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How to Create Great Screenshots

Updated on July 9, 2011

Keep your Screenshots Focused

When you take a screenshot you probably do not want take a shot of your entire screen. After all you want your viewers to be focused on the part of your screen you are trying to show them and not looking at your instant messages you have off to the side of your screen. So after taking your screenshot you have to paste the image into your image editor and crop the image down. This takes extra time and I know I always have a hard time getting the edges just right.

Full Screen Images can contain too much.
Full Screen Images can contain too much.
An image of just the dialog box created by pressing Alt + Print Screen.
An image of just the dialog box created by pressing Alt + Print Screen.

The Power of the Alt Key

There is an easy way to get a more focused screen shot. If you hold the Alt key when you take your screenshot it will take a shot of only the window you have selected.

This one key will save you the extra step of croping your screenshots. Plus, the edges of your screenshot will be perfectly trimmed!

The Disappearing Pointer

When you take a screenshot your Mouse pointer will do a magic trick and disappear on you. Sometimes this is fine as the pointer was not contributing anything to your screenshot. Other times though, the cursor can be used to guide the viewers eye to where they should be looking, (or clicking).

Arrow
Arrow
Pointer
Pointer

Making the Pointer Re-Appear

Follow the steps below to make add the pointer back onto your screenshot.

  1. Create a new screenshot as we learned earlier and Save it as a new Image.
  2. Open one of the following and copy the image to your clipboard.

    ArrowCursor.gif

    FingerPointer.gif

  3. Paste the image on top of your screenshot image.
  4. Move the Cursor Image to the desired location.
  5. Save a new copy of your Screenshot.

A screen shot with the pointer added back to it.   Note: Make sure to hover your mouse over anything that you want highlighted when you take your screenshot, like the button in this example.
A screen shot with the pointer added back to it. Note: Make sure to hover your mouse over anything that you want highlighted when you take your screenshot, like the button in this example.
A screenshot with a circle around the area we want to draw attention to.
A screenshot with a circle around the area we want to draw attention to.

Adding Extra Emphasis

Adding the mouse pointer back can be nice. But sometimes you will want to point out something in your screenshot and a pointer just wont draw enough attention. When people view a screenshot they don't always assume that the mouse pointer is pointing at what we should be looking at. So we may want to give them some extra help in locating the area of the screenshot we want them to look at.

There are a variety of other things you can do to draw attention to a part of your screenshot. These can be simple things such as highlighting and area or just drawing a simple circle around the area.

By making these small changes can have a big impact on the impact of your screenshots.

Here we used a blur to bring out the Threshold area.
Here we used a blur to bring out the Threshold area.

Blurring to add Focus

One of my favorite techniques to use on screenshots it to slightly blur the areas that we do not the views to look at, leaving only the area they should be looking at in crisp focus.

You can blur all but one part of your image by following the steps below.

  1. Select the area you would like to keep in focus.
  2. Invert the selection, to select the entire image except for your original selection.
  3. Apply a blur filter to your new selection.

If you are not familiar with the invert selection it can usually be found in one of two places in your imaging program. The easiest place to find it is by right-clicking on your selection. If you don't see it there you may be able to find it in either the toolbar under the Edit or Select menus.

You can also adjust the brightness of the new selection to make it a little darker and bring out the original selection even more.

Bringing It All Together

You can use any combonation of these techniques. Here is an example using all of them together.
You can use any combonation of these techniques. Here is an example using all of them together.

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