How To Remove Anything From Your Photo With GIMP


Removing anything in GIMP is easy when you know the steps… and practice! When planning this GIMP tutorial, I had a choice; simple or complex.

Simple tutorials abound all over the internet on how to remove objects of all kinds. I thought to myself, where’s the fun in that! So, I decided to create a more challenging type of GIMP edit where you’ll learn how to remove someone from a complex background!

The video tutorial above takes about 15 minutes to complete. However, the actual edit of removing the subject can be done in 5 minutes or less.

You’ll need to first learn the steps, the tools required to achieve this edit, and again, practice! Step-by-step instructions are located below for those that prefer to read.

If you’re ready to learn the tools required to remove anything in GIMP, let’s do it!

Table of Contents

Note: the (above) video tutorial was created with GIMP beginners in mind. The following step-by-step instructions are for more experienced users.

Step 1: Download and Open The Image

open provided image

Download this image from Pexels. It’s free to download! Check out my free pictures on Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay too.

To open the image, go to File > Open and navigate to the location where you saved your download. Select and click Open.

Step 2: Remove From the Waist Down

To get you started with this GIMP edit, we’re going to begin with the easy stuff. This includes everything from the waist down. From the waist up, the background is more complex and will require a few more steps. We’ll cover that in the next editing step.

What Tools Are Needed For Removing Anything?

For this edit, we will use two main tools; the Clone (C) and Healing (H) tools. In the next step, we’ll add an additional tool to remove her altogether.

Pro Tip:

For more detailed info on how the Clone and Heal tool work in GIMP, check out this tutorial.

Before using either the Clone or Heal tool, you need to let GIMP know what part of the image will be used for retouching. Grab your Clone tool (C) and try to apply it to a layer. Nothing happens.

To target an area to copy from, hold down your Alt or Option key and click the part of the photo where you’d like to copy from. When you do, the shape of your brush will be left behind.

In this case, I’m using a round soft-edged brush, and I have a (dashed) circle left where I clicked. As you apply your brush to the image layer, the target circle will follow your brush strokes.

Once you release your mouse button, the target circle will revert back to the original target area. To remove the dress, we’ll target the stairs to be used to clone over our subject.

Remove the Dress

remove dress

First, make a duplicate of the image layer and rename it Retouched 1.

The key for this edit is aligning the target with our brush stroke so the edge of the steps matches. You may have to give it a go a couple of times to get the proper alignment.

Once you have a stroke appropriately aligned, cover the dress from the opposite side of your target area, and drag your brush towards it. As you reach the edge of the canvas, the cloning will stop. Since you’re outside of the image area, the Clone tool no longer has any pixels to copy from.

Release your mouse button and continue where you left off. Repeat until the first step is complete.

Next, work on the next step until all of them have replaced the dress.

Tweak the Edit To Reduce Duplication

Now that all your steps are in place, take a closer look at them. What do you see? Most likely, you’ll see a pattern of textures, details, objects, etc., appear. This was caused by “cloning” and looks unnatural.

To fix it, we’re going to use our Heal tool (H) to blend in the duplicate detail. Again, like with our Clone tool, we need to give GIMP a target to work from with Alt or Option and then click where you’d like to retouch from.

Paint over any duplicate items, and they blend in with the surrounding area. I’d recommend a brush size slightly larger for the best results than the object to be removed.

Step #3: Remove Upper Torso

Now the fun begins!  The background behind our subject is a little more complex vs. the stairs. The circle shape behind her is going to require a more thoughtful approach. 

If you try to clone the circle as you did with the stairs, you’ll be here all day since it’s not going to align as easily as the straight edge of the stairs.

No worries, I have the solution! We’re going to make a copy of the background, rotate it, paste it, and blend it to remove the rest of her. The tool of choice will be the Rectangle Select tool (R). We’ll use this to select the background and clone it to continue the shape, full circle.

Make the Selection

remove upper portion

With the Rectangle Select tool (R), make a selection to the left of our subject.

Only select the part of the background that includes the circle shape. Get as close to her body without it being part of the selection. Here are the next steps…

  1. Copy the selection – Cmd. or Ctrl. + C
  2. Paste it – Cmd. or Ctrl. + V
  3. Click on the “New Layer” icon at the bottom of the Layers panel.
  4. Transform the layer by going to Layer > Transform > Flip Horizontally.
  5. Move the layer to the right and align accordingly.
  6. Right-click on the layer (in the Layers panel) and choose “Merge Down.”

We now need to touch-up the hard edges of the copy. Use a combination of your Clone & Heal tool to blend in the straight edges.

Repeat the above steps, but this time copy the top half of the circle and flip vertically. Move it down to complete the circle shape. Blend in this portion of the edit.

Final Retouch

The only part left of the subject to remove is the middle. Use the clone tool as you did with the stairs to remove the remainder of her body. Make sure to use the Heal tool to blend in as needed.

Now What?

Now that you know how to remove anything in GIMP, how did your edit turn out? Perfect? Or does it need some work?

Don’t expect perfection the first time. It will take time to practice what you learned and become accustomed to the tools.

Need help with this edit? Join me and thousands of other photographers and editors in our private Facebook group.

It’s a great place to ask questions, learn, share, and grow as a photographer/editor. Oh, and post your final edit along with any questions!

Expand your editing skills with another GIMP editing tutorial. Or this tutorial that will show you how to remove a background and retain hair detail!

Like this article? If so, please share!

One Response

  1. Hi Chris, I find your tutorials very informative and the step-by-step instructions make it sooo much easier. To that end I’ve noticed a small error in the above instructions (To target an area to copy from, hold down your Alt or Option key and click the part of the photo where you’d like to copy from. When you do, the shape of your brush will be left behind.) I’m sure it should read hold down the Ctrl key.
    I know this was probably just a test to see if people actually read your instructions – lol.
    Thanks again for your efforts.

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