How to Scan a Document on Mac

Scanning from your printer to your Mac made easy

The most reliable way to scan a document on a Mac is with the Image Capture program that is part of the operating system. Image Capture has the benefit of being simple to use, making it ideal for occasional scanning and those who are less confident in their technical know-how.

Whether you use the scanner on your all-in-one printer or a stand-alone scanner, Image Capture handles the process seamlessly.

Information in this article applies to Macs running macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Lion (10.7).

How to Scan a Document on Mac Using Image Capture

With the all-in-one printer or stand-alone scanner turned on and connected to the Mac, place a document, publication, or image you want to scan in the scanner. Then:

  1. Open Image Capture on the Mac. You can find the app in the Applications folder or type the name into the Spotlight search field.

  2. Select your scanner from the pane at the left of the main window. If you don't see your scanner, click Shared to reveal shared devices and then make your selection. Image Capture opens on the default scanning window, which can be used for basic scanning needs, although advanced options are available.

    Image Capture default window
  3. Select a destination for the scan from the drop-down menu under Pictures.

    Image Capture on Mac options
  4. Select a size for the bounding box under US Letter, which is the default, or opt to draw several bounding boxes if you want to scan several portions of the document.

    Image Capture size settings
  5. For additional control over the scan, click Show Details to open the options in a panel to the right of the main window and see an overview scan — a preview — of the image you are scanning.

    Image Capture on a Mac

    You can change the bounding box around the document by dragging. In the Show Details panel, you can select between color or black and white scans, set a resolution and size, name the scan and view more options.

  6. When you've made all your choices in the Show Detail panel, click Scan to start the scan. It is saved to the location you chose.

More About the Scan Options in Image Capture

The options in the Show Detail panel give you a lot of control over the finished scan.

  • Scan Mode: Here you select between Flatbed and Document Mode.
  • Kind: Select either Color, Black & White, or Text. Changing this updates the overview scan to reflect your selection. If your scanner is calibrated, the colors are similar to the original document.
  • Resolution: Set the DPI, or dots per inch, for your scan. Each dot of the DPI represents a single pixel. The higher the DPI, the more pixels in each square inch.

A basic black and white document looks good at 150 dpi, whereas color images look better at 240 or 300 dpi. A higher DPI setting should be reserved for scans that benefit from a higher resolution, such as photo prints.

  • Size: Enter the size of the selection box in inches.
  • Rotation Angle: Rotates the selection box clockwise by a specific number of degrees.
  • Auto Selection: During the overview scan, Image Capture automatically detects the document edges and places the selection box or boxes around them. Choices here include:
    • Detect Separate Items: Locates multiple items on the scanning bed. Each item gets its own selection box and its own file.
    • Detect Enclosing Box: Places one box around one or multiple smaller documents. All of them are scanned at once in a single file.
  • Scan To: Shows where the scanned file will be saved. By default, scans are saved to the Desktop.
  • Name: Give the scan a name here.
  • Format: Set the file format of the scan. PDF is best for documents or a mix of text and images. JPG is best for photos. If you're not sure which to pick, PDF is a good choice. A PDF can easily be turned into a JPG later if needed.

If you select PDF, you see a checkbox labeled Combine into single document. This setting combines all your scans into one multipage PDF. If you forget to click this box, PDFs can also be combined in Preview after the scans are complete.

  • Image Correction: If your scanner supports it, you see image adjustment options here. Change the drop-down from Automatic to Manual to reveal correction sliders for brightness, tint, temperature, and saturation. The histogram above the sliders changes as you apply corrections.
  • Unsharp Mask: Options include None (the default), Low, Medium, and High.
  • Descreening: Options include None, General, Newspaper (85 lpi), Magazine (133 lpi), and Fine Prints (175 lpi).
  • Backlight Correction: Options include None, Low, Medium, and High.
  • Dust Removal: Options include None, Low, Medium, and High.