Color accuracy and screenshots

Let’s say you need to take a screenshot of a website for your portfolio. A common task, right? If you are on a PC, simply print screen, paste in Photoshop, and away you go. On the Mac, use some unintuitive key combination, open in Photoshop, and wait! The color is different.

Working on the PC, I took screenshots without worrying about the color profile. Editing and then exporting the screenshot from Photoshop seemingly did not introduce any color problems. I assume this was because my monitor color profile was something close to sRGB, and Photoshop was using the sRGB profile.

After switching to a Mac, it took a while to figure out the screenshot thing. Cmd + shift + what? What happened to print screen?

Finally having committed the screen shot key combination to memory, I wanted to figure out why the screenshots, saved as a PNG in Leopard, picked up the monitor color profile. I guess that makes sense for the casual user. But bringing the screenshot into Photoshop, editing, and then exporting, the eventual output was much lighter than the original.

In trying to get to the bottom of this, I ran across this post and the very useful key combination of Cmd + Ctrl + Shift + 4. I’m not entirely sure of what it’s doing technically, but it seems to take a screen shot and copy it to the clipboard without the monitor’s color profile. Or at least, it’s close enough. You can then paste into a document in Photoshop, edit, export, and the color will be very close to the original. I’m not sure that it’s exactly the same, but it’s close enough.

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