Removing Black Border From Mac OS X Leopard Screenshots


When you take a screenshot of a window with Mac OS X Leopard (CMD+CTRL+SHIFT+4, then spacebar), and paste it into Photoshop, it will be surrounded by an annoying black frame around it. Here’s how to get rid of it.

Taking screenshots on Mac OS X

When you press CMD+CTRL+SHIFT+4 you start Finder’s screenshot utility. Let’s break down that awkward key combination. CMD+SHIFT starts the screenshot utility; 4 puts it into ‘capture a region of the screen’ mode. If you pressed 3 instead, that would capture the entire screen - you have to press either of those two keys for the screen capture to work. CTRL puts it into ‘save to clipboard’ mode - without it, the utility will save a picture on the desktop instead.

With CMD+CTRL+SHIFT+4, then, you have the utility in “capture a rectangle of the screen and save it to the clipboard” mode. The mouse cursor becomes a crosshair, and you click and drag the mouse to draw a rectangle on the screen. When you let go, the region of the screen underneath the rectangle you have just drawn will be copied to the clipboard. Then you will be able to paste the image you have just captured into whatever application you need.

Taking screenshots of individual windows on Mac OS X

After pressing CMD+CTRL+SHIFT+4, if instead of drawing a rectangle you press the spacebar you will put the screenshot utility into ‘capture individual window’ mode. The mouse cursor will become a camera icon, and the topmost window underneath the mouse (or the desktop if there are no windows) will become highlighted. When you click the mouse, the whole window will be copied to the clipboard, which is quite convenient. Except that on Leopard, when you paste this screenshot into an application such as Photoshop, the window will have an annoying black frame around it.

Checking the content of the clipboard

You can easily find out what’s going on by taking a screenshot and then checking the content of the clipbard (in Finder, Edit > Show Clipboard). The window screenshot is there, but instead of a black frame it has a drop shadow. What’s happening is that since OS X 10.5, Apple have decided to include the shadow of the captured window. Obviously some applications don’t deal with that information correctly, and display it as a black frame instead. So we need a way to disable the shadow from the screen capture utility.

Stopping Leopard’s screen capture utility capturing the shadow

Turns out that there’s a settings, buried deep within Leopard innards, which lets you disable shadow capture. You’ll need to start the Terminal utility (Applications/Utilities/, and type: defaults write disable-shadow -bool true then press ENTER.

This will only change the saved settings, but Finder has already loaded them in, and you need to make it reload again. An easy way would be to log out and then back in again; an alternative is to type the following into the Terminal window, followed by ENTER: killall SystemUIServer

Allowing Leopard’s screen capture utility to capture the shadow again

If at a later stage you want to start capturing the shadow again, just undo what you did earlier. Type the following into a Terminal window, followed by ENTER: defaults delete disable-shadow

then, as before, either log out and in again, or use killall SystemUIServer followed by enter.