How to Remove Text from a Picture in GIMP

Removing text from a picture is one of the most common tasks for an image editor, whether you’re removing the timestamps from old photos, redacting sensitive personal information, or just having some fun with a meme. 

There are several different ways to remove text from a picture in GIMP, and the best method to use depends on the contents of your image and the quality of the result you need.

You can remove text with a simple color fill, which is best for solid color backgrounds and redacting information, or you can use the Clone tool to remove text from more complex images. 

If you’re willing to take the time to install a third-party plugin, Resynthesizer can automatically remove text for you (with a few limitations, of course). 

These same techniques can also be used to remove any object from a picture in GIMP, but for the purposes of this guide, let’s focus on removing text. 

Method 1: Remove Text Using a Simple Color Fill

If your image has a solid background color behind the text you want to remove, you’re in luck! This is the simplest kind of removal to complete, and it only takes a few quick steps to create a solid color patch that covers up the unwanted text. 

You can also use this method to remove text from a picture that contains sensitive information by covering it up with a solid block of color. This patching method is better than using a blur filter to hide personal information since it’s always possible (however unlikely) that the image could be unblurred later. 

First, switch to the Color Picker Tool tool using the Toolbox or the keyboard shortcut O. Click once on the background color surrounding your text, and GIMP will change your active foreground color to match, as shown below.

Next, switch to the Rectangular Selection tool, and make a selection around your text.

At this point, you can choose to create a new layer to hold the color patch. This is technically “best practice,” but if you’re in a hurry and it’s a quick throwaway project like a meme, you don’t necessarily have to do it. 

If you decide to, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + N (use Command + Shift + N if you’re using GIMP on a Mac) to create a new layer. You can also open the Layers menu and click New Layer.

Give your new layer a descriptive name in the New Layer dialog window, and click OK.

To finish things off, switch to the Bucket Fill tool using the Toolbox or the keyboard shortcut Shift + B, and click anywhere inside your selection area to fill it with color. 

Because the color patch matches perfectly with the background color, the text will seem to disappear! 

If you used the new layer method, you can adjust the color patch if necessary to make sure that it creates a seamless coverup.

Method 2: Remove Text Using the Clone Tool

If the text you want to remove is located over the top of a more complex background area, such as a photograph, then you’ll have to use the Clone tool to remove the text from your picture. 

Of course, if you don’t care about the appearance of the final result, then you can just use the solid color fill technique mentioned above, but the Clone tool allows you to create a completely undetectable patch. 

To get started, you need to create a new layer to hold the pixels that will cover up your text. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + N (use Command + Shift + N if you’re on a Mac), or open the Layer menu and click New Layer.

Give your layer a descriptive name in the New Layer dialog window, and click OK

Next, switch to the Clone tool using the Toolbox or the keyboard shortcut C. In the Tool Options panel, make sure that the Sample merged option is enabled, as shown above. This will enable you to clone pixels from your source layer onto your empty new layer. 

The Clone tool copies one section of an image to another, so before you can use the Clone tool, you have to set a ‘source point’. Choosing the best source point for your edit can be an art in and of itself, so don’t feel bad if you have to try a few different sources to get the best result. 

With the Clone tool active, hold down the Ctrl key and click the spot in your image that you want to use as the source point. GIMP will draw a small selection area around the spot to help you keep track of it. 

Once the setup is complete, you can just click and drag to paint your source point pixels over the text you want to remove from the picture, and it will seem to disappear! Because you cloned the pixels onto a new layer, you can move and edit the patch without damaging the original image contents. 

Method 3: Remove Text Using Resynthesizer

One of GIMP’s most valuable features is its ability to use plugins. If you’re unfamiliar with the idea, plugins are small pieces of third-party software that can “plug-in” to GIMP to expand its functionality by adding new features and tools. 

You can access the extra tools provided by plugins using the standard GIMP interface and still use all the normal built-in features of GIMP at the same time. 

One of the most useful plugins for GIMP is Resynthesizer, which adds a feature commonly known as “content-aware fill”. It’s not referred to that way in the Resynthesizer plugin, but due to the fact that “content-aware fill” is Photoshop’s name for the tool, most people use that term. Adobe’s branding tends to stick in the minds of the general public. 

I’ve written a short guide about how to install and use Resynthesizer in GIMP, so I won’t re-explain the installation steps here. Once you’ve got the plugin installed and ready, the actual editing process only takes a couple of clicks.

To get started, switch to the Rectangular Selection tool and make a selection around the text you want to remove. Depending on the nature of your background, you may want to enable the Feather edges setting in the Tool Options panel to smooth out the edges of the patch area. 

You can actually use any of GIMP’s selection tools, but most text fits neatly into a rectangular selection, so it’s usually the fastest option. 

Next, open the Filters menu, select the Enhance submenu, and click Heal Selection

The options are a bit limited, and you can’t see a preview of the results, but Resynthesizer can still save you a lot of time compared to cloning the patch area by hand. The only downside is that it doesn’t allow you to output the patch onto a separate layer, so you can’t use a non-destructive editing workflow. 

A Final Word

That covers all the ways you can remove text from a picture in GIMP! It’s important to point out that you should only use these new powers for good and not for evil.

Removing timestamps, hiding personal info, and clearing old text from a meme so that you can be even more hilarious are all good uses of this technique, but I will be very displeased if it turns out that you have been removing copyright watermarks to steal another artist’s work.

Be good to the world! 

About Thomas Boldt
I’ve been working with digital images since the year 2000 or so, when I got my first digital camera. I've tried many image editing programs. GIMP is a free and powerful software, but not exactly user-friendly until you get comfortable with it, and I wanted to make the learning process easier for you here.

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