Adding text to images is a fairly simple process to begin with that is made even easier with Preview, the basic image viewing app that is bundled on all Macs. Most people don’t think of Preview when they think of making adjustments and edits to pictures like this, but it works just fine, and because Preview has shipped with every version of Mac OS X from the dawn of time, you’ll never have to download a third party app to just place some words onto a photo.
This allows you to place text, words, phrases, and characters onto any image file that can be opened in the Preview app, from JPEG, PICT, GIF, PSD, PDF, TIFF, and many other image file formats. If you’ve never delved into Preview’s font and text tools, here’s how to use them.
How to Add Text to Photos with Preview Text Tool on Mac
- Open the photo to add text to into Preview app
- Click the little toolbox icon button, which is the “Show Edit Toolbar” button in the toolbar*, then choose the “Text Tool” button
- Click with the text tool onto the section of photo where to add the text, then type out the words you want to add
(* Note that some versions of Preview show a little pencil icon as the Edit button, and newer versions of Preview use a little toolbox looking icon for the Edit button. You can also choose “Show Edit Toolbar” or “Show Markup Toolbar” from the “View” menu in Preview app to achieve the same effect and to show the editing options.)
How this looks depends slightly on the version of Preview running on the particular version of Mac OS X. Don’t worry, we’ve got both covered.
This is the button to press to reveal the Edit Toolbar, the text tool is the ‘T’ letter shown in the editing toolbar itself:
In prior versions of Preview the buttons to show the Edit tools and Text Tools are as follows:
Once the text is placed, you can move it around just by grabbing it with the cursor.
Changing the Font, Text Size, Color on Images in Preview on Mac
It’s simple enough to add text, but you can stylize it too by changing the font, font size, or color:
- Change the font or font size by selecting all the text (Command+A) and then hitting the “Show Fonts” button
- Change the color by selecting the text and selecting a new color from the Colors menu, or by choosing “Other Color” and finding one in the color picker
And here are the text tools, color selector, and font tools:
Here is what Preview looks like with both the font and color panels open:
When finished, save the photo as usual, or use “Save As” or “Export” to create a new file with the text placed on the image.
This video walkthrough shows how fast this entire process is, it takes under a minute to open a file, add some text to the photo, adjust it, then save the file. Not bad for a simple tool bundled with Mac OS X:
You can also use Preview to add cartoon style speech bubbles to pictures if you feel like going with a more goofy look.
Preview is pretty decent but if you’re looking for more options for stylizing the text you’ll need to turn to third party applications. Interestingly enough, you can’t add words or text to pictures with iPhoto, at least with the current versions, though that may change in the future. One simple and free third party solution is to use Skitch, which offers a few more text styling options like outlined text, or better yet, go all out and buy an app like Pixelmator, which is a full-fledged image editor and Photoshop competitor at a fraction of the cost ($15 as of writing).