Why are my prints low quality when screenshotting a PDF?


I work as instructor at a local community college. When giving out test to students, I used to copy problems from pdf files and paste them into Word files. The tool I am using is the popular screen-capturing tool called SnipIt. But unfortunately the result is inevitably blurry when the problems were printed out on paper.

Is there any better screen-capturing tool than the one I am using it right now? I do not need fancy features, all I need is better print-out result.

10/27/2016 3:53:00 PM

Accepted Answer

Screenshots of PDFs are going to be limited by the density of your monitor and (I'd assume) rendering settings from the PDF viewer.

There are many tools for converting a PDF file (or pages from a PDF file) to a PNG file. Adobe Acrobat is able to do this. Imagemagick, which is free, is also able to do this.

With Imagemagick installed, the command below extracts page 11 of foo.pdf as a PNG file at 300 DPI.

convert -density 300 foo.pdf[10] foo.png

Note: the page number is in the square brackets. The page numbering starts at zero, so page 1 is 0.

Once you have the page as a PNG, use a traditional tool to crop it, such as GIMP, Paint.net, or Photoshop.

Other options

If the PDF has text and vector content, you can open it in Inkscape, and then delete the content you don't need. Inkscape can export a PNG file, but you can save as a vector file too (SVG for LibreOffice or EMF for Microsoft Word).

If the content you need is a raster image (meaning you can't select the text), you can import the PDF into GIMP and crop it without taking the time to convert it to PNG first.

Use TeX instead

Are you teaching math (since you mentioned the math.se) and getting images of math problems for tests? If yes, I'd strongly recommend learning LaTeX. It's ability to render math is second to none—sometimes even beautiful. There's a tex.se as well. There's even a TeXLive package specifically for creating tests.

4/13/2017 12:34:00 PM

Any screen capture / screen shot tool will only ever capture the screen contents at screen resolution, which is significantly lower than the resolution required for a high quality print. If you take a screenshot from a device with a high pixel density (aka Retina display) then you will get better results, but they will still fall short of the clarity and sharpness of printed text (for instance).

If screen shots are your only option then all you can do is get the required content as large as possible on the highest resolution screen that you have available before taking the screen shot. Beyond that, you will have to live with the relatively low quality.