This question is not directly related to graphic design, but I think you guys can help.

I am writing a thesis and I need to add several screenshots of the tools I have used and screenshots of web sites too. When I hit print screen my Fedora OS saves it on the my desktop folder. When I view them in the default image browser, they look fine. But when I add them in my document they are hardly legible.

I am going to print my thesis on A4 size paper at 600 DPI, color laser printer. How can I preprocess the images in Photoshop or GIMP so that they look correct? Should I make an A4 size 600 DPI image in Photoshop and gimp and then add screenshots to them and then optimize them?


3 Answers 3


You're probably just seeing a lower resolution preview in whatever you're using to create the document. That's normal — applications like InDesign often show a lower resolution preview on screen, but print at full quality.

Should I make an A4 size 600 DPI image in photoshop and gimp and then add screenshots to them and then optimize them?

No. That's actually the exact opposite of what you should do.

When you take a screen shot, one pixel on your screen is represented by one pixel in the image file. This is great.

If you scale the image up, you won't gain any quality, all you'll do is increase the chance of damage, depending on the method and size you scale to. And you'll also increase the file size, making the images harder to work with and transport. The best way to maintain the quality of a screen shot is to keep it at its native resolution.

I'd advise you to do some test prints, but the best way to handle screenshots for use in printing is:

  • Convert the image to CMYK if you're using full colour printing.
  • Do not scale the images, under any circumstance.
  • Apply any colour corrections you may need (levels, curves etc).

To print at high quality, you may know or have heard that 300DPI (or higher) is often the target resolution. There's several aspects at play, with regards to screenshots.

  • 300DPI+ for a photo is great. This assumes you don't want to see the pixels the photo is made from.

  • 300DPI+ for a screenshot may not be great. This is because most computer screens are in the 100 to 140DPI range. When you look at a computer screen, you often can see pixels. Don't be afraid of pixels from screenshots when you print, either.

  • "DPI" is just a tag associated with the file. What matters, in terms of quality when printing photos, is the resolution vs the final print size. If you make an image smaller on the page, its dots per inch (DPI) is increased. Does that matter for screenshots? No. Because you don't mind seeing pixels.

If you're after a glossy product screenshot and you don't want to see pixels, then your best bet is to recreate the screenshot at a higher resolution. It doesn't sound like that's what you're after though.

  • That explains pretty much everything... Thanks! What's up with the vector screenshots and raster screenshots... any idea? Commented May 22, 2012 at 9:59
  • "Vector screenshot"? There's no such thing. Are you talking about "screenshots of vector art"? Commented May 22, 2012 at 10:09
  • Marc, when you say DPI, you are actually talking about PPI.
    – e100
    Commented May 22, 2012 at 11:36
  • Does the distinction matter? Apple, Google, Microsoft and others are all using DPI when referring to image resolution (rather than printing resolution). I don't mind editing to say PPI, but I'm not sure it makes the answer any clearer. Commented May 22, 2012 at 12:11
  • "What's up with the vector screenshots" — No idea. The only reference I can find to vector screenshots is in the comments here? Commented May 22, 2012 at 12:13

The easiest method is to use a screen grab utility which allows you to scale the screen grab when you take it.

I'm not familiar enough with Fedora OS to recommend any specific apps. But most Mac or Windows apps will allow you to scale up to 400% when you take a screenshot.

Simply take the large screen shot, then place that image into your layout application, whatever that may be and reduce the image. This effectively increases the pixels per inch within the image resulting in a better overall print.

Of course, you could go the route of taking the screenshot, opening it in a pixel editing application and resizing there being certain to increase resolution as you decrease dimensions. However, generally sizing within a layout application is sufficient.

There are also times where, for clarity, it becomes necessary to completely recreate an image so it merely looks like a screen shot. It all depends upon your desired results.

  • "opening it in a pixel editing application and resizing there being certain to increase resolution as you decrease dimensions" — worth noting that if you did that, you'd want to just change the DPI/size and not resample the image (doing so would reduce quality). Commented May 22, 2012 at 7:58
  • When you talk about "scale the screen grab when you take it", what does this actually mean? Increase the PPI or resample? I can't see how either increase quality.
    – e100
    Commented May 22, 2012 at 11:39
  • There are apps like SnapzPro which will take the screenshot at 400%. There's no manual scaling on the users part. You simply set the app to take the larger image.
    – Scott
    Commented May 22, 2012 at 17:15
  • Yes, but is it resampling or just changing the PPI value?
    – e100
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 8:56

In addition to all the good advice here, including starting with a VERY large screenshot and reducing it, I've had very good luck using a Photoshop plug that used to be called "Perfect Fractals" and is now called "Perfect resize" by On One software. They have a means of interpolating everything from line drawings to photographs, and including screenshots, which in many cases I've found improves the clarity and sharpness of even pixelated originals. It's freaky good. I've been able to (typically) double the size of original screenshots without losing information, and in about 80% of cases improving the apparent sharpness of straight lines and edges without adding pixelation. Even pixelated or blocky fonts in the screenshots are amazingly improved. In about 10% of the cases the end result is subjectively about the same quality as the original, and sadly, in the last 10% the result of Perfect Resize is visibly worse than the original. With that kind of track record it's worth a try on just about every screenshot, which usually start at 72 PPI and are not very large. After that, convert to CMYK and Bob's your uncle.

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