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?


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

enter image description here

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  • 7
    Pressing ⌘N is faster. :) – rightfold Jul 11 '11 at 21:43
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    @WTP It does show that in the image. :P I included it for that purpose. – nix Dec 19 '11 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.

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  • 1
    That rocks. You cranked that out pretty quick. – sholsinger Mar 30 '11 at 20:54
  • You are my hero – psp Jun 3 '15 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 Dec 30 '15 at 4:12

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!

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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.

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  • 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 Mar 30 '11 at 17:27
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    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 Mar 30 '11 at 19:55

I like to use the command line:

pbpaste > myfile.png

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

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    I just tested it, and pbpaste only works with plain text, rich text, etc. No binary data. See this SO post – Alex Vidal Mar 30 '11 at 17:25
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    -1 as it doesn't actually work for the question he asked. – cabbey Mar 30 '11 at 17:58
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    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. :) – Jeremy Mullin Mar 30 '11 at 18:04
  • Oh hells yeah. This is rad -- despite the obvious failure suggested by others. – sholsinger Mar 30 '11 at 20:49
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    There's always the "delete" link! – Arjan Apr 5 '11 at 11:56

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>
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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
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  • 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 Mar 6 at 13:31

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