Smarter screen grabs

July 14, 2009 § Leave a comment


In my last job, we analyzed a lot of campaign videos and Web sites – and used a lot of frame grabs in graphics. It’s pretty basic stuff, but here are a few tips on making screen grabs.

The basic key command for making a screen grab on the Mac is shift-command-3. That captures the whole screen. Don’t do it that way.

Instead use shift-command-4. This will bring up a little crosshairs that lets you select just the area you want to grab. The selection will be saved to your desktop as a png file.

Better yet, if you want to grab a whole Web page window or a Web video screen, use shift-command-4 then hit the space bar. Hitting the space bar will turn the crosshairs into a camera icon that will capture any single window you click on.

If you are grabbing a Web page, resize the window to make it as narrow and shallow as possible without obscuring the content you are trying to show. Hide the tabs and bookmark bar at the top, but leave in the address bar.

If you are making a video grab for print, enlarge the video player as much as possible before making the screen grab. Screen grabs are all 72 dpi, and you likely will want to print at a resolution of 200 dpi or higher. In Photoshop, you can resize the image so it has a smaller footprint but a higher dpi.

One last thing. Adding a drop shadow to a screen grab helps to lift it off the page so it is perceived as an isolated object.

The Mac OS includes a utility called Grabber, but I am not sure why you would use it when you have the key commands that do the same thing. If anyone has found a good use for Grabber, please let me know.

If you need to make a screen grab on the PC, hit the Print Screen button. This saves the full screen to your clipboard. You can then paste it into Paint before saving it to a folder.


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