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

  • 7
    Pressing ⌘N is faster. :) – rightfold Jul 11 '11 at 21:43
  • 4
    @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.

  • 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!


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 Mar 30 '11 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 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.

  • 2
    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
  • 1
    -1 as it doesn't actually work for the question he asked. – cabbey Mar 30 '11 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. :) – 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
  • 3
    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>

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

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .