How to Scan in OS X Using Image Capture

Mac OS X makes many computing tasks simpler by having the necessary functionality built into the operating system itself, and scanning images and documents onto your computer’s hard drive is no different. Image Capture is the Mac OS X application that handles all scanning duties for Mac-compatible scanner hardware.

Before beginning to scan your image, make sure that your scanner hardware has been installed and connected to your Mac according to your manufacturer’s instructions, and that your device’s drivers are up to date.

1.) Open Image Capture by clicking on Applications, then Image Capture. Alternatively, you can press Cmd-Spacebar to open Spotlight, type “Image Capture” and press Return.

2.) When Image Capture opens, you need to select the scanner you wish to use from the list of available hardware in the left hand pane. Image Capture will then perform an Overview scan:

Overview Scan in Image Capture in Mac OS X

3.) At the moment our scanner has no document in it. Place the document or image you wish to scan in the machine and press Overview to update the preview image:

Previewing a Document in Image Capture on Mac OS X

4.) The right hand pane of Image Capture presents us with several options for our scan. We can choose between Color, Black & White and Text options in the Kind drop-down menu:

Selecting Scan Kind in Image Capture on OS X

5.) In the next section down, we can choose the dpi Resolution of the image we want to capture, from web-friendly 75 dpi, through print-standard 300 dpi up to ultra-high definition resolutions. We can alter the Size in centimeters of the image and its Rotation. If we click the Detect Separate Items checkbox, Image Capture will break a larger document such as a form down into its constituent elements, allowing us to easily extract only the images we want:

Choosing Scan Image Resolution in Image Capture on OS X

6.) The next section of the pane contains a field where we can Name the resultant file, and drop-down menus to select its Scan To destination on your hard drive and digital document Format:

Choosing the Scan Image Format in Image Capture on OS X

7.) If we select Manual in the Image Correction drop-down menu, a selection of image alteration controls appear to tweak the scanned image for the desired result:

The Image Correction Menu in Image Capture on OS X

8.) Image Capture also allows us to choose a specific area of the document to scan by using a selection bounding box overlaid on the Overview image. Simply grab the round handles to set to your desired area:

Using the Area Selection Tool in Image Capture on OS X

9.) When you have tweaked the controls in the right hand pane of Image Capture to your desired settings, press Scan at the bottom right of the interface to commence scanning the document. The resulting digital file will appear at your chosen location:

The Resulting Scanned Document on the Desktop in OS X

Image Capture is both easy to use and yet comprehensive in its available options, allowing Mac users to achieve quality scanning results via the same application no matter the brand of their scanning hardware.

Comments [14]

  1. hardly easy if you want to scan a document but have to grab the round handles and adjust the image size every time. it's a nightmare.

    will welcome any suggestions for how to do it easily..

  2. Sorry but not too useful for a novice user. You cite the obvious, but offer no explicit instructions on how to get rid of the selection boxes with the little handles if one wants to scan an entire text image and not get the various and multiple copies, and more importantly how to straighten the image for the final scan. The little man image in the circle, that I suppose should enable one to set straightening references, is driving me nuts as he resists fine tuning adjustments.


    Jun 6, 2011

  3. And another problem is that this Apple software doesn’t connect to a large number of printer/scanner models, unfortunately including mine.

    More freaking Apple marketing lies and BS. It’s never easy and rarely user friendly.

  4. Highlight/click the selection boxes you want to get rid of, then hit delete key to delete them. You may have to do it one at a time. Then create a new box. I used to use the Mac-ized HP Scan software before it was "assimilated" into the Image Capture software. HP Scan was simple and worked wonders for respectable scanned file sizes. Image Capture is a bit more tedious and time consuming (and confusing).

  5. Following direction resulted in everything as you said it would be, except that the word SCAN at the bottom of the window is not highlighted!

  6. I would much rather just be using VueScan to do my scanning. But every time I turn my scanner (Epson Expression 1600) on, Image Capture automatically launches and just starts scanning. there are no controls visible and it just continues to scan over and over and over again. Anybody have any ideas on how to disable Image Capture?

  7. I was forced to shift from a very good Epson software to Image Capture when I had to get a new Macbook Pro and now I am stuck with IMage Capture that doesn’t seem to have the capacity to capture different images in pdf or Tiff and form multipage documents. If you put it on the option Combine pages it just keeps scanning without stopping and you have no opportunity to resize, readjust each page or anything. It is a nightmare. Can anyone help?

  8. Just got my first MacBook Pro this week and the scanning with Image Capture was not easy at all! J Daniel said it all. Scanning should be easy not with multiple boxes and a little man that refuses to ‘cooperate’.

    I will be glad to know how I can set my sanning to permanent A4 size or full image and not 3 or 4 little boxes!

  9. This does not tell me how to scan a 4 x 5 negative to 16 x 20 print at 300 dpi. The Custom Size will not accept 16 x 20 or any size other than the negative size.

  10. How the hell do you scan a document with more than one page and save it as a single file with this god-forsaken program?

  11. Hi, I was using my TX600FW with my windows and all was ok until I changed my old PC into an iMac and now the scanner does not want to work the way it used to and nor are the pictures (photos) printing the rich colour which they used to with windows.

    Scanner, every time i have to scan two or three pages they scan one by one and creat that many files. And if i use the option to scan a one document then it scans all the different scans at anytime of the day into one big file. This is a problem.

    Printer: the printer does not print rich colours on photos all the colours are dull and faded inspire of installing new cartridges and reinstalling the drivers from the epson site

    System used Maverick

    Please help if any one can.


  12. @Mark: “How the hell do you scan a document with more than one page and save it as a single file…”

    Mark, it’s really rather simple:
    1) Scan the document’s 1st page, and save as a .pdf.
    2) scan all other pages, and just add some suffix to the title to differentiate it from the others… ie: a,b,c

    Now for the really neat part:
    3) Open page one with Mac’s Preview application.
    4) click on the ‘sidebar’ button in the toolbar (if button not showing, control-click on the sidebar and customize it.
    5) now drag the icons of the remaining pages into the sidebar,
    6) organize them, and “Save as…pdf” and you’re done!

    You’re welcome!… And no need for the profanity.

  13. correction…
    “control-click on the sidebar…” should say:
    “control-click on the toolbar…”

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