How to Use Instant Markup in iOS 12 and iOS 11

Draw, sign, or add comments to Instant Markup-compatible apps

Girl's hand and Tablet
MamiGibbs / Getty Images

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a marked-up picture that shows exactly what you're talking about must surely be worth more than that. IOS has this exact feature, and it's called Instant Markup.

You can use the Instant Markup feature on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch to add markup to a screenshot as soon as it's captured. Using one of the Instant Markup compatible apps, you can add text and your signature to a PDF before emailing it, or doodle on a favorite photo in your photo library before sending it out in a Message.

Information in this article applies to the Instant Markup feature on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices running iOS 12 and iOS 11, except as noted.

Using Instant Markup With Screenshots

Instant Markup isn't a separate app on iOS devices. To access the Instant Markup interface with a screenshot, you first take a screenshot by simultaneously holding your device's Power and Home buttons. On the iPhone X and later, press and release the volume up and Side buttons at the same time to take a screenshot.

You hear the sound of a camera snapping, and a small preview of the image appears in the lower-left corner of the screen. Tap on the thumbnail preview quickly, as it only appears for about five seconds before disappearing.

The screenshot is displayed within the Instant Markup interface. The tools are at the bottom.

Instant Markup interface

You can use the tools to annotate, draw with, or otherwise edit the image using your finger or an Apple Pencil (if your device supports the pencil). They are, left to right:

  • Pen: Draw on the screenshot with the width of a standard pen
  • Marker: Draw on the screenshot with the width of a typical marker
  • Pencil: Draw on the screenshot with the point of a pencil
  • Eraser: Deletes entire items with a finger tap
  • Lasso: Select any of your markups in the screenshot and move them elsewhere
  • Color Swatches: Allows you to choose between white, black, blue, green, yellow, red, or—new in iOS 12—a color palette of 120 additional colors.

In iOS 12, the Pen, Marker, and Pencil tools were upgraded to offer custom opacity and different thicknesses.

On the far right side of the row of tools is a plus symbol inside a circle. Pressing this button opens a pop-up menu containing additional options, including:

  • Text: Places a text box in the foreground of the screenshot, where you can enter and modify the text size and alignment while choosing from one of three fonts (Helvetica, Georgia, and Noteworthy.)
  • Signature: Lets you sign your name using your finger or a touch-screen pencil and place it anywhere on the screenshot
  • Magnifier: Magnifies user-specified areas of the image
  • Square Icon: Places a resizable square anywhere on the screenshot
  • Circle Icon: Adds a resizable circle anywhere on the screenshot
  • Speech Bubble: Adds one of four cartoon-style dialogue bubbles
  • Arrow: Adds an adjustable arrow to the screenshot image

Undo and redo buttons are provided in the lower-left corner of the screen while editing. These can be used to add or remove the previous modification.

Save Screenshot With Instant Markup

When you're satisfied with your marked-up screenshot and want to store it in your photo album, tap the Done button found in the upper left corner and select Save to Photos in the pop-up menu that appears.

Saving Instant Markup screenshot to Photos on iPad

Share Screenshot With Instant Markup

To share your modified image via email, social media, or other media, select the Share icon (the square with an up arrow) located in the upper right corner of the screen. The iOS Share screen pops up. Choose from the different apps and other options for sharing your image. Scroll to the right for additional options.

Sharing an Instant Markup screenshot

There's More to Instant Markup Than Screenshots

After you master the Instant Markup tools on screenshots, you're ready to move to Instant Markup-compatible apps, such as Messages, Mail, and Notes. You work within your app of choice to bring up the Instant Markup interface. For example, to mark up an existing photo and email it to a friend, you start with the email. Here's how:

  1. Open the Mail app and start a new email or open an an existing email you want to reply to.

  2. Tap in the body of the email to bring up a menu bar. Tap the arrow if necessary until you see Insert Photo or Video and select it to go to your Photo Library.

  3. Locate the photo you want to mark up and tap Choose to add it to the email.

    Using Instant Markup in an email on iPhone
  4. Tap the image in the email to bring up the menu bar again. This time, select Markup.

  5. Use the markup tools at the bottom of the screen to enhance your photo. Tap Done when you are finished. Just like with screenshots, you can draw, add text or a signature or magnify part of the image.

  6. Complete the email and tap Send at the top of the screen.

    Marking up an image on iPhone email

Use this same method to edit or sign a PDF and return it via email.

The process works similarly in other compatible apps. The Notes app is particularly markup-friendly, especially if you have an Apple Pencil. In the case of Notes, you tap the markup icon—a pen tip inside a circle—to bring up the markup tools. No image is necessary.