How to Print Screen on Mac: A Comprehensive Guide

how to print screen on mac

Printing your screen, also known as taking a screenshot, is a fundamental skill for Mac users. Whether you want to capture a memorable moment, document an error message, or share information with others, knowing how to print the screen on your Mac is an essential skill. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various methods and techniques for capturing screenshots on your Mac, along with tips, tricks, and related information to help you become a screen printing pro.

Understanding the Different Types of Screen Prints

Before we dive into the how-tos, let’s clarify the various types of screen prints you can take on your Mac:

  1. Full-screen Print: This captures the entire contents of your Mac’s display, including all open windows, menus, and the desktop.
  2. Partial or Selected Area Print: You can choose a specific portion of the screen to print, allowing you to focus on a particular window, image, or section.
  3. Window Print: This captures only the active window, which is the window currently in focus. All other windows and the desktop are excluded.
  4. Timed Print: A timed print lets you set a delay before the print is taken, allowing you to prepare the screen, open menus, or navigate to specific content.

Now, let’s explore the various methods for taking these types of screen prints on your Mac:

Method 1: Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are the quickest and most convenient way to print your screen on your Mac. Here are the primary shortcuts:

1. Capture the Entire Screen

  • Command (⌘) + Shift + 3: Press these three keys simultaneously. Your Mac will capture the entire screen, and the screenshot will be saved as a file on your desktop by default.

2. Capture a Selected Area

  • Command (⌘) + Shift + 4: Press these keys simultaneously. Your cursor will change to a crosshair pointer. Click and drag to select the area you want to print. Release the mouse or trackpad button to take the screenshot.

3. Capture a Specific Window

  • Command (⌘) + Shift + 4 + Spacebar: Press these four keys in sequence. Your cursor will change to a camera icon. Move the camera icon over the window you want to capture and click. The screenshot will be saved as a file on your desktop.

4. Capture with a Timer (Delay)

  • Command (⌘) + Shift + 5: Press these keys simultaneously to open the screenshot toolbar at the bottom of the screen. Click “Options” and choose either a 5- or 10-second timer. After setting the timer, use the toolbar to take your screenshot.

Method 2: Using Preview App for Further Editing

The Preview app on your Mac is not only for viewing images and PDFs but also for basic image editing and taking screenshots.

1. Open Preview

  • Launch the Preview app from your Applications folder or use Spotlight Search (Command (⌘) + Spacebar, then type “Preview”) to find and open it.

2. Capture Screen Print

  • Click “File” in the menu bar, then choose “Take Screen Print.” A dropdown menu will appear with options for capturing the entire screen, a selected area, or a specific window.

3. Edit Screen Print

  • After taking the screen print, it will open in the Preview app. You can make basic edits like cropping, annotating, adding text, and more.

4. Save or Export

  • Once you’re satisfied with your edits, click “File” and select “Save” to save the screen print to your desired location. You can also choose “Export” to save it in different formats.

Method 3: Using the Screen Print App (macOS Mojave and Later)

If you’re using macOS Mojave or later, you have the convenience of the Screen Print app.

1. Open the Screen Print App

  • Press Command (⌘) + Shift + 5 to open the Screen Print app.

2. Capture Screen Print

  • In the Screen Print app, you can choose from various options, including capturing the entire screen, selected areas, specific windows, and even recording your screen. Click the corresponding button, configure your preferences, and take the screen print.

3. Edit and Save

  • After taking the screen print, a thumbnail will appear in the bottom-right corner of your screen. Click it to open the screen print in the Markup tool, where you can edit, annotate, and add text. Once you’re done, click “Done” and choose whether to save or discard the screen print.

Tips and Tricks for Screen Printing on Your Mac

Now that you’re familiar with the different methods, let’s explore some tips and tricks to help you make the most of screen printing on your Mac:

1. Change Default Screen Print Location

By default, macOS saves your screen prints to the desktop. If you prefer a different location, you can change it by using Terminal. Open Terminal and enter the following command, replacing [path] with your desired location:

defaults write location [path]

For example, to save screen prints to the Documents folder, you would use:

defaults write location ~/Documents/

2. Use Keyboard Shortcuts for Instant Editing

After taking a screen print, press the Control (Ctrl) key along with the other keyboard shortcut keys (e.g., Command + Shift + 4) to copy the screen print to your clipboard instead of saving it as a file. You can then paste it directly into an image editor or document for further editing.

3. Enable Floating Thumbnails

In macOS Mojave and later, you can enable floating thumbnails for screen prints. After taking a screen print, a small thumbnail will appear in the bottom-right corner of your screen. Clicking it opens the Markup tool for quick edits.

To enable this feature, go to “System Preferences” > “Keyboard” > “Shortcuts” > “Screen Shots” and check the “Show Floating Thumbnail” option.

4. Print the Touch Bar (if applicable)

If you have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, you can capture its contents in a screen print. Press Command (⌘) + Shift + 6 to do so.

5. Save Screen Prints to the Clipboard Directly

To save a screen print directly to your clipboard without saving it as a file, use the Command (⌘) + Control + Shift + 4 (or 3 for full-screen) shortcut. This is handy for pasting screen prints directly into documents or emails.


Printing your screen on your Mac is a fundamental skill that can enhance your productivity and communication. Whether you’re capturing important information, creating tutorials, or simply preserving memories, knowing how to print your screen in various ways allows you to work efficiently and share content seamlessly. With the methods, shortcuts, and tips outlined in this comprehensive guide, you’re well on your way to becoming a screen printing pro on your Mac.

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