How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac

How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac

Before we start

We agree that mastering screenshots on a Mac is definitely an important skill you should acquire, but remember that a lot of different screenshots and screenshot duplicates can clog your Mac and become responsible for slowing it down. This is why you need to clean your Mac from time to time.

Take advantage of this Mac cleaning app—don't overload it with unnecessary stuff!

Take a screenshot on a Mac using shortcuts:

  1. Hold down Command (⌘) + Shift + 3 keys to capture your complete screen
  2. Hold down Command (⌘) + Shift + 4 to capture a selected area
  3. Hold down Command (⌘) + Shift + 4 - then press Spacebar to make a screenshot of a single window
  4. Hold down Command (⌘) + Shift + 5 for macOS Catalina and Mojave

Take a screenshot on a Mac without using shortcuts:

  1. Use pre-installed Drag (in versions prior to Mojave) or Screenshot app (post-Mojave) to make a print screen without using keyboard shortcuts.
  2. Open Preview app - click on File - choose Take Screenshot

Use hotkeys to make a screenshot on a Mac

If you’re into using macOS shortcuts or would love to master them, screenshot hotkeys are a great way to try them out and learn.

Screenshot the entire screen on a Mac

To capture everything on your screen, do this:

  1. Hold down Command (⌘) + Shift + 3 keys simultaneously
  2. Wait for the sound of a camera shutter (if the sound is turned on). This indicates that the shortcut worked
  3. Take a look at the bottom right corner of your screen. A screenshot preview allows you to make instant changes to it. Or you can leave it as is without clicking on it. The screenshot will be automatically saved on your desktop as a PNG file

The preview option is available in macOS Mojave and Catalina. For more perks of macOS Catalina and how to upgrade read in this macOS Catalina guide.

Screenshot a selected area on a Mac

If it's just a part of a screen you need to capture, the flow will be slightly different:

  1. Hold down Command (⌘) + Shift + 4 keys simultaneously
  2. Check if your mouse pointer turned into a crosshair selection tool
  3. Click and drag to select the area you want to capture
  4. Release to automatically save the highlighted area to your desktop as a PNG file

TIP: If you change your mind before you drag to select, simply cancel the select tool by clicking your mouse once anywhere on the screen or by pressing the Esc button on your keyboard.

Screenshot a single window on a Mac

  1. Hold down Command (⌘) + Shift + 4 keys to turn your mouse pointer into a crosshair
  2. Press Spacebar. The mouse pointer changes into the camera icon
  3. Hover over a window you want to capture and click. The window will highlight in blue

With this Mac shortcut, you get a print screen showing only the window you selected, it is shown on a white background with a nice drop shadow. An elegant screenshot in just a few clicks.


What we also love about this screenshot hotkey is that it lets us capture a window, save the menu bar, the Dock, the desktop, and an open drop-down menu. Whatever option you want.

Screenshot on macOS Catalina and Mojave

  1. Hold down Command (⌘) + Shift + 5 keys
  2. Choose from 6 options appearing in the bar. From left to right: Capture the Entire ScreenCapture Selected WindowCapture Selected PortionRecord Entire ScreenRecord Selected PortionOptions Menu
taking mac screenshot with command shift 5

Screenshot on a Mac without keyboard

Sometimes your keyboard may be acting up. Don’t worry, even when it’s not working, you can easily fix your keyboard.

But if you do need to take a screenshot this very moment, simply use Mac pre-installed apps.

Use Grab for macOS versions prior to Mojave, Screenshot in macOS Mojave and Catalina or the Preview app. The good news is that these apps are available on all Macs.

Use Grab

Just like with the keyboard commands, Grab allows you to take a screenshot of the entire screen, selected area, or a separate window. Plus, there are some handy screenshot-related features in Grab.

  1. Use Finder—Applications—Utilities, or Spotlight, to find and launch the Grab app
  2. Once you see the app opened in your taskbar, click on the Grab icon and the app file bar will appear at the top of your screen
  3. In the file bar, find and click Capture. From the dropdown menu, choose Selection, Window, Screen, or Timed Screen depending on what type of screenshot you need

Read further for more details.

  • To take a screenshot of a selected area, click Capture—Selection and highlight the area you need with a cursor. Once you release, a new window with the copied screen will appear. Now you can change the name and location of a screenshot if needed
  • To make a print screen of a particular window, click Capture—Window —Choose Window, and choose the window you need to capture by clicking on it. The moment you do this, the snapshot of this window will be taken. Now you can change the name, location, and file format if needed
  • To take a screenshot of the entire screen, go with Capture—Screen and click anywhere outside the pop-up window you'll see. Done. Now change the name, location, and file format of your screenshot if needed

Use Screenshot

  1. Use Finder—Applications—Utilities or Spotlight to locate and start the Screenshot app
  2. Double-click on the Screenshot option and get the print screen by selecting the portion on the screen
finder applications utilities with screenshot app highlighted

If you use the hotkey combination Command—Shift—5, it will work the same way as if you’ve used the Screenshot option.

Use Preview

Good old Preview has multiple options, such as taking a screenshot.

  1. Open Finder—Applications or Spotlight to locate and start the Preview app. It might be also pinned to your Dock.
  2. Click on the File menu and choose the Take Screenshot option.
preview dropdown menu with take a screenshot option highlighted


How to change the default screenshot save location on a Mac

It is so easy to get overwhelmed by taking plenty of screenshots on a Mac. In result, your desktop can get pretty cluttered. To avoid this situation and organize your screenshots in a better way, you may want to change the default save location for your snapshots on your Mac.

Here's how to change your Mac's default screenshot directory:

  1. Create a new folder named Screenshots or even something more creative, and locate it where you want all your screenshots to be saved
  2. Open Finder and click Applications—Utilities—Terminal
  3. Copy and paste the following command: defaults write location and press the Spacebar
  4. Now drag and drop the folder you created for screenshots to the Terminal window and hit Enter
  5. Copy and paste this command: killall SystemUIServer
  6. Press Enter once again
terminal app with location command

Now, you can view all your snapshots saved in one place!

How to copy and paste a screenshot on a Mac

Copy and paste a screenshot of the entire screen

  1. Press Command (⌘) + Control + Shift + 3 (this command will copy the screenshot you've taken to Clipboard so you can copy-and-paste it). You’ll hear a camera shutter
  2. Open the window you need to copy your screenshot to and press Command + V

Copy and paste screenshot of a selected area

  1. Hold down Command  (⌘)  + Control + Shift + 4 (this command will temporarily save the screenshot to Clipboard so you can copy-and-paste it)
  2. Use the crosshairs to select the area you need and release
  3. Open the window you want to copy the screenshot to and press Command + V

Press just one extra button to the regular keyboard command to make your screenshot copy-and-pastable.  

In case the Copy and Paste option is not working properly, read this article for a quick fix.

How to fix “screenshot on a Mac not working”

Try restarting your Mac. The simplest and fastest way to make a particular function or an app respond is to restart your Mac. Also, restarting your Mac on a regular basis is a good habit to pick up to give your computer a fresh start for performing regular actions.

To restart, click on the Apple menu at the top of your screen, in the drop-down menu choose Restart or hold down the Power button.

Try double-checking shortcuts. Sometimes, pressing all buttons simultaneously may take some effort. Make sure you press all the buttons hard enough and at the same time. Also, make sure you're using the right print screen hotkeys.

Since Mac users are allowed to change the default shortcuts, you might need to make sure the snapshot shortcuts on your Mac are standard.

Here's how:

  1. Click on the Apple logo in the right corner of your screen-click System Preferences—Keyboard—Shortcuts
  2. Choose Screen Shots in the menu on the left, and check the Mac shortcut commands

How to recover a screenshot on a Mac

Oops, you’ve accidentally deleted a screenshot. Let’s try to recover it:

  1. Check the Trash folder. If you haven’t emptied it yet, the screenshot you’re looking for might be still there.
  2. Use Time Machine. By keeping regular backups you can keep your cool and restore different earlier versions of your files. If you’re still not doing that, follow these steps to start backing up your files.

How to take a snapshot of a touch bar on MacBooks

If you’re a lucky owner of a MacBook model with a Touch Bar, take a snapshot of what’s currently showing on it.

  1. Press Command (⌘) + Shift + 6 to make a screenshot. This hotkey will take a very slim snapshot. Something like this:
Macbook touch bar screenshot with options

How to transfer the screenshot from Mac to iPhone

  1. Make sure that Bluetooth and Airdrop are turned on your devices
  2. Double-click on the screenshot you want to send to your iPhone
  3. Go to the Share option—Airdrop and look for the destination you want to send the file
sharing a screenshot via airdrop menu with share option highlighted

Now you know multiple ways to take screenshots on a Mac. Master them and enjoy working on your computer!

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