It's easy to take a screenshot on a Mac. Print screen, screengrab or screen capture - whatever you want to call it, in this article we show you how to capture an image of whatever's on your Mac's display and save it as an editable file.

Taking a screenshot is far easier on Mac than on PC (no surprises there) with more options available, too; we explain the best methods in this article.

The methods here work in all versions of Mac OS X or macOS, but there are some additional new features in Mojave which we will cover too.

Regardless of the method you use to take the screenshot , by default, your screenshot will be saved as a .png file on your Desktop (we show you how to change where your screenshots get saved here).

The image's filename will begin with 'Screen shot' and have the date and time in this format: 'Screen Shot [year]-[month]-[day] at [time]'. If you'd prefer your screenshot as a JPG or other file format you will need to open the .png file in Photoshop, Preview or a similar image viewing program, and then Save As with a different file type extension.

How to screenshot the whole screen

Want to save an image what's on your screen (of if you have more than one screen, both of them?) It's really simple on a Mac:

  1. Hold down Command + Shift + 3.
  2. You will hear a sound like the shutter on a camera...
  3. By default the screenshot will appear on your desktop as a .png file. (We explain how to change where the screenshot is saved later in this article.)

You probably don't want to screenshot the whole screen, however. Most likely you just want to show someone a single interesting thing that one of your applications is up to, or you will want to highlight a particular area of your screen to make something obvious to the person you are taking the screenshot for, which leads to our next option.

How to screenshot part of the screen

If you want, you can choose to take a screenshot of a selected area within the screen, rather than the whole thing. This is our default method.

  1. Hold down Command + Shift + 4. Crosshairs screenshot
  2. You'll see a cross appear on your screen with some numbers, as illustrated above, drag these crosshairs across the area of screen you want to screenshot, as below, so that they form a rectangle around what you want to 'grab'. To do so, click the mouse button, or press the trackpad, and drag diagonally from the top left to the bottom right (or vice versa).
  3. When you have the area covered by your rectangle release the mouse button, or the trackpad, and your screenshot will be taken. Take screenshot of part of screen
  4. As we mentioned above, the screenshot will appear on your desktop as a .png file, labelled as 'Screen Shot' [year]-[month]-[day] at [time]'. Or, if you are using Mojave you will see a thumb nail appear in the bottom right which you can click on and edit straight away.

Protip: Once the crosshairs appear, you can let go of the keyboard keys. Once you've clicked the mouse button and started dragging the cursor, press Space, and you'll be able to move the selected area around. Hold Shift and you'll be able to move it horizontally only.

Protip 2: Press Escape at any time to abort the screengrab. No image will be generated or captured.

How to make screenshots of a particular size

You can just about see, in the image above, that there are two numbers by the crosshairs that I've dragged over the desired screen space (near the bottom right). These are pixel numbers. In this case, 1,073 by 660.

Once you click and start dragging the selection window across your desired section of screen, the numbers will start showing the size of the selected space, which can be helpful if you want a screenshot that's 800 pixels by 450, or a perfect square for example.

Here's a closer look at what you'll see while taking a Mac screenshot. If we released the mouse button at this point we would capture a (rather boring) screenshot measuring 119 pixels by 70.

How to take a screenshot on Mac

So, if you want to take a screenshot of an area with particular pixel width and length, this is what you could do:

  • Hold down Command + Shift + 4.
  • When the crosshairs appear on your screen drag these crosshairs to cover an area of screen that equals the pixel whidth and depth you need. Don't worry too much about how well you cover the area you want to grab.    
  • Before letting go of the mouse button/trackpad, press the Space Bar, then you can move the box around your screen until you have the area covered you want to screenshot.
  • Once you are happy with your selection, release the mouse button/trackpad.

How to screenshot a window

What if you want to screengrab or screenshot a single window on your desktop?

  1. Hold down Command + Shift + 4.
  2. When crosshairs appear, press Space.
  3. Position cursor over window (it will be highlighted) and click your mouse or press the trackpad.
  4. A screenshot of the window (complete with shadow) will appear on your desktop as .png.

Instead of attempting the fiddly task of trying to line up the crosshairs exactly with the corners of the window, press Cmd, Shift, 4 as before, but when the crosshairs appear press space. The crosshairs will change into a camera icon, and the window your cursor is currently over will turn blue. (You can still move the crosshairs - whichever window is beneath the crosshairs will turn blue.)

Click to take a screenshot of this window only - and the resulting image will have a nice shadow effect, too.

Screen shot a Window Mac

How to screenshot a window without shadow

  1. Hold down Command + Shift + 4..
  2. When crosshairs appear, hold down Alt, then press Space + Alt.
  3. Position cursor over window (it will be highlighted in blue) and click.
  4. Screenshot of window (without shadow) appears on your desktop as .png.

Adding the Option (or Alt) key will give you a final result without shadows. You'll feel like your fingers are playing Twister, but it works.

How to screenshot a dropdown menu (or other screen furniture)

The same technique can be used to screenshot menus. Open the menu you want to screenshot, then press Command, Shift, 4, then press Space, and move the camera icon over the open menu dropdown.

  1. Hold down Command + Shift + 4.
  2. When crosshairs appear, press Space.
  3. Position cursor over dropdown menu and left-click.
  4. Screenshot of dropdown menu appears on your desktop as .png.

You'll get a screenshot of the menu (although it won't include the title at the top of the dropdown - to screenshot that you'll need to use the standard Command + Shift + 4 and judge the selection by eye).

How to take screenshot on Mac: Screenshot a dropdown menu

And it doesn't stop there. You can use the same technique to capture neat screenshots of other screen furniture that you might not think of as windows. Here's a screenshot of our Dock, which we grabbed in the same way - Command + Shift + 4 and then Space:

How to take screenshot on Mac: Dock

You can also capture the top bar, certain elements of the top bar on the righthand side, or all the icons on your desktop with the top bar, Dock and wallpaper image removed.

How to take timed screenshots in Mojave

Mojave doesn't include the Grab app (we'll explain how to use that below). The Grab app used to be our go to app when we needed to take a timed screenshot. To take a timed screenshot in Mojave you need to do the following:

  1. Hold down Command + Shift + 5.
  2. Click on Options.
  3. Under Timer choose 5 or 10 seconds.
  4. Now choose the kind of screengrab you want to take. Entire screen, selected portion, selected window.
  5. You'll see a timer start up. When it reaches zero your screenshot will be taken.

This way you can take a screenshot of something you need to control - you can't do two things at once so it means you can set the screenshot up to be taken and then do whatever it is you want to capture.

How to take timed screenshots in High Sierra or older

As we mentioned above, when Mojave was released the Grab application vanished. This is a shame as Grab was one of our favourite utilities. If you are in an older version of macOS or Mac OS X you can find it by pressing Command + Space and starting to type Grab. Or search through the Utilities folder (which you'll find in the Applications folder.)

You used to be able to use Grab to take a timed screenshot - perhaps if you want to capture something that doesn't happen if you are dragging your mouse around the screen.

  1. Open Grab.
  2. Click on Capture > Timed Screen.
  3. Click on Start Timer.
  4. A red dial will start filling in beside the camera icon to show you how much time is left before the screen will be grabbed.
  5. This will only allow you to screengrab a whole screen - but you can later edit the grab to focus on a particular element if you like.

How to take a screenshot on Mac: Timed screen grab

Launch Grab and click Capture in the top menu; you'll see options for the usual screen captures (a small Selection, a Window, or the entire Screen, each one with a shortcut that you can use to access it in future) but also includes the handy option of timed screenshots (select Timed Screen), for when you want to set up a capture and then activate whatever it is you want to grab. The timer is 10 seconds.

How to screenshot as JPEG or TIFF in Mojave

Since Apple removed Grab with the update to Mojave it also removed a really simple way to save a screenshot as a Jpeg or Tiff. The easiest way to change the format that your screenshot is saved as would be to open it in a photo editing app, such as Photos or Preview or Photoshop and Save As.

However, if you are feeling confident enough, you can make a change in Terminal that should mean your Mac always saves a screengrab as a Jpg, for example.

Here's how to Jpeg screengrabs:

  1. Open Terminal (Press Space+Command and start typing Terminal).
  2. Paste in the following:
    defaults write type jpg
  3. Press return.
  4. You will need to restart your Mac before the changes will come into effect.

How to screenshot as JPEG or TIFF in High Sierra or older

The Grab application mentioned above was also a good option if you'd like your screenshots to be JPEG rather than PNG files. It is also possible to choose to save your shots as PNG or TIFF if you use this app.

  1. Open Grab.
  2. Click on Capture, choose from Selection, Window, Screen or Timed Screen (more on that option next).
  3. If you want to take a screen shot of a Window, click on that Window.
  4. You will hear a camera shutter sound and the screengrab will appear so you can name it and choose where to save it.

How to print screen on Mac

If you want to print out the Mac screenshot captured using one of the methods listed above, here's what to do: 

  1. Find the image (most of the techniques above will save it to the desktop, unless otherwise specified).
  2. Double-click on the image to open it in Preview.
  3. Now hit xommand-P to print directly from Preview.

Where are screenshots saved on Mac?

By default, Mac screenshots are saved to the desktop.

However, if you were to use an app such as Grab (available in in earlier versions of MacOS) to take your screen shots your screenshots might end up elsewhere. Grab is likely to save the screenshot to your Documents folder - and if you don't change the name of the image it will save as Untitled.

It's relatively straightforward to change where your Mac's screenshots are saved.

How to change where screenshots are saved

It is possible to change where screenshots are saved in Mojave:

  • Hold down Command + Shift + 5.
  • Find the location you want to save to in the Save to section.
  • Or, if you want to save the image elsewhere, choose Other Location.

We have more advice about changing where your screenshots go here, including how to change the location of screenshots in High Sierra and older.

How to edit a screenshot in Mojave

One of the most useful new features in Mojave is the ability to edit screenshots without opening an applicaiton to do so.

When you take a screenshot in Mojave a thumbnail of it will appear in the bottom right corner of your screen. To edit it do the following:

  1. Click on the thumbnail.
  2. This will open the Markup tools for drawing, highlighing, adding shapes, textm boxes and even your signature to the screenshot.
  3. You can also rotate or crop the image.
  4. And you can Click on the Share button to choose from options such as Mail, Message or add to Photos.

Edit screenshot in Mojave

This thumbnail can also be immediately dragged into a document.

Screenshot troubleshooting

Mac screenshots are nice and simple, but occasionally you will find that things go wrong.

Screenshots come out blank

This is not an uncommon occurrence, unfortunately.

If you've carefully followed the instructions above and you're sure the selection, window or screen that you targeted for screenshot contained graphical elements but these now aren't showing up in the image captured, the chances are that the software you were using has chosen specifically to block screenshotting functions.

You should be able to get round the problem by using either a different piece of software that does the same thing.

Screenshot on Mac not working/Mac won't screenshot

If you are taking screenshots and they aren't appearing on your desktop it might be that you were accidentally pressing ctrl at the same time - which would copy the shot to your pasteboard.

If it's not as simple as that, go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts and check that the shortcuts are activated under Screen Shots.

Another possibility is that the usual shortcuts have been assigned to something else, so double-check that here in System Preferences too.