What Are the Causes of Fine Vertical Lines When Printing Low Resolution?

By Jane Williams

You may only need to clean your the ink nozzles in your printer for sharp prints.
i Marili Forastieri/Photodisc/Getty Images

Home printers make sharing information and photos with others quick and easy, but a nice printer doesn't always guarantee a high-quality printout. Various factors can cause fine lines to appear on the page, ranging from a problem with the printer to incorrect settings in the document or printer properties. Low resolution images typically don't result in lines, unless you're trying to print a very small image file too large.

It's All About the Pixels

If you're encountering lines and blurry results when trying to print a photo, the size of the photo could have a hand in the print problems. When printing, photos need a certain resolution to print well. The larger you try to print a photo and lower its PPI, or pixels per inch, the more blurry and line-riddled your final print will be. This occurs because you're basically trying to stretch a small image across a space too large for it. Stretching a small, Web-sized image to fit a much larger space, such as an 8-by-10 photo frame, results in a highly pixelated printout, usually with blank spaces where the photo's pixels don't meet. Readjust your photo's size specifications before printing again to eliminate these blank areas.

Stuffy Print Heads

In many cases, your printer delivers streaky, line-riddled prints when it has sat for a while and the print heads are dirty or clogged. Run a print head cleaning cycle or two to flush out any dried ink inside the heads and get the printer primed for proper operation. When the cleaning cycles are finished, realign your print heads to ensure they are all properly positioned and ready to go. If your printouts still have lines, try cleaning your print heads manually using distilled water, rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs to gently wipe away any dried ink that may have remained behind. Refer to your owner's manual or manufacturer's website for specific instructions.

Print Settings

Many printers have various settings for printing, designed to save on printing time and ink use. Referred to as Draft mode in some models, this setting prints fast at the expense of quality, often leaving lines in the document. Open your document and check the printer's properties. Look for an option that refers to print quality and change it to another setting. Print another sheet and see if the lines return.

Printer Malfunction

Stubborn lines that refuse to clear up may point to a problem with the printer itself, such as damaged print heads or improper communication with your computer. Check the printer for signs of damage, such as broken pieces or bits of paper stuck inside. Clean it with canned air and replace any broken parts. Reset the printer by unplugging it for a minute and then plugging it back in, and install the latest drivers onto your computer. Reboot your computer and try printing again.