Whilst Mac OS X includes some built-in screenshot functionality, it can be tricky to remember all those keyboard shortcuts and exactly what each one does. Skitch is the perfect tool when you need something more robust and easier to use. Skitch maintains a lightweight and easy to use feel that has made it a must-use, for me, on the Mac. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to use Skitch to take, crop, resize and annotate screenshots taken on your Mac -- and much more besides.
Setting Up Skitch
Skitch, which is owned by Evernote, can be downloaded for free from Evernote's Skitch website, or via the Mac App Store. After downloading Skitch and moving the app to your Applications folder, if applicable, start up the program and you'll be greeted with a sign in window.
Skitch has two main ways of being setup. You can sign in with your Evernote account and have your screenshots automatically posted to an Evernote notebook, or you can choose "Do This Later" to use Skitch in standalone mode.
Personally, I choose to not integrate Skitch with Evernote so that I don't run out of storage in my Evernote notebooks. Screenshots will fill your notebooks much more quickly than just notes. This tutorial will focus on using Skitch as a standalone application, just in case you aren't using Evernote.
In Skitch, there are three ways to grab screenshots:
- From within the Skitch application, by pressing the button "Screen Snap" at the top of the application
- From the "Capture" menu when Skitch is running
- From the Top menu bar icon
The first two options are only available when you've given focus to Skitch, so we're going to focus on grabbing screenshots from the menu bar icon in this tutorial.
To grab your first screenshot, make sure that Skitch is running, and then click the heart shaped icon at the top right of your Mac's screen.
When you click this icon, you are greeted with a dropdown option of the type of how you want to capture the screenshots.
- Crosshair Snapshot - choosing a crosshair snapshot
- Previous Snapshot Area - choose this if you want to snapshot the same part of the screen as your previous screenshot
- Timed Crosshair Snapshot - this option allows for a countdown before the screenshot is snapped
- Fullscreen Snapshot - grabs the entire screen
After snapping a screenshot, the image will immediately be opened in Skitch, where you can add annotations. Let's take a look at the annotative options that Skitch offers.
After capturing a snapshot, Skitch has a lot of tools for adding detail to your screenshots. Skitch calls these drawing features "annotations." These tools are great for drawing the viewer's attention to specifics in your screenshots. Let's take a look:
Arrows are one of the basic tools that help draw a user's attention to details. To use the arrow tool, choose it from the tools on the left side. By clicking and dragging, we can add these arrows to any part of our canvas.
The arrow tool is smart. The direction that you drag and release will automatically shape the arrow in the proper direction.
All of Skitch's annotative tools can be repositioned. After you place it on the canvas, you can easily click and drag it to move it, or grab the points on the end to redirect it.
To modify the thickness or color, just click the color swatch on the left side. You can do this either before you place the shape, or after it is already on the canvas. The slider allows you to modify the thickness of the annotation, as well as change the color of the object.
Adding text to your screenshots is a breeze in Skitch. To get started with adding text, press the "a" icon and click to place the text cursor on the canvas. As soon as you start typing, you'll see your text show up.
Again, you have the option to reposition the text by clicking and dragging it. The text size can also be increased by clicking on the text and dragging the handle on the corner. You can also change the color by choosing the color swatch - shown in red in the screenshot above.
Shapes are illustrative tools such as boxes, circles, and rounded rectangles. They work very similar to other annotative tools. You can click on the rectangle on the tools panel to choose from any of the shapes. Clicking and dragging in the canvas adds the illustration to your screenshot or image. These shapes are great for illustrating specific parts of an image.
Again, you have the option to customize the thickness or color of the shape by clicking the color swatch on the tools menu on the left side of Skitch.
Drawing & Highlights
The fourth tool from the top on the left side of Skitch allows for drawing and highlighting. These tools are ideal for freehand drawing or for highlighting text. Again, we have the option to change the color and width of the brush with the color swatch, shown in yellow below.
Stamps are interesting tools that are great for collaboration. Clicking the sixth icon from the top on the left side gives us a choice between five types of stamps.
As you can see in the screenshot below, there are a variety of stamps. You can place them as-is on a canvas, or you can click and drag them to add an arrow coming off the edge of them. After they are placed, you can click to reposition or even add text or change the direction of the arrow.
Skitch also features a pixelate tool that allows us to obscure parts of our screenshot. If you have parts you don't want to share, you can choose this tool and click and drag over the area to blur it out. Use this tool when you don't want to share parts of the screenshot, or if you want to blur to draw attention to other parts of the screenshot.
Cropping & Resizing
In addition to the annotative tools covered above, Skitch has the cropping and resizing tools that you would expect from any full-featured image editor. The cropping and resizing feature is very intuitive. To get started with using it, click the last icon at the bottom on the tools menu. The app defaults to the cropping feature.
Cropping is made simple by just dragging the handles. You can simply grab the corners, drag them, and press apply to create a new crop.
For resizing, press the icon at far right illustrated below. You can enter a new pixel dimension and Skitch will keep the resize proportional so as not to distort the image. Again, pressing apply will cause the new size option to be applied.
For rotating and flipping, the "Image" menu at the top of Finder will show the rotation and flipping options along with the accompanying keyboard shortcuts.
Keep in mind that because Skitch can open non-screenshot images (File > Open), it is a handy quick image editor, ideal for when you don't want to start Photoshop up for quick tasks.
My favorite way to export images from Skitch is to use the drag and drop feature. When I'm writing tutorials and taking lots of screenshots, I prefer to make a new folder and dump all of the images in there until I am ready to process later. At the bottom of Skitch is a tab that reads "Drag Me"; as you drag this, the image basically becomes an image that you can be dragged and dropped anywhere on your Mac.
Besides the drag option, pressing Command + E or choosing File > Export brings up a more in-depth export option that allows you to select a folder, image format, and level of file quality.
Also, if you're planning on taking the images from Skitch and using them in another application, the standard copy and paste functions work as expected for moving images without saving.
In addition to the exporting options, Skitch has the ability to share images with Facebook, Twitter, and via email. Clicking the share arrow in the upper right area of the app lists the sharing options. Choosing one of them will prompt you for the details you need to share to the service.
In this tutorial, we've tackled a variety of options of how to use Skitch. The app is truly the swiss army knife of screenshot tools and can handle most screenshotting needs. If you need a tool for easy screenshots and image annotations, Skitch is definitely worth a look.