How to Capture a Screen Shot

Whether you're on a PC or a Mac

by Richard Lynch

Taking Screen Shots on PC/Windows

Screen shots on a PC can be taken without a special screen shot utility using the built-in Print Screen function. You can take a shot of the entire screen, or use the ALT key to confine the screen shot to the fore-most window (may be a program window or dialog/alert). Using Print Screen will capture the content of the current screen in the clipboard. You'll want to create a new image after you take the screen shot so that Photoshop or Elements will size the image for you, and then paste the content of the clipboard.

Here are the steps:

1. Set up the screen so that what you want to shoot is in front of other palettes, images and programs. Be sure the palette/window is over the program window (for example, a palette can be detached from the palette well, but it should not be on a second monitor if you have a two monitor setup).

2. Press the Print Screen button on the keyboard. This will capture the screen and place it on the clipboard. Hold down the ALT key before pressing the Print Screen button to confine the screen shot to the foremost window.

3. Create a new image file in Photoshop or Elements to paste in the screen shot you have collected on the clipboard. Elements Users: Choose File>New>Image From Clipboard. Photoshop Users: Choose File>New. A New Image dialog will appear with the dimensions of the screen shot in the clipboard. Click OK on this dialog and then press Ctrl+V to paste.

4. Save the image.

This will create a new image and paste the content of the clipboard to it. You may need to crop the image (using the crop tool) so that the result is confined to the area of the screen that you want (e.g., a single palette). When cropping, be sure that the options for the Crop tool do not show a height, width or resolution. If they do, clear the fields with the Clear button.

Some utilities will do a better job of helping you confine your screen shots to a single palette or toolbar, but the method here is fine for the purposes of my classes. Screen shots are very helpful for conveying the content of your layers palettes, developing short tutorials, and other creative purposes!


Taking Screenshots on a Mac

Screen shots on a Mac can be taken without a special screen shot utility using the built-in Grab function. You can take a shot of the entire screen, or use click and drag or automated screen selection to confine the screen shots to other portions of the screen (e.g., a program window or dialog/alert). Using Grab will capture the content of the current screen and save it as a file on the desktop named Picture #.png.

Here are the steps:

1. Set up the screen so that what you want to shoot is in front of other palettes, images and programs. What you want to shoot a screen of can be anywhere on your screen(s).

2. Press the Command+Shift+4 buttons on the keyboard. This will initiate the capture mode.

  • Clicking on the screen will take a capture of the entire screen.

  • Clicking and dragging a marquee will take a screen of everything within the marquee.

  • Pressing the Shift key once will turn on the automated mode which will highlight a palette or screen under the cursor; clicking over the highlighted palette/window will take the screen.


  • Pressing the Space bar a second time will return to the normal mode.

  • Pressing ESC will escape the utility without completing a shot.
This set of steps will create a new image. You may need to crop the image (using the crop tool) so that the result is confined to the area of the screen that you want (e.g., a single palette). When cropping, be sure that the options for the Crop tool do not show a height, width or resolution. If they do, clear the fields with the Clear button.

Some utilities will do a better job of helping you confine your screen shots to a single palette or toolbar, but the method here is fine for the purposes of my classes. Screen shots are very helpful for conveying the content of your layers palettes, developing short tutorials, and other creative purposes!


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Article by Richard Lynch. To learn more about photography, explore the many online photography and Photoshop classes offered here at BetterPhoto.com.