Is it possible to take an image from the clipboard and output it to a file (using X)?

I can do this with text easily:

$ xclip -selection c -o > file.text

But when I try the above with an image nothing is written.

The reason I want to do this is I don't have an image editor installed, and it got me thinking whether I could do this without installing one.

2 Answers 2


You can actually do this with xclip using -t option.

  1. See what targets are available:
$ xclip -selection clipboard -t TARGETS -o
  1. Note the image/png target; go ahead and get it:
$ xclip -selection clipboard -t image/png -o > /tmp/clipboard.png

Refer to the ICCCM Section 2.6.2 for further reading.

Note: xclip SVN revision 81 (from April 2010) or patches later required.

  • I am using 0.12, the one that is offered by pacman so I shall have to get the upstream version. Thanks!
    – Lerp
    Jul 21, 2014 at 8:23
  • Error: target image/png not available this be old. Debian stretch
    – Stígandr
    Nov 14, 2016 at 15:45
  • @Stígandr I confirmed this still works on my machine running Debian testing (stretch). Maybe you copied a JPEG or some other type of image? Probably best to ask a new question rather than debug it in comments.
    – derobert
    Nov 14, 2016 at 16:21
  • 1
    @phil294 that's the other X clipboard, the two used ones are primary and clipboard (there are others, but nothing uses them). Primary is normally select and middle-click, clipboard is normally copy/paste
    – derobert
    Feb 16, 2020 at 18:38
  • 1
    @zzapper it spits out the types available, so you can test it by piping to grep for example.
    – derobert
    Dec 1, 2020 at 21:48

xclip doesn't work with images on my computer (svn84-4) :

$ xclip -selection clipboard -t image/png -o
Error: target image/png not available

But there is another program which take screenshot and paste it into a file, very simply : scrot :

scrot /tmp/myImage.png
  • 3
    It appears 'scrot' takes screenshot of my GNOME Terminal instead of taking it from clipboard. 'man' pages appears to be indicating no flag for this Sep 15, 2020 at 9:12

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