Better HDR screen capture is finally coming to Windows thanks to an updated Snipping Tool

It’s been many years since Microsoft implemented proper support for HDR monitors in Windows but trying to correctly capture the colours in a screenshot has been a constant problem. At long last, though, the Snipping Tool has been updated in the latest development versions of Windows to help solve this annoying issue.

As announced in a tweet by the DirectX 12 team, Microsoft’s latest Insider preview builds of Windows 11 contain an update to the erstwhile Snipping Tool that “should be able to better display colors” when taking a capture of a screen running in HDR mode.

If those three letters mean nothing to you, HDR stands for high dynamic range. Basically, it means more bits are used for the three colours (red, green, and blue) that make up every pixel in your monitor. So instead of the usual eight, HDR monitors will use 10 or 12 bits, to make colours more accurate.

HDR screens also tend to have a higher maximum brightness than standard monitors, to increase the amount of contrast between light and dark areas. If you’ve never played a game on a decent HDR monitor, you’re definitely missing out.

Though it does depend on how well the game actually implements it, the likes of Alan Wake 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 are great examples of how HDR can provide an extra lift to the overall fidelity, without having to sacrifice much performance, if any at all.

However, trying to show such results to people using the Snipping Tool in Windows or even trying to take a screenshot in Steam, for example, often doesn’t work. In the case of the latter, most captures that I take end up being heavily washed out and look absolutely awful. Snipping Tool is better but goes the opposite way, in that colours are over-emphasised, especially really bright areas.

Screen queens

(Image credit: Future)

Best gaming monitor: Pixel-perfect panels for your PC.
Best high refresh rate monitor: Screaming quick.
Best 4K monitor for gaming: When only high-res will do.
Best 4K TV for gaming: Big-screen 4K gaming.

This problem has been around for as long as HDR has been supported in Windows and while I’m pleased to see that Microsoft is trying to address it, the fact that it’s taken over six years to get to this point has been endlessly frustrating.

The information in the release notes of the Insider program versions of Windows also uses the phrases ‘should’ and ‘better’, which doesn’t fill me with much hope that it will be fully correct every time I grab a screenshot.

I’ll be more than happy if my fears are proven to be totally unfounded, but with only one PC to do all my work and gaming on, I’m not brave enough to test out a beta version of Windows. If anyone is, do let us know if the HDR screen capture has finally been fixed.

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