper process) you are limited to what is called a "static image" reproduction. No variable data can be printed with offset technology.
Digital technology permits to have variable data printing with a black and white process. 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 card card-body 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.

Cost of personalization using black and white: It  is much more affordable than in the personalization of full color pieces. 

Can you print on Specialty Papers and other substrates in Black and White?

Specialty papers and other substrates such as synthetics can usually be used in single-color printing, as long as those substrates have been properly treated to receive the ink or toner applied,and are capable of holding them. Some printing technologies use inks or toner that need special substrates to be able to stick to them. It is never a given yes, but most of the time it is possible.

Here is a selection of some specialy papers that are typically used with black and white printing

  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 card card-body.Black and white copy printing on glossy card stock produces beautiful mailing postcards among other uses.

  3. Synthetic substrates

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

How to Prepare Artwork that will Print in Black and White?

Preparing artwork for black and white printing:

  1. If you are ordering digital printing, the same precautions than for printing color copies must be kept. You could design in full color and print in black and white. Every color will become a specific shade of gray. It could happen that different colors get transformed into the same shades of gray (as an example, a light blue could produce the same shade of gray as a light green). It is therefore adviced to design in pure black and its shades of gray so that the output of your printed piece becomes more predictable to you.

  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 card card-body 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.


: 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: Which paper can I use to prevent see-through when printing double side?
A: The least expensive papers to prevent seeing  through what was printed on the other side of the sheet is to use either 24# paper. Selecting 28# paper will give you additional protection if the covered area with ink is large.

 What is the requirement for a file if want to print my document in black and white only, on offset printing equipment. 
A: You should design that allows you to create your work in CMYK, and use just black (K) color. As an alternative, we can take a document designed in full color and print it in black and white without any problems in digital equipment. If that multicolor document prints in offset, chances are that you will get shades of gray that were not expected. 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

Q: How long does it take to print a black and white job? 
A: For digital industrial-type printing devices, the printing time on either full color or black and white tends to be the same. The production time when printing in offset equipment is usually longer because of the setup time and job preparation. For longer jobs (over 5,000 copies) production time in offset equipment tends to be lower thanon digitalequipment


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