⌘ + Shift + 3

The screen capture shortcut on the Mac is one of the most useful tools I know. It grabs the screen and neatly places a .png file onto your desktop.

But is this the highest quality screen capture you can get? Is it possible to get a higher resolution screen capture? Are there any ways to tinker with the settings of this command?

6 Answers 6


The PNG is losslessly compressed; there's isn't a possible better-quality screenshot.


The image will always have the same dimensions as the screen or window being captured — a 1440x900 screen will create a 1440x900 screenshot.

Today's operating systems are resolution-dependent: everything you see screen is either being shown at actual size (e.g. a 10-pixel-by-10-pixel icon which has actually drawn as 10 pixels by 10 pixels) or has been rendered at some pixel dimensions. So, the size of objects on a computer display is entirely dependent on the pixel density of the display — a higher-resolution screen (or screen capture!) would make everything smaller.

An interesting example of this is Apple's iPhone 4 — its screen has a higher resolution (and pixel density, since the screen is the same physical size) than previous models. Apple had to craft bigger icons to keep everything the same apparent size, and screenshots from iPhone 4 are much larger than older models.

You can change the format of screenshots, and the folder where they're dropped, using utilities like TinkerTool.


Using the terminal you can change the file type to jpeg, which can give you more compressed file sizes.

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg
killall SystemUIServer

Instead of jpg you can also set it to many other file types including tiff, pdf, png, bmp or pict. Try which one works best in your case.

  • 7
    How is a jpg considered better quality than tiff, png, or any of the other lossless formats?
    – Kent
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 1:43
  • Good compromise between quality and compatibility with programs. If quality is your only concern then stick with tiff.
    – Paul
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 4:21
  • 1
    tiff isn't better than png in this case. Both are lossless. Both use the same compression, lzh. But png is immediately useful in way more software than tiff including the web.
    – gman
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 21:46
  • Tried this but no change in file format. maybe I should restart os Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 12:45

On retina displays we can accomplish this by visiting: System Preferences >> Displays, making sure the resolution is set to "Scaled" and selecting the "Larger Text" option.

enter image description here


I have experimented a bit with this, and I found out that on a non retina display, a screen capture is done with 150 dpi when using the pdf format from the commandline.

As far as I can see, the resolution from the other formats is at a mere 72 dpi.

So, pdf must be the best format to do the original screen capture with, and then convert it to jpeg, png or whatever afterwards.

  • DPI is irrelevant. It really just depends on number of pixels. A 500 x 500px image at 150 dpi looks sharper than at 72 dpi, but it would also be half the size. In order words you can take the same image and change the DPI to anything you want, but you don't get more resolution; you're just changing how it's displayed. vsellis.com/…
    – ChatGPT
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 7:36

I am not sure why people say this is not possible. PNGs will always use lossless compression. You can save a much better quality screenshot by switching the screenshot type to TIFFs.

defaults write com.apple.screencapture TIFF
  • 8 bit pngs (portable network graphics) only support 256 colors and are lossy. 24 bit png supports lossless compression though. when considering screenshots we also need to consider the pixel density of the viewport being screencaptured.
    – admcfajn
    Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 2:01

You must log in to answer this question.

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