Screenshots can be useful in all kinds of ways. You can use them to show off your latest high score in a game, sharing something you’ve found while shopping online, or trying to help someone troubleshoot a problem on their phone or computer.
But there are going to be times when a simple screenshot isn’t enough, and you’ll need the help of text, labels, scribbles, and other annotations. Your phone and laptop come with the tools to do this built right in, and you’ve got plenty of third-party alternatives you can switch to as well.
For a refresher on how to capture grabs in the first place, check out our full guide to taking a screenshot on any device.
The power button and the volume down is the widely acknowledged shortcut for taking a screenshot on most Android devices, including Google Pixel and Samsung phones. Once that’s done, you’ll see a small thumbnail down in the lower left-hand corner—tap the Edit button next to the thumbnail before it disappears to start tweaking and annotating your picture.
Your first option is to crop the screenshot, which you can do just by dragging the corner handles in from the edges. The app lets you zoom in on the image as well—just put two fingers on the screen and move them apart. You’ve also got four tools down at the bottom of the screen: From the left, a pen tool (which writes on top of the image), a highlighter tool (which highlights parts of the image while leaving them visible underneath), an undo tool for taking one step back, and a redo tool for taking one step forward.
[Related: How to take a screenshot on any device]
Tap the pen or the highlighter and you get a gallery of colors you can pick from. Once you’ve chosen a color, you’re able to scribble away on the image itself. When you’re happy with your screenshot annotations, tap Done and Save. You can do more edits, like adding text layers, through the main Google Photos app—tap on the image you want to work with, then choose Edit.
Android being Android, you might notice some differences in the process depending on your particular handset. In the case of Samsung phones for example, you don’t see the Edit button, just an icon showing a pen next to a square. Tap it to draw on or crop the screenshot you’ve just captured.
iOS and iPadOS
Taking a screenshot on iOS and iPadOS is easy—tap the home button and sleep/wake button together if your device uses Touch ID, or the volume up button and sleep/wake button together if it uses Face ID. A thumbnail of the screenshot appears in the lower-left corner, which you need to tap to start editing.
Drag in the handles at the corners or the sides of the screengrab to crop the captured image, or place two fingers on the picture and move them apart to zoom in. Up at the top of the screen, tap the small pen icon to bring up several different drawing tools. Tap on an icon once to choose it, then again to set the line thickness and opacity. On the right, there’s a palette icon for picking colors.
You’ll also find an eraser option for removing pixels or objects (tap the eraser once it’s selected to switch between the two modes), and a lasso tool (to the right of the eraser) for selecting objects you’ve added and moving them around. Up at the top to the left of the pen icon you’ve got undo and redo buttons for taking a step forward or backward.
Tap the + icon in the lower right corner to bring up even more tools—you can add a text layer, change the opacity of the image, drop in a speech bubble shape, or add a signature. When you’ve finished, tap Done and Save to Photos. Further edits can be applied in the Photos app by tapping an image and then choosing Edit.
Among multiple options for capturing the screen on Windows, you can press Win+Shift+S to bring up the Snip & Sketch toolbar at the top of the display. Once you’ve used it to capture a window or the entire screen, click the thumbnail that appears down in the lower right corner to make changes to the screenshot.
All the tools are at the top—you’ve got a pen tool (which draws over the screenshot), and pencil and highlighter tools (which leave some of the underlying screenshot visible as you scribble). Click the small arrow underneath any of these tools to pick your color and line thickness.
Further to the right, you’ll see an eraser tool (which removes elements that you’ve added on top of the screenshot) and a crop tool. The latter gives you four handles at the corners of the captured picture, and you can drag these inwards to crop the image and just focus on one part of it.
When your screenshot is looking exactly like you want, click the save button to the right, which looks like a floppy disk. You can also use the copy button on the right of the save button to send your annotated screenshot to the Windows clipboard, so you can paste it into another application later.
There are several ways to take a screenshot on macOS, but for the purposes of this guide, perhaps the most straightforward is to press Cmd+Shift+3 together to capture the entire screen. You can then click on the thumbnail that pops up in the lower right corner to start making your edits.
The main annotation tools are up in the top left corner—you can draw freehand scribbles, create shapes, and drop text on your picture. The icons to the right let you adjust the line size and color of your annotations, or the text format, depending on which tool you’re using. You can click on any element you’ve added to select it, and then move it around or resize it.
Further to the right on the top bar are tools for cropping and rotating the screenshot. Click the crop icon, which is a square with lines extending from the corners, and the screenshot will be surrounded by a frame—drag the corners of this frame in from the edges to crop the image.
You can click Revert if you want to undo all the changes you’ve made to your screenshot, or Done if you’re happy with the annotations and want to save the picture to disk and the Photos app. If you try to quit the utility before you’ve saved your annotations, you’ll see a prompt asking if you want to keep them.
Besides the tools that come built into your phone and laptop, there are also a plethora of third-party screenshot tools that give you similar functionality—like the ability to edit screenshots after you’ve taken them. If the native features don’t quite work in the way you need them to, one of these alternatives might suit you better.
Screen Master for Android is a comprehensive tool for taking and editing screenshots. It lets you crop them, drop in text and stickers, spotlight certain parts of your screengrabs, and even combine several images together. You can access a lot of the key functions for free, but a $5 Pro upgrade removes the ads and enables some extra features, such as screenshot resizing.
Over on Apple devices, Picsew for iOS and iPadOS lets you easily stitch multiple screenshots together and provides annotation tools that include text overlays and drawing tools. Pay the $2 upgrade fee to get access to all of the features, such as a scrollbar removal and the option to drop in watermarks on top of your screenshots.
For the desktop, Snagit for Windows and macOS is a powerful option with a host of annotation tools—it’ll set you back $50, but a free trial is available so you can see if you like it first. You can overlay shapes, images, text, and drawings on top of your screenshots, and the program is even smart enough to let you replace text inside screengrabs using the original font.