How to Get Better Screen Shots for Screen Display

Female student working on laptop in college classroom
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  Here are five simple things you can do to make your screen shots look better on-screen. Use these tips when you need to make screen shots for the Web or other types of on-screen presentations.

1. Save Application Windows as GIF format.

Screen shots almost always compress better and look better as GIFs. There is rarely a reason to save screen shots of application windows as JPEG files. The only exception is when the image contains continuous tone areas such as a photo or texture.

2. Avoid reducing the pixel dimensions.

If possible, avoid reducing the size of your screen shots, particularly if they've already been saved to a paletted format like GIF. If your image is already in GIF format, convert the mode to RGB before resizing. Reducing the size of a screen shot also creates additional colors in the image which usually results in a larger GIF file. Usually, you can get a smaller file size by using the full-size image and reducing the color depth instead of the dimensions. Cropping out unnecessary elements also helps, especially if they add more colors to the image.

3. Avoid interpolation when increasing pixel dimensions.

When increasing the size of the screen shot, in most cases you should not use a resampling method that results in blending pixels or anti-aliased edges. Both Bilinear and Bicubic methods in Photoshop blend pixels, which results in blurry screen shots that don't compress well.

 Instead, you should choose  Nearest Neighbor in the resampling menu of the image size dialog to resize without blending.

4. Disable color gradients in Windows title bars.

On Windows systems, the default appearance for title bars includes a gradient color transition. This increases the number of colors in the image and significantly increases the file size.

When producing screen shots for the Web, be sure to change the title bar appearance to a solid color, or crop the title bar out of the image. You can change the appearance by right clicking the desktop and choosing properties, then going to the Appearance tab. In Windows XP, you can simplify the window appearance by using the "Windows Classic style" rather than the XP style themes.

5. Cursor Tricks

If you want to include a cursor in your screen shot, but you forgot to include the cursor in your capture, you can save an image of a cursor with a transparent background and drop it into your screen capture anytime you need one. Better yet, download these cursors I've already created for you in transparent PSD and PNG formats.

The saved cursor is also useful for creating animated screen shots. By changing the location of the cursor and assembling a series of screen shots into an animated GIF, you can demonstrate movement. Don't overdo it, though, animated GIFs can become quite large.