Scans from Preview render as all black

Intermittent issue: Scanning docs via Preview from HP OfficeJet Pro 9010, the resulting PDFs are all black when opened with Preview.
Same PDFs open as expected using Adobe Reader.
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2011) OS 10.13.6
Issue not present when scanning to a late model MBP.




Does it happen when you use the macOS Image Capture app instead of Preview? You can save scans as PDF files with that app (and adjust several parameters).

Feel your pain. Strange issues may require strange dispositions. Consider restart in Safe Boot (shut down, then long press ‘shift’ and start computer while holding ‘shift’ till it starts up. Log in, allow all to start, then shut down and restart per usual back into normal mode. Maybe Safe Boot ‘cleansing’ will put Preview in its place. Best, Patrick.

Could it be this issue raising it’s head again, from 2018?

TidBITS - Fixing PDFs Whose Pages Render as Black Rectangles in Preview

Intriguingly that article mentions that the problem seemed to be related to scanning with Image Capture, not Preview (or is Image Capture built into Preview?). The weird “solution” was to recalibrate the Mac’s display.

All who have replied: Thank You! I will have time to bang on this over the weekend and will let you know what turns up . (terryk I remember having seen Adam’s tidbits piece; somehow it didn’t turn up in my searching. Thanks for the memory aid!)

Hi Patrick,
Following your suggestion, I restarted in Safe Boot and after doing so opened one of the buggy PDFs in Preview. It displayed correctly! Restarted once again in normal fashion; the same PDF reverted to previous behavior: in Preview thumbnail in sidebar looks fine, document itself appears as a black rectangle.

So I infer from this that some login item, extension or app (suppressed by Safe Boot) is zonking my PDFs. I wouldn’t know how to begin to find it. In the olden days of 1993-ish there was a utility that we used for debugging conflicts. It would load half of your extensions at each reboot and by a process of elimination… Anyone know of such a tool for the modern era?


You have the initial diagnostic tools in your hands. To find the culprit app:

  1. Go to Login Items for your account in the Users & Groups preferences pane.
  2. Do until culprit app is found:
  • Take a Screen Shot for later reference. Remove items and Log Out then Log In again.
  • Test
  • Re-enter benign items.
  1. Take appropriate remedial action

I wish it were that simple. Worth a shot, but recent versions of macOS allow login items to be implemented without showing up in Users & Groups.

More importantly, it’s more likely to be an extension of some sort that is causing the interference which was not loaded in Safe Mode. So it may take a bit more digging to find the exact cause.

Karl. Glad that helped. I agree w others that going to USERS & GROUPS LOGIN often doesn’t reveal enough information. Without trying to confuse myself :) two steps might assist you.

  1. Make a new Admin User Account TEST or whatever, then log in and see if you can open images.
  2. I use Detect X Swift and it will profile your files to show all extensions etc then you might can delete a few at a time but it will also show HISTORY as to what has been loaded recently. I use it all the time to search for adware, malware, etc. It is free and is located here: DetectX – sqwarq | security for your mac You might tinker around with that to see that it can do quite a bit, much of which I haven’t even learned. Best, Patrick

Extended diagnostics include creation of a new account and seeing if the problem is user specific or system global. The result will inform the search space. User specific items will be in ~/Library/LaunchAgents and system global items are in /Library/Extensions, /Library/LaunchAgents, and /Library/Launch/Daemons. Restarting the system between any changes is recommended.

This problem brings to mind the recommendation for at least two accounts configured and preferably three:

  1. System Manager, used for Installs and Updates with Admin privileges
  2. [your username], your regularly active user account with Standard privileges
  3. Test User, an inactive user with Standard privileges

A whole book could be written about managing /Library entries. Current macOS instances use a sealed volume (read-only) firm linked to a user accessible volume where part of /Library is on each, limiting diagnosis by temporary removal of items to those on the Data volume.

The diagnostic and repair process can vary wildly from finding a problem application and deleting and reinstalling it to in-place migration of user data to a new account leaving ~/Library contents behind. One extreme account-specific case, where the user could not open some system preferences, the ultimate solution, using a different (Admin) account, was creation of a new account with identical UID as the problem account, using Carbon Copy Cloner to copy all old account files except ~/Library, and manually updating application settings as required. iCloud services automatically updated local data files after iCloud login. Books was ignored as the User did not use Books.
Of course, was extensively used to create the new User Home directory, eventually rename the old and new accounts name-old and name, and move (using mv) some Application Support folders to the new account Library.

Years of experience have shown that macOS and OS X have always been easier to manage than Windows. The new volume group with a sealed system continues to improve this advantage by more clearly separating management of the OS from Users and Third Party Applications. Thus, diagnosis and repair of interfering can be performed at low risk of clobbering macOS itself.


I seem to remember that Safe Boot disables graphics card acceleration, forcing all graphics to be rendered more slowly (and perhaps with different results) by the CPU.

So it seems possible to me that the cause here might not be a login item, extension or app - it might be a PDF with unusual data, which triggers bugs in and the graphics card driver.

(Slightly related: back in 2005, I made a PDF with many pages which looked fine in, but when printed, two particular pages consistently came out blank, including in’s print preview. Adobe rendered it ok. I reported this to Apple as a bug, and they did actually fix it.)