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How to Take a Screen Capture on a PC, Mac, or iPhone

Updated on April 22, 2013

A screen capture, also known as a screencap, screenshot, or screengrab, captures all or part of your current computer or smartphone screen and saves it as an image file. Screen captures can help diagnose technical problems and supplement communications by giving another person a clear picture of exactly what you are seeing on your device.

There's no need to grab a camera and try to take a photo of your screen – PCs, Macs, and iPhones all have built-in ways to capture all or part of your screen, as you see it. Screen captured images are saved to your local computer or phone as .jpg, .gif, .png, or .bmp image files.

Whether you are explaining a computer issue, sharing a text message conversation, or documenting an an Internet purchase gone wrong, learning how to take a screen capture on multiple devices can help you share exactly what is on your screen with others.

Full Screenshot on PC, Windows
Full Screenshot on PC, Windows

Take a Full Screen Capture on a PC

  1. Press PrtScn: This captures your full screen and copies a screen capture to your clipboard.
  2. Paste: You'll need to paste the screen capture from your clipboard into Microsoft Word, Microsoft Powerpoint, Microsoft Paint, Adobe Photoshop, or another document or image editor.
  3. Save screen capture

Partial screenshot on PC, Windows 7 with Snipping Tool.
Partial screenshot on PC, Windows 7 with Snipping Tool.

Take a Cropped or Partial Screen Capture on a PC with Snipping Tool

Only available on Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise Editions.

  1. Open Snipping Tool: Start > All Programs > Accessories > Snipping Tool.
  2. Select New
  3. Use your mouse to draw a rectangle screen capture.
  4. Save screen capture

Full screenshot on Mac
Full screenshot on Mac

Take a Full Screen Capture on a Mac

1. Press the Command (⌘), Shift, and the number 3 buttons at the same time. This captures your full screen and saves it as an image file on your desktop.

2. Find the screen capture on your desktop.

Partial Screenshot Mac
Partial Screenshot Mac

Take a Cropped or Partial Screen Capture on a Mac

  1. Press the Command (⌘), Shift, and the number 4 buttons at the same time.
  2. Use your mouse to draw a rectangle where you want your screen capture.
  3. Find the screen capture on your desktop.

Full Screenshot on iPhone
Full Screenshot on iPhone

Take a Full Screen Capture on an iPhone

Tested on iPhone 3G, 3Gs, 4, 4S, and 5

  1. Press Home (circular button at the lower center of screen) and Sleep/Wake (flat button on top right side) buttons at the same time: This saves a screen capture to your Photos application.
  2. Find the screen capture in your iPhone Photos app.

Partial Screenshot on iPhone
Partial Screenshot on iPhone

Take a Cropped or Partial Screen Capture on an iPhone

Only Available with iOS 5

  1. Press Home (circular button at the lower center of screen) and the Sleep/Wake (flat button on top right side) buttons at the same time: This saves a screen capture to your Photos application.
  2. Find the screen capture in your iPhone Photos app.
  3. Open photo and press crop.
  4. Draw a rectangle where you want the screen capture.
  5. Save screen capture

Enhance a Screen Capture with Text & Arrows

Adding text and arrows to your screen capture can help call attention to one particular area. This can be particularly helpful when trying to resolve a technical issue, sharing information with customer service representatives, or conducting a software tutorial. There are several software programs that can help you customize a screen capture.

Add Text & Arrows to a Screen Capture with Microsoft Paint

  1. Open image in Microsoft Paint.
  2. Use the pencil tool to free form draw arrows, lines, or circles around different objects.
  3. Use the text tool to add text on top of a screen capture.
  4. Save screen capture

Add Text & Arrows to a Screen Capture with Adobe Photoshop

  1. Open in Adobe Photoshop
  2. Use the brush tool or pencil tool to draw free form draw arrows, lines, or circles around different objects.
  3. Use the line tool to add straight lines to a screen capture
  4. Use the custom shape tool and select the arrow shape to add arrows to a screen capture.
  5. Save screen capture

Customize screenshot with Microsoft Paint.
Customize screenshot with Microsoft Paint.

Enhance Your Screen Capture with Shading

Using Adobe Photoshop, you can highlight particular areas of a screen capture by shading other areas. This technique creates a clean and professional screen capture look that is often used in corporate web and software tutorials.

  1. Open screen capture in Adobe Photoshop
  2. Name this layer "Screen Capture"
  3. Create a second layer on top of the "Screen Capture" layer. Call this layer "Shading."
  4. Use the Paint Bucket Tool to fill the "Shading" layer with a black foreground color
  5. Adjust the opacity of the "Shading" layer to 60%.
  6. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select the area of the screen capture you want to highlight.
  7. After your selection has been made, hit delete.
  8. Save screen capture

Customize screenshot with Adobe Photoshop
Customize screenshot with Adobe Photoshop

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    • Lizolivia profile image

      Lizolivia 4 years ago from Central USA

      Very helpful and useful to show how to save what is on the screen. Thanks

    • medleyofideas profile image
      Author

      medleyofideas 4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you for your feedback, Ceres! This was my first hub, so I genuinely appreciate it!

    • Ceres Schwarz profile image

      Ceres Schwarz 4 years ago

      Very detailed hub that's especially useful for those who don't know how to take screenshots. It's also great that you have a lot of pictures to go with your explanations. Having clear and concise instructions that are numbered are also especially helpful for readers in understanding exactly what they have to do.