I have a graphic on the clipboard on OS X.

What's the quickest way to get it onto disk as a png or jpg?

11 Answers 11


Maybe the File | New From Clipboard menu of /Application/Preview.app.

enter image description here

  • 9
    Pressing ⌘N is faster. :)
    – user235
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 21:43
  • 4
    @WTP It does show that in the image. :P I included it for that purpose.
    – nix
    Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 20:03

Here is a utility to do just that.


Paste PNG into files, much like pbpaste does for text.

However instead of pngpaste > thefile.png, it's pngpaste thefile.png, so one does not accidentally barf binary into the console.

  • 1
    That rocks. You cranked that out pretty quick.
    – sholsinger
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 20:54
  • You are my hero
    – psp
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 7:51
  • I custom a shell function to save and then select it in finder: function pngp { local path=~/Downloads/${1-000}.png pngpaste $path | open -R $path }
    – lingceng
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 4:12
  • Install with: brew install pngpaste
    – stevec
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 15:09
  • 2
    This is buggy, see github.com/jcsalterego/pngpaste/issues/16
    – HappyFace
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 9:27

If you have Preview.app open you can simply 'create new' cmd+n and that will generate the proper canvas and paste the clipboard image. Only thing left to do is save that file. Presto!


Not nearly as slick, but without using Preview.

Finder -> Edit -> Show Clipboard

Cmd+Shift+4 to get the screen shot marquee tool, and copy the part of the clipboard you want. It's now a PNG on your desktop. But probably not precisely the same image file.

But at that rate, you probably could have screen-captured the original source using the same method and went right to the PNG without using the clipboard.

  • Thanks for the edit Jeff... was trying to do that myself when you changed it. Never noticed that you could format the keys like that!
    – bpanulla
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 17:27
  • 3
    Additionally, if you add Control to the screenshot command above, it will screenshot to clipboard and not a file. I realize that's the opposite of the OPs question, but it never hurts to close the circle.
    – atroon
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 19:55

From terminal, you can get an image from the clipboard with osascript.

Define the following functions. The first function gets the clipboard contents as a string of hex digits. The second function decodes the hex digits into binary.

# get clipboard as <class>
getclip() {
  local class=$1; shift; : ${class:?}
  osascript -e "get the clipboard as «class ${class}»"

# get clipboard as <class> (decoding hex string)
getclipb() {
  local class=$1; shift; : ${class:?}
  getclip "$class" | sed "s/«data ${class}//; s/»//" | xxd -r -p
$ getclipb PNGf >x.png

You can print the clipboard information (current set of data formats & sizes) with this function:

# print clipboard info
cbi() {
  osascript -e "clipboard info" |
  sed -E 's/, /,/g; s/,([0-9]+)/:\1/g' | tr ':,' '\t\n'
$ cbi | expand -t 16
«class PNGf»    3970
«class 8BPS»    4610
GIF picture     60
«class jp2 »    4367
JPEG picture    4877
TIFF picture    4810
«class BMP »    534
«class TPIC»    68
  • Excellent! For PNG, just osascript -e "get the clipboard as «class PNGf»" | sed "s/«data PNGf//; s/»//" | xxd -r -p > x.png works. Thanks!
    – chan1142
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 13:31

Using Preview.app is a way, but a little cumbersome. It can also be done on the command line.

Because pbpaste can only pbpaste > filename text snippets, you want to use pngpaste instead.

Install it with Brew:

brew install pngpaste

and use it:

pngpaste <filename>

I realise the original question calls for saving as a PNG or JPEG, but...

I use a script that saves any graphic on the clipboard to a new page in a PDF document, thus sort-of replicating the old 'Scrapbook' app on Classic MacOS.

The 'quickest way' bit is that I save the script to /Library/Scripts, so I can execute it from the Scripts menulet in the menubar. (which you can enable in the AppleScript Script Editor.app's Preferences dialog).

The images can be copy-and-pasted for other purposes or exported as images.

# getPDFclip v.1.3 : Get PDF from Clipboard image data.
# This script saves a PDF with a copy of any image data found on the Mac Clipboard.   
# If Clipboard.pdf exists, the image is added as an extra page.

from AppKit import NSPasteboard, NSPasteboardTypePDF, NSPasteboardTypeTIFF, NSPasteboardTypePNG, NSTIFFPboardType, NSPICTPboardType, NSImage
from Foundation import NSURL
import Quartz as Quartz
import os, syslog

# Change this to whatever filepath you want:

myFavoriteTypes = [NSPasteboardTypePDF, NSPasteboardTypeTIFF, NSPasteboardTypePNG, NSTIFFPboardType, NSPICTPboardType, 'com.adobe.encapsulated-postscript']
pb = NSPasteboard.generalPasteboard()
best_type = pb.availableTypeFromArray_(myFavoriteTypes)
if best_type:
    clipData = pb.dataForType_(best_type)
    if clipData:
        image = NSImage.alloc().initWithPasteboard_(pb)
        if image:
            page = Quartz.PDFPage.alloc().initWithImage_(image)
        if os.path.exists(outfile):
            pdfURL = NSURL.fileURLWithPath_(outfile)
            myFile = Quartz.PDFDocument.alloc().initWithURL_(pdfURL)
            if myFile:
                pagenum = myFile.pageCount()
                myFile.insertPage_atIndex_(page, pagenum)
                print ("Image added to Clipboard file.")
            pageData = page.dataRepresentation()
            myFile = Quartz.PDFDocument.alloc().initWithData_(pageData)
        print ("Clipboard file created.")

    print ("No clipboard image data was retrieved.")
    print ("These types were available:")
    print (pb.types())

Did not get @HappyFace zsh approach to work so created a traditional bash version:

# see https://apple.stackexchange.com/a/428168

# you might want to save this script to
# $HOME/bin/jpgpaste and do a
# ln -s jpgpaste cpngpaste and
# chmod +x jpgpaste cpngpaste

# paste the clibpoard to a png file
function pngpaste() {
    local name="$1.png"
    local folder=$(pwd)

    osascript -e "tell application \"System Events\" to ¬
                  write (the clipboard as «class PNGf») to ¬
                          (make new file at folder \"$folder\" with properties ¬

# paste the clipboard to a jpg file
function jpgpaste() {
    local name="$1.jpg"
    local folder=$(pwd)

    osascript -e "tell application \"System Events\" to ¬
                  write (the clipboard as JPEG picture) to ¬
                          (make new file at folder \"$folder\" with properties ¬

script=$(basename $0)
case $script in
    jpgpaste "$1"
    pngpaste "$1"

~If you already use Alfred or a clipboard Manager ~

I use Alfreds Clipboard History Manager (You can use any free clipboard manager to do this too, provided it also keeps a history of images not just text)

Alfred saves all my clipboard image screenshots and saves them in it's history of snippets.

My Clipboard History in Alfred (it gets purged every 24H)

I then set/create a folder action (using Automator) to copy everything that gets saved into Alfreds Clipboard History folder*

*(located in Library/applicationsupport/alfred/databses/alipboard.alfdp.data

This is where Alfred saves Clipboard Image History (or find your clipboard managers image history folder)

to duplicate those images over to my screenshots folder/downloads/desktop. (alfred deletes my clipboard history every 24H)

Use Automator - Folder Actions - Select the clipboard image history folder location and copy the finder contents to your screenshots folder / desktop / downloads etc

Now I always have a saved copy of the screenshot on my disk as well as the screenshot sitting in my clipboard. :]

  • I wish so bad that I could just drag the images out of Alfred's Clipboard History Manager. Could you show us what this folder action looks like?
    – Merchako
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 23:29
setopt rematchpcre

function pngpaste() {
    local name="${1}"

    [[ "$name" =~ '\.png$' ]] || name+=.png

    osascript -e "tell application \"System Events\" to ¬
                  write (the clipboard as «class PNGf») to ¬
                          (make new file at folder \"$(pwd)\" with properties ¬

function jpgpaste() {
    local name="${1}"

    [[ "$name" =~ '\.jpg$' ]] || name+=.jpg

    osascript -e "tell application \"System Events\" to ¬
                  write (the clipboard as JPEG picture) to ¬
                          (make new file at folder \"$(pwd)\" with properties ¬


pngpaste a1.png
jpgpaste a1.jpg
  • what to do with this code? Is this applescript? how is it made to be executed? Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 9:53
  • @WolfgangFahl It’s zsh, and it might also work with bash. You can paste the function definitions directly to the default terminal app, and then ise them as indicated. If you’re still confused, read some quick start guide on zsh.
    – HappyFace
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 9:55
  • -thanks for the quick answer. I have used bash and ksh for years bug zsh is greek to me. You might want to add a zsh sheebang to make clear what your up to. Does this have to go to the profile or should it be two scripts or links for the same file ? Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 9:58
  • jpgpaste:2: command not found: ensure-args jpgpaste:3: command not found: ensure 63:92: execution error: „System Events“ hat einen Fehler erhalten: Einige Daten können nicht in den erwarteten Typ umgewandelt werden. (-1700) Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 10:03
  • @WolfgangFahl I had somehow forgotten to delete some extra assertions from the code, which would need my own custom code loaded. Try it now, it should work.
    – HappyFace
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 10:26

I like to use the command line:

pbpaste > myfile.png

The pbcopy command is useful as well. See this post for details.

  • 3
    I just tested it, and pbpaste only works with plain text, rich text, etc. No binary data. See this SO post
    – Alex Vidal
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 17:25
  • 1
    -1 as it doesn't actually work for the question he asked.
    – cabbey
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 17:58
  • 3
    Bummer, thought for sure it would work with binary but didn't test (mac is at home, not here at work). Got the StackOverflow urge to post something as fast as I could. Tried to downvote my own answer but I couldn't. :) Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 18:04
  • Oh hells yeah. This is rad -- despite the obvious failure suggested by others.
    – sholsinger
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 20:49
  • 5
    There's always the "delete" link!
    – Arjan
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 11:56

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