How To Make Awesome Screen Shots for The App Store

Post updated March 25, 2015 – be sure to check out the free PSD templates we’re offering for your app store screenshots.

I recorded the video above nearly 3 years ago in 2012, and I still follow the same template for my hit apps.  Definitely worth watching if you’re looking at making your own screenshots or want a brief Adobe Photoshop tutorial.
Ever seen those screenshots that look super sweet? The ones that obviously had a designer put some work into? It makes a difference and can really add some value to your app.
tiger stickers screenshotTiger Stickers is an awesome app we developed from scratch and bundled in our Accelerometer Kit.  It was was originally developed for fun, but established somewhat of a cult following.  A lot of the group identification started with the screenshots.
I wanted to share some tips and strategies that I use to make those screen shots without spending lots of money or time on them. I walk through the process in Photoshop and show you how easy it is. At the end of the post you’ll also see a link for 6 layered PSD files to help you make your own professional screenshots.
Below is the transcript of the video. Hope you like it!
[sc name=”Position – 1 – Shortcode” ]
Hey, you guys.  This is Carter over at Blue Cloud, and I was just kind of messing around.  I’m uploading a bunch of games right now and because of that I’m doing all the marketing materials, screen shots being a huge part of that.  I’m kind of figuring out some secrets and some tips that are really formulaic and I think could help you guys out a lot.  
So I just want to do a quick video and show you guys how you can make really nice-looking screen shots really easily, and without much work.  In under five minutes you can make something really slick, and I’m going to show you exactly how I do it, and then I’m going to send you the layered Photoshop file so that you can do this yourself.  If you don’t have Photoshop, it’s really easy to send this to a designer or get a free trial, or whatever you want to do, but the option is there.
Basically, what this is, instead of doing a straight screen shot where you’re just kind of displaying the screen – so this is a 960 x 640 canvas right here, which is what you need for a retina display iPhone screen shot upload – what I’m going to do is show you how to design within this canvas, and it’s just going to make it look a lot more dynamic, it’s going to pop a lot better.  It’s just going to make it look a lot more polished.  So I’m just going to walk through how I do it.
The first thing is I always start with using the iPhone, and if you look at the Photoshop for iPhone blog post I wrote, I give you the links for these templates.  Some guys did these.  They’re great.  They’re fully layered so you can really design them.  One thing I will say before I start is that the marketing guidelines for Apple say that you’re not supposed to overlap these products.  
If you’re doing it all by the book, and you want to maybe get featured by Apple, or you want to do anything that’s really high end, you really want to read through those marketing guidelines.  They have a minimum height of 200 pixels and you can’t do a lot of things with them, so just keep that in mind.  This is going to be a little bit off the cuff here, just to show you what’s available, but definitely bear that in mind if you’re looking to make this some super high-end thing.  But this is just a cool way to do it.
I always start with these templates.  They’re always layered.  The goal is to get the screen shots from the apps on these layers.  So what I do is, if you have Xcode you obviously know the iPhone simulator, which is right here, and I’m just going to pop open Alpha Combat.  If you’ve been following my blog at all you definitely know that this is one of my first games.  This is obviously the RevMob ads, which if you don’t know about, check it out on my blog.  This is the game.  This is the opening screen.  The opening screen is pretty cool.  
I want to feature OpenFeint.  That’s a cool function that I have in the game.  But instead of just displaying this screen shot as it is, what I’m going to do is I’m going to drop this from here and move it over to here, within this screen shot.  So what I do is just a straight screen catch, grab, whatever, in Mac.  So if you have a Mac, just Command+Shift+4.  If you don’t have a Mac, just grab some free screen-sharing software like Jing is a really good piece of software.  
Then we’ll do that, and we’ll do one for the store.  This is kind of a cool screen.  I probably wouldn’t recommend doing something like the screen for the actual iTunes Store, just because I’m not sure how much I’d really want people thinking that I’m trying to sell them something right off the bat. 
So I’m just going to open this, so now we have these screen shots in Photoshop.  All you’ve got to do is we select the iPhone, and I’m going to remove the Lock screen, kind of take that stuff off, and drop this right there.  That’s just a Copy-Paste, and it’s pretty close to being the proportions already, just because everything lines up.  Same thing on the other screen.  I’m just going to undo that, and I think it was this one.  I’m just going to do that, and exact same thing.  
Drop the screen here, and I’m just going to keep it under the glare so that the glare looks a lot more natural.  So now we’ve got this.  This is kind of a cool place to start, and it kind of looks cool.  It’s just like a nicer, more designed look, kind of like how the Apple ads look. 
You can start to mess around a little bit.  You can add a little text, whatever you want to do.  That outer glow is kind of intense, so we’re going to take that off for now, but you could put it wherever you want.  I usually put it at the bottom.  And then one thing I do is, I personally don’t love boring backgrounds like this.  It’s white, kind of lame.  An easy way to do it is I take this screen and what I’ll do is I’ll just make that the background.  I have the PSD file somewhere on my hard drive, but what I would do is I would probably get that and remove all these buttons, so that it was just the plains.  
Another thing is it’s obviously really in your face.  It takes away from a lot.  It’s hard to read.  So what I do is lower the brightness a lot, and in Photoshop you can put a black layer on it, drop the opacity a little bit, and you see it a little bit but it’s just way more of a background type situation, and that just gives it a little bit more texture, a little bit more color.  I think it just looks a lot cooler. 
So then we do that, and back to, I guess, outer glow.  This kind of makes it a little bit more, whatever.  I’m just going to make it blue, just to match the screen, and maybe do something like “Awesome Game.”  All right.  Cool.  One other thing that I’ve been doing that you might be seeing a lot, like you see a lot on icons now and I’m seeing on some screen shots.  Something that I’ve been doing is just kind of like a branding thing.  
[sc name=”Position – 2 – Shortcode” ]
You don’t have to do this, by any means, but I think it’s kind of cool, especially if you’re building more than one app.  I put this badge on here, like a generic IOS badge that I’ve been using, and then I just throw on Blue Cloud, just for now.  You could put your own website or whatever.  There’s something about it that just looks a little bit more professional, like you’re a little more legit.   
Now you’ve got these iPhone screens that are starting to look really sweet.  Going back to what I said earlier, make sure, if you want to go by the book, you don’t want to overlap these, so you want to either do one at a time or shrink them down enough to make it look good.  I’m just going to show you kind of what’s available.  
One more final thing I do.  If you merge the groups in Photoshop, it allows you to manipulate them a little bit more.  It’s something I tend to do.  I think it’s just a personal preference, and you can do this thing that’s like changing the perspective, so it kind of looks like there’s a little bit more dimension to the picture.  It’s looks like it was put there by somebody, like it looks a little bit more real-life.  Some people don’t like that look, and other people do.  Definitely pick and choose.  I’m just going to leave it like that.  I like how that looks.
But that’s it.  That was, what, five minutes?  Now, this is what I would upload to iTunes, and you can do multiple of these, where maybe this is your first slide and the rest are just straight screen shots, or maybe you do all of them like this and this is just a different screen every time.  Or have a little tag line and, like I said, you can move this around, and you can push these guys down or whatever.  However you want to do it.  You can get really creative about it, but no matter what, it looks pretty cool, and I think it’s a really creative way to do something without starting from scratch and being like, how do we build this out? 
So that’s pretty much it.  It’s a template. It’s really easy to do.  I’m going to send out this layered PSD file.  You can easily pop that into your Photoshop and manipulate it just like I’m doing in Photoshop.  Please feel free to comment or ask me questions or whatever, and I’d love it if you guys could share this because I think it’s hard to find information like this, and I really want to be able to make sure that everyone out there knows that you don’t have to be some crazy, awesome designer to put up stuff that’s really nice looking.  So post it on Facebook, share it on Twitter, or whatever you want to do, but I think that would be a pretty cool thing to do. 
Just to let you know, this is something I’m doing.  If you look at the game, this is a game that I put up a few months ago, and it’s the same sort of thing.  This is what I’m doing.  It’s working out really well.  People seem to like it.  I’ve actually had comments on the actual screen shots, so it’s something to think about.  So this is definitely something that I’m doing myself and I’m going to continue to do.
I hope you enjoyed this.  Like I said, feel free to leave a comment, and right on.  Talk to you soon.
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