Viewing Colorized Reports in Black and White

Introduction:  The purpose of this article is to provide the reader with a methodology to view colorized publications, reports and other analytical papers, in black and white (or shades of gray), while maintaining the integrity of the colored presentation.

The steps below will provide the reader with the “How to View Colorized Documents in Grey” and  “How to Convert Colorized Documents into Shades of Grey or BW Schemes”

Problem:  Your document has been painstakingly created with beautiful colors, images and charts that accentuate the visual senses and the topics within the work.   However, when it comes time for printing a hard copy, it will likely be done via a black and white printer that will wash out all the colors into indistinguishable shades of gray.

Additionally, while MSOffice2007 modules have the feature of changing the color theme of the document, the gray color theme only affects the text and headers of the document and not images, charts and graphs. Hence using the gray theme option is not a complete solution.  However, there is another methodology that is not widely known.


Print your colorized report via a virtual printer like a PDF print driver, and then view it with a pdf reader as a black and white version.

Pdf print drivers, like those from Adobe and Soda, have within their print driver properties page the option to select either color or black and white – the color option being the default setting.  The image below is an example of how and where the BW option is provided.

After the grey option is selected, proceed to print the document and the pdf driver will create a grey version of your colorize document for viewing with a pdf reader.

Subsequently, you will now have to versions of your document, ie the original colorized version and a pdf version for viewing and or printing.


While the pdf file is not editable (unless you have full versions of a PDF software), the copy created via the steps above will provide you with the opportunity to see how your colorized version will look if its printed via a black and white printer.

The black and white version will also help you to gauge the shades in your original document and you can then modify the colors, ie tweak the colors, to produce a better bw version of it.  (see tip 3 at bottom of page)

Conclusion:  By using the PDF print drivers’ black and white setting, you will not have to sacrifice all the hard work you inputted for colorizing your report to exquisite perfection.

Instead, you will now be able to impress your readers even more when you provide them with 2 reports, one that is colorized for online viewing and the other for printing on black and white printers.

Tip 1:   Never send your readers any files that are editable.  At best send them PDF versions of your work and then secure them from being edited via a password.  But most PDF readers do not allow editing pdf files anyways. So in the above scenario, i would send your readers/reviewers a pdf of the color version and also a pdf of the bw version.

Tip 2:   For the black and white version, it is best to avoid subtle shades of greys that are too closely related because it can be difficult to distinguish them from each other, especially in charts and graphs, and because most bw printers have low resolutions.

To this end, i would use only several shades of gray with spectrum’s that are extremely different from each other, and also alternate them, especially for charts and graphs.


Tip 3:  oAs you can see in the image above, the spectrum of grays look distinguishable. However, if this chart is printed on a low resolution bw printer, most of the shades will be indistinguishable from each other on paper.

Therefore, for charts try avoiding shades of gray and instead use the ol’fashion SVG Patterns like those that were provided in the MSOffice 2003.

If you are using MSOffice 2007, then you have likely discovered that the patterns were excluded from the modules.  However, i can show you how to incorporate this feature via here:  See “How to Pattern-ize your MSOffice 2007 Charts”