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Black ink swap on the Epson 7880 and 9880

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Black ink swap on the Epson 7880 and 9880

Saving ink on the ‘official method’ Matte to Photo or Photo to Matte

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Use this method with care!
Use at your own risk

An unofficial black ink change technique for the Epson SP9880 and SP7880.

When we swapped the black ink on our Epson 9600 from Photo Black to Matt Black (Pk to Mk) we used some menu options to reduce the amount of ink used up.

The 9600 trick we used can’t be used on the 7880/9880 so this trick might work for you.

Article Index

black ink swap

Do read the warnings and comments to this article before trying the procedure.

It worked for us, but that was some years ago, and printer firmware does get updated.

How to save on ink costs

It’s a common criticism of the larger Epson printers that they waste an exorbitant amount of ink when you swap black inks.

This has finally been addressed on the 7900/9900 (and 3800) but older printers are expensive to change.

Swapping black inks on an 7880/9880

This method is similar to the original 7600/9600 technique

A non chip replacement method (as per our 9800/7800 ink swap page) for swapping black inks. Should cost under $10 in ink and paper. We have a version of this procedure for the 4880, with pictures of the display sequence.

This necessitates going into a service mode for the printer, so should be used with care. As long as the ink warning light isn’t flashing, you can use this technique with quite low amounts of ink in the cartridges.

Just remember that messing up your machine by doing something like this won’t be covered under warranty!

It involves simultaneously holding down the “Centre”, “Down” and “Right” buttons (on the control panel) as you turn the printer on.

We have now tried this on our own 7880 and have heard from someone who has successfully used it on their 7800

Notes on our own experiences

The first time we tried the original procedure, the printer started up with a desire to do a full ink charging (stage 3)

This isn’t good, since it uses quite a bit of ink.

We added an extra menu sequence (stage 4) to turn off this ink charge

Whilst we suspect you could dispense with stage 3, we’ve now done two ink swaps on the 7880 and followed the procedure exactly, both times.

Remember – the printer is not a cheap bit of kit, and you do this at your own risk!

I’ve tried it twice on our printer and am now happy to use the technique on our 7880 – not yours!

See also the notes towards the end of the article.

You will need to pay attention to pressing the correct buttons in the group of 5 to the right of the display screen.

front panel buttons

In particular, the Centre button (*), the Right button (>) and the Down button (v).

We’ve had several comments from people using this technique and are happy to include feedback on its use.

I’ve seen this process mentioned elsewhaere and there has been some confusion with the precise steps involved – As a result I’ve expanded the instructions from the original set that we were sent, hopefully to make things somewhat clearer.

We’re told the procedure won’t work if the low ink warning is on, however we had a report of a successful change when the PK ink cart to be taken out was almost empty. Although an ink charge (S3) was not requested, Stage 4 was needed to get all the level indicators to display correctly.

We have a version of this procedure for the 4880, with pictures of the sequence.

Stage 1

Make sure the printer is turned off

  1. Remove the ink cartridge you wish to change (Matte or Photo Black) and put the new different Photo or Matte Black in. Ensure the lever is returned to its usual ‘locked’ position.
  2. Turn on the printer and make sure to simultaneously hold down the Centre(*), Down(v) and Right(>) buttons at the same as you turn the printer on.
  3. The LCD display will show ‘SELF TESTING’.
  4. Press the Down(v) button to scroll down until ‘Parameter’ appears on the LCD display.
  5. Press the Right(>) button.
  6. The LCD Display shows ‘Initialize’
  7. Press the Down(v) button to scroll down the display until ‘Update’ appears on the LCD display.
  8. Press the Right(>) button.
  9. The display shows ‘JM Init. FILL’.
  10. Press the Down(v) button to scroll down the display until ‘INK PARAMETER’ appears on the LCD display.
  11. Press the Right(>) button
  12. The LCD display will show ‘Set’
  13. Press the Down(v) button to scroll down the display until ‘Reset’ appears on the LCD display.
  14. Press the Centre(*) button.
  15. The LCD Display shows ‘Update Param ?’
  16. Press the Centre(*) Button.
  17. The menu display returns (not important, but it mentions ‘HeadWashFlg’)
  18. Turn off the printer.

Stage 2

  1. As before, turn on the printer and make sure to simultaneously hold down the Centre(*), Down(v) and Right(>) buttons at the same as you turn the printer on.
  2. The LCD display will show ‘SELF TESTING’.
  3. Press the Down(v) button to Scroll down until ‘Parameter’ appears on the LCD display.
  4. Press the Right(>) button.
  5. The LCD Display shows ‘Initialize’
  6. Press the Down(v) button to scroll down the display until ‘Update’ appears on the LCD display.
  7. Press the Right(>) button.
  8. The display shows ‘JM Init. FILL’.
  9. Press the Down(v) button to scroll down the display until ‘INK PARAMETER’ appears on the LCD display.
  10. Press the Right(>) button
  11. The LCD display will show ‘Set’
  12. Press the Centre(*) Button.
  13. The LCD Display shows ‘Update Param ?’
  14. Press the Centre(*) Button.
  15. The menu display returns (not important, but it mentions ‘HeadWashFlg’)
  16. Turn off the printer.

Stage 3

  1. Put a sheet of paper in the printer (A4 copier paper is OK)
  2. Turn on the printer as you would do normally (i.e. no buttons held down)
  3. The printer will ask you to press pause to start Ink Charging
    DO NOT Press Pause!
    Note – If it doesn’t ask this then you don’t need to carry out stage 4 – our printer did want to charge inks
  4. Turn off the printer

Stage 4

  1. Turn on the printer and make sure to simultaneously hold down the Centre(*), Down(v) and Right(>) buttons at the same as you turn the printer on.
  2. The LCD display will show ‘SELF TESTING’.
  3. Press the Down(v) button to Scroll down until ‘Parameter’ appears on the LCD display.
  4. Press the Right(>) button.
  5. The LCD Display shows ‘Initialize’
  6. Press the Down(v) button to scroll down the display until ‘Update’ appears on the LCD display.
  7. Press the Right(>) button.
  8. The display shows ‘JM Init. FILL’.
  9. Press the Down(v) button to scroll down the display until ‘INK PARAMETER’ appears on the LCD display.
  10. Press the Right(>) button.
  11. The LCD Display shows ‘Init Fill’ and ‘Set’
  12. Press the Down(v) button to scroll down the display until ‘Reset’ appears on the LCD display.
  13. Press the Centre(*) Button.
  14. The LCD Display shows ‘Update Param ?’
  15. Press the Centre(*) Button.
  16. The menu display returns (not important, but it mentions ‘HeadWashFlg’)
  17. Turn off the printer

Stage 5

You have now swapped cartridges, but there is ‘old’ ink in the lines leading to the print head. You can flush this out by printing something solid black.

On your computer

  1. Open Photoshop
  2. Create a document the width of your paper 24″ x 50″, 36″ x 50″, 44″ x 50″ fill the page/document with BLACK – RGB 0, R = 0, G = 0, B = 0
  3. Print the document with NO COLORMANAGMENT and at 720 DPI.
  4. You may need to use a custom print size, however you could easily print out on A4/letter sheets of copier paper. Put each printed sheet next to one another and print one at a time. You should be able to see where the black changes after a several sheets (quite a few for the 9880!).

The amount of ink required to purge the old black depends on your printer.

The SP7880 uses about 10-12ml of ink before the tube is flushed out.

Printing a solid black image of 23″x40″ should suffice,

When you look at the finished print you see that 2/3 is matte ink as it looks dark and the rest of the print looks a little dull with Pk ink on matt paper.

The system is now charged with photo black.

The SP9880 uses about 20-22ml of ink. The black image is 43″x40″.

If you consider that an ink change the ‘official way’ wastes appreciably more ink, you can see why there is such a huge saving.

Here’s a photo showing how many sheets of US Letter paper were needed for a 9800, going from Photo ink to Matte ink (Thanks to a Florida based reader for sending for the Photo!)

ink changeover prints

If you’ve wondered what over a hundred pounds worth of waste ink looks like – see here :-)

Note — On our 9600 we printed four 40″x10″ solid black rectangles on cheap matt paper to purge the black line. The first 3 were a dark black and the third much lighter as the Photo black ink was used.

The original inspiration for this technique (aka ‘westshore’ method) are at inkjetgiclee.com Thanks to an industry insider for pointing us to this one!

Feb 2011 – We hear that this works just fine with Asian models of the 7880 (Malaysia) – there have been suggestions that the firmware is different from UK/US versions.

Jan 2012 – Thanks to Ron in the US for sending this note:
“At the end of step #3, rather than the message “to start ink charging- press Pause”, mine indicated that I had insufficient ink (in 3 slots) and needed to replace these cartridges before continuing. I ignored the message, shut down the printer and went on to step #4. How typical of Epson! My on screen ink monitor suggested these carts were 35%-40% full. I printed my first 8.5X11 on lustre paper, then switched to copier paper, and saw the change beginning about half way across the 10th sheet. I printed the 12th sheet on lustre as well, and it was very easy to see the change in black.”

May 2017 – Printer stuck in the fill process?  The initial fill process can be cancelled (Info for Epson Pro 4000, 4800, 4880, 7800, 7880, 9800, and 9880 printers]

Cleaning dried ink

You really only need to check out the household products line at your local supermarket ;-)

I’ve written a short guide about ‘cleaning inkjet printers

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Site update: Thanks for everyone's support - work is still very sparse, but at least I've lots of videos, articles and reviews to write - if you've any suggestions or questions, please just let me know - Keith & Karen
...Get our Newsletter for new articles/reviews and why not visit Keith's YouTube Channel
...My book about how to use tilt/shift lenses is now available.

9 Comments
  • Keith | Dec 28, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    You may need to re-install the printer driver or create a new instance of the printer to get this detected.

    My experience is that 3rd party inks are prone to giving poor results with the ABW mode

  • Dominic | Dec 25, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    I did this on my 7880 and worked great, the only thing im wondering now is if there is a way to make the printer understand there is now matte black and not photo black in it so that i can use the advanced black and white mode with matte paper selected. im also using third party ink so im not sure if that is also the issue. thanks for any help.

  • Elizabeth M | Dec 18, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    has worked for me on a 7880 and a 7800, thanks!! it really helps me save a ton of ink, I just performed it again. just the figures are a bit different in the 7800 but has worked fine.

  • Keith | Dec 18, 2020 at 1:22 pm

    Thanks for noting this.
    The article is quite old and it seems that firmware updates may have caused problems.
    I’ll put a note in the main text about this possibility and to check these comments

  • NICK | Dec 18, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    Having run my 7880 on Photo Black for a long time I decided to take the plunge and change to Matt having read the post above, well aware that I was doing so at my own risk. After carefully following the instructions through steps 1-4, with the LCD displaying the messages as indicated above, I got stuck in a loop after step 4, where after restart the printer kept asking me to press pause to charge the ink as in step 3, which I was eventually compelled to do even after repeating step 4. As a consequence, the printer has consumed over 20% of each cartridge i.e. 400 ml of ink – and a new maintenance tank I put in last week is now full. So changing from Photo Black to Matt has cost over €200. This is far in excess of Epson’s estimate of it taking between 80ml – 140ml of ink to change blacks. I have no idea whether that is a gross underestimate by Epson, or whether needing this amount of ink is unusual. But I would point out that in between step 4 and step 5, no mention is made of what happens when you restart the printer, which you obviously have to do, to make a print.

  • Keith | Nov 15, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Glad it worked – these post do date from a while ago.
    Good to see older kit still going strong!

  • John | Nov 14, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    Just performed this on a 7800, no problems at all! Only thing I didn’t see step 8 ‘The display shows ‘JM Init. FILL’, but could still find the ‘INK PARAMETER’ in the next step.

    Had to print about one extra full black A3 to see the result (after one page of 23″x40″).

    Thanks for the tip!

  • Keith | May 23, 2020 at 9:15 am

    A good warning – this was only tested on my 7880

  • Eli | May 22, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    I tried this with Epson Stylus Pro 4800 and it created a lot of problems for me. I don’t recommend it. All the advanced media types disappeared from the print dialogue box, as well as option for roll paper. I was left only with the most basic options. Hours of online phone support with Epson yielded no results. Also, all my cartridges were rendered “empty” even though they still had plenty of ink, and I had to buy a chip resetter for them to work again. I would just do the conversion the official way and avoid the headache. This put me out three weeks and caused a lot of stress.

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