Well, the short answer is simple: no, common inkjet printers cannot print white!
Yet, it is important to not only clarify WHY inkjet printers cannot print white color, but also to clearly say that SOME inkjet printers still CAN print white! However, this is just an exception that only justifies the rule that inkjet printers cannot print white.
Really, you’d say? Then why on the picture I’ve printed with my inkjet, my white sweater is actually white?
Point is that most (if not all) printers usually print on white paper, and on white paper “printing white color” actually means no printing at all! To say it another way, if you printed your “white sweater picture” on a yellow paper, then your “white sweater” would’t be white, but yellow. You see the point?
And here comes the color mixing technology used in printers, called “subtractive color mixing”. The commonly used subtractive primary colors are cyan (shade of blue), magenta (shade of red) and yellow colors, and if you add all three colors, the resulting color would be black.
On the contrary, the additive color mixing technology, used in TV sets and computer monitors, the commonly used additive primary colors are red, green and blue, and if all three colors are added together, the resulting color would be white.
To say it in another way, unlike your computer screen where “no signal at all” gives you a black color (just like a the switched off monitor), in you printer “no printing at all” will give you the color of the paper.
If the paper you are printing on is white, only then your printer will “print” white color. Otherwise the white colors of your picture will have the color of the paper you are printing on.
Well, as all rules have exceptions, this one also does.
There are some printers, designed to print on special materials such as, for instance, fabric, wood or metal, that actually can print white. They use special white inks, especially designed or this purpose, but these inks are very different from the standard inks used in home or office printers.
These printers are relatively rare and, as we said, are very different from the commonly used home and office printers we see in our everyday life.