Capturing crisp consistent screenshots for presentations

A profile photo of Richard Saunders

By on in Design

I prepare slide decks in Keynote a couple of times a year. You can guarantee that there will be a handful of screenshots of a website, code editor or some sort of application amongst the deck.

I have an incessant need for consistency when it comes to preparing a deck and I want to ensure that the screenshots I produce are as crisp as possible. After all most projectors suck, so its worthwhile taking the extra steps to convey what you want in the clearest way possible.

I also like to include movement in my slides so will often scale images up to focus peoples attention on a particular area of a user interface.

I thought it would be helpful to share some of the steps I take when capturing screenshots to get the most out of them.

Turn off drop shadows on Mac OS screenshots

If you are capturing a screenshot of an application frame on Mac OS, by default a box shadow will be included in the screenshot. This shadow makes the image larger and may affect the design of your deck. I use the Shadow option in Keynote when I need to add some separation to the background.

To toggle the box shadow you’ll need to use the following commands in the terminal.

Disable drop shadow

To turn off the drop shadow use the following terminal

defaults write com.apple.screencapture disable-shadow -bool true

Followed by

killall SystemUIServer

Enable drop shadow

It can easily be switched back on to.

defaults write com.apple.screencapture disable-shadow -bool false

Followed by

killall SystemUIServer

Capture screenshots on a Retina display

This is my number one tip and I’ve been using this since I had my first retina MacBook. Capturing screenshots on a Retina display ensures you get screenshot that is twice the resolution than you would get from a non-retina display.

As I usually create my presentations at a resolution of 1920x1080 this ensures I have plenty of resolution in an image available for scaling up when necessary.

Create a empty profile to avoid disabling of extensions

If you are capturing screenshots within a browser, I usually create a separate profile that does not include any extensions. It also means I can minimise the UI by turning off the bookmarks bar.

Use a window resize extension

The only extension I usually have enabled (but hidden from the toolbar) is Window Resizer, its a great extension that allows me to create screenshots of websites at a consistent size.

I use the shortcut key ⌥ Option+⇧ Shift + ↓ Down arrow to cycle through my presets.

I’ll often capture a website at 1680x1050 / 1440x900 depending on the amount of detail I require.

Use Chromes command pallet

If I want to capture a screenshot of a website without the browser chrome, I’ll use Chromes command pallet feature. With the developer tools option ⌥ Option+⌘ Command+I, press ⌘ Command + ⇧ Shift + P to open the command pallet.

Type Screen into the command pallet and you’ll see four options:

  • Capture area screenshot – This option will give you a cross hair cursor to drag an area you want to screenshot.
  • Capture full size screenshot – Great for capturing the entirety of a long webpage without needing to scroll.
  • Capture node screenshot - Capturing a specific selected node in the Elements tab. Great for screen grabbing a particular UI component.
  • Capture screenshot – Screen capture the current viewport.

Each option will save a screenshot into your downloads folder.


Just using one of these tips should help you create better screenshots in your presentations without needing any additional software (except maybe a free window size extension).

Tagged: Keynote, Presentation, and Slides