Gradient Prints as Stripes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 12, 2019)

Elizabeth has a document that includes some clip art, and the clip art uses a two-color gradient. Everything looks great on the screen and in print preview. When she prints the document, however, the gradient is gone, replaced with stripes. She gets the stripes even if she generates a PDF from the document. (They appear in the PDF.) On the screen it looks great; printed or PDF it is wrong. Elizabeth wonders what could be causing this and how it can be fixed.

The first thing to understand is that how something looks on the screen does not dictate how it will look when printed. (Elizabeth is finding this out.) The reason is simple—different output devices use different drivers to produce what they show. Thus, your screen uses one driver to create what you see on the screen and a different driver is used to create what is printed. (Depending on how you create your PDF, it can use the same driver as the printer, or it could use its own driver.)

That being said, the problem could be either with the clip art itself or with the printer driver. To find out if it is the clip art, you might try finding a different image and printing it. This is rather simple—just use your favorite search engine to search for either "grayscale gradient image" or "color gradient image" (without the quotes), depending on what type of gradient you want to work with.

Download the images you select and insert them into your document. You may even want to consider placing two of them and rotate the second to 90 degrees of the original. (That way you can try to print a horizontal and vertical gradient—you may notice different results on the printout.) If these other images print fine, then you know the problem is with the clip art. If they don't print fine, then you'll need to examine the printer driver.

When considering the printer driver, you'll want to make sure you have the most up-to-date version. You should be able to find that out at the website of whoever made your printer. This may solve the problem for you.

You should also try printing the document on a different printer, which may mean going to a friend's or coworker's computer and printing from there. If the image prints fine on a different printer, then you will know that the problem is with how your printer handles the gradients.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13607) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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