Mac: Print from Any Application in Black and White (Grayscale)

   Posted July 23, 2010 by David Kirk in Apple Mac

How I do print from an application such as my web browser without the colors? In OS X printing in grayscale takes a couple of extra steps that are not always obvious. Here is how to do it on your Apple computer. Updated to include information for OS X 10.7 Lion.

The key to printing in grayscale is to route your printing through the Preview application. Luckily, you can do this very easily via the print dialog box in any application.

1. Press Print frp, the application that you want to print. Typically it will be under the File menu.

2a. In OS X prior to Lion, press the Preview button in the Print dialog box.

2b. In OS X Lion, press the PDF button and then select Open PDF in Preview.

show how to open a PDF in Preview

3. This will open the application in the Preview app. Click the app to bring it to the front and to enable the menus.

4. Select the File menu and then Print from the Preview application.

5. Under the Orientation setting there is a drop down box labelled Preview. Change this to Print Settings. Select the Basic tab and toggle the Color/GrayScale button to Grayscale.

6. Click the Print button.

The resulting file will print without colors. Save that expensive color ink… black and white only, baby!


About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
View more articles by David Kirk

The Conversation

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  • Quinn McHenry

    This is a great way to save money since printer ink is the most expensive material in the known universe. You can take this one step farther and use the Presets to make this even easier.

    Once you have the settings the way you want (say grayscale and Fast Normal quality, my go-to default) pull down the Presets menu and pick Save As…

    Give your preset a meaningful name (Grayscale, Fast Normal) and click OK. From then on, you can use these settings just by picking that item from the Presets menu, from any app.

    • David Kirk – Founder/Editor

      Great idea about the presets! Thanks, Q.

    • Lory

      Great, Did that. Is there a way I can set this to automatically choose the grayscale preset, so that I don’t have to choose it every time? L

      • Blank

        Lory, I believe if you go to a word document and then click File–then printer settings—then Options–then checkmark Print Black. Then click OK twice.

    • gardner boyd

      yes i really like this.

  • Save

    In Preview, it is possible to quickly “Adjust Color” on a screenshot file or other color image. Change Exposure, Brightness, Contrast, then print in Grayscale. Should save some ink.

  • Charlie

    I have a Mac, OSX 10.5.8, and I just bought a HP Photosmart. I tried your method above, but unfortunately, when I hit Preview, and print from the Preview screen, it does not give me the window displayed above. I have tried every option on the page displayed and cannot seem to find a gray scale option(like I was used to using). Also, where are the preset options noted in the response from Quinn? Is this only in Word? Thanks in advance

    • G Suze

      On 10.6 which should be the same as 10.5

      – Go to File/Print
      – Small window opens. At the top is your listed printer.
      – To the right of that is an arrow – click it.
      – The window opens bigger with more info.
      – Midway down is a drop-down list, the default is “Preview”.
      – Click to open this list and select “Quality & Media”.
      – At the bottom is the grayscale printing option.

  • Suemikecopster

    I am using the last method shown, how do I make this my default?

    thanks Sue

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t work in Lion! 🙁

    • Anonymous

      Wow.  I just noticed that… I’ll update this article if I can find a solution.

    • Anonymous

      You still can do this from preview… you just can’t jump straight to preview.  Just click the PDF button and then Open PDF in Preview.

      • Anonymous

        Updated article to include Lion information.

        • Anonymous

          yeah um I tried that, the option isn’t in Preview! arch this sucks! oh well! thanks for replying so quickly and trying to find a solution. it’s apple’s fault 🙁

  • Fytros

    I was trying to Print B&W in Preview!!!!!!! I was looking how to do it for an hour!!!

    Isn’t that stupid???? Couldn’t Preview just allow you to print in B&W and not have to open as PDF?????

  • Tania Williams

    Step 5 above reads

    “…. there is a drop down box labelled Preview. Change this to Print Settings.”

    However the Preview drop down box on my system has only the following options:
    Colour Matching
    Paper Handling
    Paper Feed
    Cover Page

    Selecting Colour Matching then provides options such as ColorSync or In Printer and Profile. None of these have provided the required outcome (or I don’t know how to set them up).

  • cecilia

    yeh…. i’m with igual problem…. I haven’t “preview”in my options ( pdf or other program)…. I don’t know how to solve this…. : ((

  • Gina Black

    Thanks so much for clearing this up for me. I had been frustrated with it for a long time. But your instructions were so clear and concise. Your pictures helped me a lot. Quinn’s comment was great because it helped me save “Black and White” as a permanent option from now on. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Michelle

    Thank you for this article!! Here’s how I tweaked it to work in Lion:

    In the Print settings, you can click on the drop-down menu labeled PREVIEW. One of the settings is Paper Type/Quality. Select that. Then under that appears a triangle with the words Color Option. Click on that, and you will have the choice to select Grayscale and “Black Cartridge Only.” Then, in the presets drop-down, you can select “Save Current Settings as Preset” and name it Grayscale.

  • aczeca

    Fyi : it depends on the printer. Some don’t provide the option. The answer has yet to be found.