Free or cheap screen capture?
February 4, 2004 9:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm working on a computer manual, and my publisher needs me to take a lot of screenshots. She says they must be 6 inches wide and 300ppi. I don't know of any screen capture programs that can do this. I'm on a PC, and I need an app I can quickly get my hands on (i.e. downloadable) -- preferably free or cheap.
posted by grumblebee to Computers & Internet (24 answers total)
The "print screen" button and a graphics program won't work for you?
posted by dg at 9:33 PM on February 4, 2004

She says they must be 6 inches wide and 300ppi

That's a 1353x1800 screenshot . She must be on crack. That will look like hell in a book (that's an average 10 pt font being sqeezed to 2.4 pt -- NOT READABLE).

Ask her again if she's sure about that.

Anyways, a regular screenshot in windows is as simple as pushing alt-printscreen (which puts the currently displayed app into the buffer), then pasting it into your favourite image editing software (GIMP), but I'm pretty sure you knew that. :-)
posted by shepd at 9:33 PM on February 4, 2004

Take a regular screenshot (explained above) and then use image > image resize in photoshop to scale it up to your required size and dpi: check "resample image" and choose "nearest neighbor." This way you will get a pixellated image that makes sense as a screenshot rather than a blurry blown up version.
posted by edlundart at 9:41 PM on February 4, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, guys. I don't like using the print screen button, because it's too basic. I was using snagit, which lets you marquee-select the area you want to capture. It also saves the file for you.

Whereas if you do a printscreen, you have to paste it into photoshop (or gimp), crop it, then save it. Which is too slow when you have to take hundred of shots.

But I can't use snagit, because it captures at 72dpi.
posted by grumblebee at 9:57 PM on February 4, 2004

DPI is a meaningless figure when applied to screen captures because screen captures aren't "meant" to be printed at any particular size. Captures from low-resolution devices are going to look pixelated, period. You can resize them to 300 DPI but that just makes the files bigger, it doesn't improve how they look even slightly.
posted by kindall at 10:38 PM on February 4, 2004

this may or may not be a useful fact: if you hold down alt and then press print screne, windows will copy only the current window to clipboard.
posted by mcsweetie at 10:44 PM on February 4, 2004

I'd be surprised if any screen capture program didn't capture at screen resolution (I think it's actaully 96dpi on a PC). If snagit saves the files for you though, you can batch process them through Photoshop. Set up an action that does your resize (as edlundart suggests) then just apply it to your folder full of screenshots.
posted by Jeff Howard at 10:48 PM on February 4, 2004

my guess on this is that it's necessary to put them in 300 dpi because the layout is going to be done at 300 dpi -- dump a 72 ppi photo into a 300 ppi layout and you're going to get a very tiny image in regards to the text.

The trick here, I guess, is "stretching" them with as little distortion as possible; a lot of upwards resizing will leave you with really badly blurred images, or (depending on the algorhythm you're using, a lot of chunky artifacts). looks like edlundart/jeff have some good advice..

here's some software that claims to do image enlargement "better" than photoshop or allows batch processing:

Image Resizer

i'm kinda surprised that they don't already have a procedure down for this sort of thing. Maybe you should ask your publisher what other people have done?

uhm, i guess you could also look into jacking up your screen rez as absolutely high as possible, set text to large, and then take screen grabs from that to start out with images with slightly more info in them, but i'm not sure how much that would help.
posted by fishfucker at 11:11 PM on February 4, 2004

When we've done screenshots here for print, we just open the 72 (or 96 on a PC) dpi picture in photoshop, convert it to CYMK and then bring it into Quark. Prints nice and sharp every time. Don't worry about resampling it up.
posted by derbs at 3:19 AM on February 5, 2004

grumblebee, you're going to capture at 72 dpi regardless of what capture application you use. Your monitor has a given resolution and a fixed size. Based on those two variables you have 72 dpi (in your specific case)

If you really need to get 300 dpi you'll have to interpolate pixels. PhotoShop will do this, or the gimp. You should be able to automate this with either tool though but it will be a two step process.
  1. Take the screen captures
  2. Process all the captures with your script
Increasing the resolution to 300 dpi from 72 dpi will not make a 10 pt font look like a 2.4 pt font, shepd is wrong on that. If you capture a 5" by 5" area on your monitor which contains a 10 point font and the screen resolution is 72 dpi then reproduce it in a book in a 5" by 5" area at 300 dpi it'll still appear as a 10 point font.

If you reproduce that 5" by 5" screen area in a 1" by 1" paper area then your 10 point font will be a 2 point font when it's printed.

My guesses as to why she wants interpolation are
  1. Her publisher said she needed 300 dpi so she asked for it
  2. She doesn't understand what dpi is or what the dpi on a monitor is
  3. Interpolated pixels might look better than enlarged pixels (I'm not sure what Quark does if you give it a low resolution image and tell it to produce 300 dpi files)

posted by substrate at 5:08 AM on February 5, 2004

< a href=""> Gadwin Print Screen is free, excellent, and will spit out captures to a predefined size.

Irfanview will batch resize pictures in a folder. Also free and good.
posted by mecran01 at 5:14 AM on February 5, 2004


Gadwin Print Screen.

Sorry, six a.m. and my little boy was up hurling last night.
posted by mecran01 at 5:15 AM on February 5, 2004

DPI is meaningless when applied to graphic files themselves. JPEGs, GIFs, PNGs (rule!), etc. don't have an intrinsic DPI, just dimensions in pixels. That's it. DPI is only relevant in terms of output to printers etc.. If she needs a 6 inch image at 300 dpi, that means she needs an image that is 1800 pixels wide. So you should set your video card / monitor to the highest resolution they support and your fonts to a large, readable size. If the resulting images are smaller than 1800 pixels wide, batch process with PS or Gimp or Compupic etc., so all their widths are exactly 1800.
posted by signal at 5:32 AM on February 5, 2004

If she needs a 6 inch image at 300 dpi, that means she needs an image that is 1800 pixels wide.

Not really (you're right on in your first sentence). Derbs is on the right track, in terms of going through Quark.

Pixels have nothing (well, little) to do with "dots", which is the "D" in DPI. If you had an "average" web page built for 800x600 or 1024x768 viewing displayed on a monitor giving you 1800 or more horiz. pixels, the "meat" part of the page would still most likely be very tiny and squeezed in the upper left, (as shepd pointed out) even if you boosted text size (assuming you even could, as in a Flash page, etc.)

Also, increasing the size of the grab in a pixel based program, even by a small amount, will degrade the quality quite noticeably. The key here is that the size and PPI of the screen grab doesn't have anything to do with the output DPI of the final file.

The method we use here (and grumblebee, I hope his does help with the original question) is to take a screengrab of the page at normal resolution/surfing settings, then "place" or "import" the image into Adobe Illustrator or another vector drawing program, (Quark works here as well) being careful not to change the size of the image, then export as an .eps, making sure your export resolution (which, as noted, has nothing to do with how the screengrab was taken) is set at 300DPI or higher. What you'll get is an image that has adequate print resolution for sharp, professional reproduction from an original screengrab that may have only been a few hundred pixels wide originally.
posted by jalexei at 7:36 AM on February 5, 2004

to clarify one thing - don't change the size of the screengrab in Photoshop or Paintshop or whatever pixel-based program you're using - once it's in a postscript or vector-based image program, you can adjust the size.
posted by jalexei at 7:40 AM on February 5, 2004

I think jalexei has the best solution here. But another option would be to use a 6 MP digital camera to just take a picture of the screen. This would give you crisp images well over 6 inches at 300 dpi. And you wouldn't need to worry about interpolation making the image look weird as it was sized up.
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:45 AM on February 5, 2004

I think what she wants is the screenshot saved as a tiff, which is for print. There are many ways to set the prefs for that, all contingent on your method of taking screenshots.
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:51 AM on February 5, 2004

jalexei - in my experience, simply placing a rasterized image (bitmapped) into a vector program like Illustrator doesn't magically vectorize the image. Are you actually using something to convert the placed image to vectors?
posted by willnot at 7:59 AM on February 5, 2004

in my experience, simply placing a rasterized image (bitmapped) into a vector program like Illustrator doesn't magically vectorize the image.

You're correct. As far as I can tell, it's the export to eps that's key. Obviously the image doesn't become truly vectorized, in the sense you could grab and pull points around, but we've been able to create screen images that we can resize quite a bit and that print without any of the inherent fuzziness that comes with resizing a bitmap. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but it works...
posted by jalexei at 8:11 AM on February 5, 2004

Jalexei - maybe your method works because the eps is being resized using the nearest neighbor resizing method to fill in the pixel data?

I recently used the method described by edlundart to create some 2.5"x2.5" 300dpi TIFs of Palm Pilot screens (that were originally 340 x 340 px). Printed out very nicely. Though Jalexei's method would be better if you think the publisher might be further mucking with the image size.

Let the publisher know about these hoops you're having to jump through to get 300dpi images (and if you have to warn her against further resizing your screenshots) - I've encountered many print people who have absolutely *no idea* that screen resolution is so pathetic. (Though to be fair, I've also had my share of webheads who have told me to just "grab the logo from the website header" to use on a brochure.)
posted by Sangre Azul at 8:34 AM on February 5, 2004

I've also had my share of webheads who have told me to just "grab the logo from the website header" to use on a brochure.

Ahh, the bane of my existence....And thanks for revisiting the "nearest neighbor" method - I'd misread edlundart's post the first time. I haven't experimented with that technique, but will the next time we're doing screens.
posted by jalexei at 8:57 AM on February 5, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great info, guys.

Update: I took one of my "bad" screenshots into Photoshop and resized it using Nearest Neighbor while simultaniously setting the res up to 300ppi. Then I saved out as a tiff. I then sent a copy to my publisher.

I haven't heard back from her yet, but I'm praying she's okay with the results. Before she told me my original shots were unusable, I had already taken several hundred of them. I REALLY don't want to redo all that work. I'd so much rather do a quick batch process.

What everyone has said here is true, of course. The screen only has so many pixels per inch. You can't add in data where none exists!

If I hear back from her before this thread closes, I'll let you know what happens.
posted by grumblebee at 2:33 PM on February 5, 2004

good luck!
posted by jalexei at 2:59 PM on February 5, 2004

Response by poster: The screenshot was approved! Yay! Thanks, again.
posted by grumblebee at 7:29 PM on February 5, 2004

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