Anyone got tips for taking computer screenshots for print?
June 5, 2005 5:09 AM   Subscribe

Anyone got tips for taking computer screenshots for print?

I need to take some screenshots of old computer games running in DOS and use the resulting images on a high-resolution document (at 300 DPI). I am knowledgeable of print in general but of course would appreciate any pointers. My ideal image size would be about standard photo size (6" x 4"). I think -- off the top of my head -- this is about 1600 x 1200 pixels at 72 DPI. Oh and design skills are not an issue here either. Thoughts?

Related searches: Get Better Screen Shots for Print and Saving Screen Captures for Printing.
posted by sjvilla79 to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You seem a little confused about the meaning of dots per inch. For example, a 1600 pixel × 1200 pixel image is the same image whether you specify that it is 72 dpi or 300 dpi or 1000 dpi. It is only the final output that matters.

I think you want a target resolution of 300 pixels per inch (ppi), which will then be printed on some as-yet unspecified device. Knowing which device it is would help your question—300 ppi is probably overkill. But for 6" × 4" at 300 ppi you would need a 1800 × 1200 pixel image.
posted by grouse at 5:38 AM on June 5, 2005

Oh yeah, the Adobe Photoshop Image Size dialog box will do all these conversions between inches and pixels for you, given a particular ppi.
posted by grouse at 5:39 AM on June 5, 2005

Well, you got two problems.

The first is, you want to take screen captures of DOS programs. You can use something like this if the program is in a window. If it's fullscreen, you'll have to use a TSR (Terminate Stay Resident -- oh, I'm so old fashioned, I haven't written that acronym in ages and feel all gooey inside). Here's one (video thief), another (screen thief).

The next problem is that your screen captures will be at 72 dpi, and probably 300x200 or some other low-res. You'll have to upscale it to high-res, and suffer the consequences. Photoshop's built-in Image Size feature isn't too shabby (as grouse mentions), but if you can find a copy of Genuine Fractals around somewhere, that would be better.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:01 AM on June 5, 2005

The MobyGames FAQ has many hints on screen captures.

To scale the screenshots, consider Scale2x. That's designed for pixel art and works much better than general applications (PhotoShop, etc.) in my experience.
posted by reynaert at 6:15 AM on June 5, 2005

grouse is right -- your captures won't be at any DPI. They'll just be pixels. In any case, it's probably in your best interest to scale the image yourself after capturing to whatever dimensions/DPI you'll use in the final output. As mentioned above by Civil_Disobedient and reynaert, the scaling method matters a lot for how it look. If you just load the low-res file into your page layout software, it's a crapshoot as to how it's going to be scaled before it's printed (my guess would be blurry bilinear/bicubic filtering, which is fine for photos but not for low-res games). I actually prefer seeing old games in all their chunky, pixelly glory, so if I had to rescale the images in Photoshop, I'd use Nearest Neighbor.

As for the actual capturing, if you can get the games running under DOSBox it'll be the easiest to capture, by far.
posted by zsazsa at 6:52 AM on June 5, 2005

you might want to read this thread.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:52 AM on June 5, 2005

I don't understand why he would need a screengrab utility if he is already using Photoshop. Hitting Print screen at any time will take a screengrab that you can paste in to Photoshop. Do these screengrab utilities do something that I am not aware of?
posted by ryanissuper at 1:45 PM on June 5, 2005

As others have pointed out, screen grabs are, by nature, low-res. If you're getting it off a computer screen, it's going to look like crap in print (unless the final printed size is very small on the page), but the bright side is most people recognize a screenshot and don't expect much of it.

If you were getting a screenshot of a new-fangled 3D FPS shooter you'd have much better output options, as you could take an in-game screenshot (using the game's built-in screen cap feature, sometimes F12) with the game running at its very highest resolution and all the eye-candy turned up to the max. Since it's a screen shot, the crappy frame rate you'd likely be getting wouldn't matter.

However, you say you need to get shots of old DOS games, so that's not gonna help you much.

My advice is to get the screenshot using whatever tool suits you (Print Screen pasted into Photoshop or a dedicated third-party utility that others have pointed to), BUT I would suggest not doing anything with it after that, save for cropping it to the essential image boundaries.

If you use Photoshop to scale it up, Photoshop will automatically interpolate missing pixels as you ask for more resolution that was never there. It will antialias (soften) the edges of your screenshot, which in general is a "helpful" technology, but in the case of screenshots can be detrimental. Older games, particularly DOS-based games, relied on a certain "pixel-level" look -- mostly because there wasn't much choice back then. If Photoshop smooths out these graphics, they won't look right.

Given that you would likely need to print these screenshots at a larger size than they will be captured, my suggestion is to use your page layout program to scale them to the size you need (Quark, InDesign, etc.) Neither of these programs will interpolate pictures or add information to the image that wasn't there to begin with. The screenshots will retain their hard-edged, "pixelated" look as they were originally captured.

Of course, the resulting image will just be a larger version of your original low-res capture, but at least you won't be changing the nature of the original image or compromising its integrity.
posted by robbie01 at 4:48 PM on June 5, 2005

Many DOS games use weird non-standard video modes. Windows often can't deal with them, so it can't put these games in a window (they only run full screen) or take screenshots. And of course many old games simply don't run on Windows or on modern computers. So you need specialized, DOS-based tools.
posted by reynaert at 4:51 PM on June 5, 2005

To scale in photoshop without interpolation:

1: Load Image.
2: From the 'Image' menu, select 'Image Size'
3: From the 'Resample Image' dropdown, select 'Nearest Neighbour'
4: Profit!
posted by Jairus at 4:54 PM on June 5, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the comments guys.
posted by sjvilla79 at 5:07 AM on June 11, 2005

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