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Removing Objects From A Photo: The GIMP Clone Method

A basic tutorial on removing unwanted things from your photos with GIMP.

One of the most common things people want when having their photos edited is to have something removed from the photo. These things can range from removing a car in the background to removing an unwanted person in the foreground. There are quite a few ways you can remove something from a picture, and how easy it is will depend on a lot of things. But for this tutorial, I will focus on a basic, easy picture and use the "clone" method in GIMP.

The clone tool in GIMP does exactly what it says, it clones things, so when you are removing something using the clone tool, technically you aren't really removing it, you are covering it up with a different part of the picture so it looks as though it was never there. 

Step 1

Open the picture you want to edit, as I mentioned before, how easy it will be will depend on a number of things, such as perspective, background and foreground, and not everything can be removed or covered up, but I am a firm believer in "you don't know unless you try."

Once your picture is open, look carefully at it and decide what you want removed, the general rule for natural looking pictures is to remove as little as possible. The more you remove, the more you risk making the picture look over edited, which in my opinion is not a good look. 

Step 2

Open Tools>Paint Tools and select clone from the list, increase or decrease the size of the tool as much as you need, larger brushes are good for things like the sky as it tends to give a more natural look, and smaller brushes are good for fiddly, tiny things that need to be removed. For this picture, I used a medium sized clone brush. 

Step 3

Select an area near the thing you want to remove, I always find closer is better because the perspective looks right, but watch out for shadows. Ctrl click on that area to clone it, move it to the area you want to cover and click again. A clone of the area you ctrl clicked should appear on top of your picture. 

Step 4

Depending on the size of the thing you are trying to cover/remove you should drag your mouse to make the picture look natural. But be careful, the clone tool will follow you and will drag into things you might not want it to which will duplicate them, so watch the direction you are going! 

Step 5

If you have a large area to cover, try to click as little as possible, only clone what you have to. Cloning too much looks unnatural and it becomes really obvious that something has been removed. For a picture like this one, I took clones of several different areas to keep the random, and untidy hay look. Keep things as they are, don't try to smooth them out or make them into something they're not. Stick with what is actually there and nobody will ever know that you removed something. 

The End Result

If necessary, blend any edges so that there are no visible clone lines. Look carefully and zoom in as these are not always easy to spot, especially if you have been working on something for a while. Finally, when you are happy, save or export the picture.

Remove As Little As Possible

Sometimes, you might want to remove something from a picture, but it doesn't mean it's a good idea. I am guilty of this, I try to remove anything I don't want and it can result in an obvious and unnatural look. For example, in the picture below, there was a heater, so I removed it, but I didn't think ahead and then had to remove the heater, the shadow and the wires and plug from the wall. I also had to add in a skirting board that you couldn't see previously. It made for an odd looking picture that I was not happy with and I only finished it because it had taken me so long! 

This was an easy, basic picture, and in the next removal tutorial I will explain some more complex methods with more difficult pictures.

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Removing Objects From A Photo: The GIMP Clone Method
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