How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac

Keyboard shortcuts and built-in apps to capture images and videos of your screen

Matthew Guay
Matthew Guay / Published August 8, 2018

Macs come with screenshot tools to capture precisely what you want—your full screen, a specific window with or without its shadow, or just a small section of your screen.

The only problem is, Macs hide their screenshot tools behind keyboard shortcuts. You need to memorize a few shortcuts—or customize your Mac—to quickly take screenshots whenever you need.

Here's how to use all of your Mac's screenshot tools to capture anything on your screen.

OS X Screenshot

To take screenshots on any Mac, you'll need to memorize a few keyboard shortcuts. Fortunately, they're all quite similar—and each saves a screenshot image to your Mac's desktop by default. Here are the default Mac screenshot keyboard shortcuts:

  • Save fullscreen screenshot: Command + Shift + 3
  • Save screenshot of single window: Command + Shift + 4, press the Space key, then click on the window you want to capture
  • Save screenshot of single window without shadow: Command + Shift + 4, press the Space key, then hold the Alt key and click on the window you want to capture
  • Save screenshot of selection: Command + Shift + 4, then select the area you want to capture with your mouse cursor.
  • Save screenshot of Touch Bar: Command + Shift + 6
customize Mac keyboard shortcuts for screenshots

You can customize the screenshot keyboard shortcuts if you'd like from your Mac's keyboard preferences. Open your System Preferences, select Keyboard, then click the Shortcuts tab and select Screen Shots on the left side. There you can customize any of the default shortcuts for screenshots.

How to Capture a Timed Screenshot on Your Mac

macOS Grab

Want to capture your mouse with your screenshots—or to capture a screenshot after a delay? The built-in Grab app is for that, and you'll find it in the Other folder in Launchpad. Open Grab, then open its preferences to select the mouse cursor you want. Finally, open the Capture menu, and choose a screen, window, selection, or timed screenshot. The latter option will give you a 10-second countdown before capturing the screenshot, so you can open a menu or click anything you want in time to show up in the screenshot.

To add annotations, open your screenshots in Preview, then click the toolbox icon to show the extra tools. You can add arrows, shapes, text and more to screenshots before sharing them.

How to Capture a Video of Your Mac

QuickTime Screencast

macOS also includes a screencast tool in QuickTime. Just open QuickTime, then click File -> New Screen Recording and press the red record button to start recording your screen. Then, you can save the screencast as a video, or trim it to show just the section you want if needed.

How to Take Screenshots With the MacBook Pro Touch Bar

Customize Touch Bar

If you have a newer MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar instead of traditional function keys, you won't have to remember keyboard shortcuts each time you take screenshots. Instead, you can add a camera icon to your Touch Bar and save anything as a screenshot with a couple taps.

First, open your Keyboard preferences and click the Customize Control Strip… button in the bottom of the window. That will show all the options you can use on your Touch Bar. Click and drag the camera icon to your Touch Bar, then save the changes to always have a one-tap way to capture anything on your screen.

Touch Bar screenshot options
You can copy the screenshot or save it to a file from the Touch Bar options

As soon as you tap the camera button on your Touch Bar, your mouse cursor will switch to crosshairs to select any part of your screen to save as a screenshot. Press the space bar on your keyboard then click a window to save a full window screenshot. Or, select any of the other screenshot options that show on the Touch Bar while taking a screenshot to take a full-screen screenshot, copy the image instead of saving it as a file, and more.

CMD+Shift+3 to screenshot your full screen. CMD+Shift+4 for just a section—or tap space to capture a window. Remember that, and next time you want to screenshot something on your Mac, you'll know exactly how to do it.

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