How to Clean Up Pictures Part 2: Object Removal & Retouching

Improve your photos by removing unwanted objects, people, blemishes, or backgrounds. We'll show you how with free, fast, private AI tools like PicWish.

A cat sitting on a table, stretched out.

Frustrated by distracting objects, people, or blemishes in your pictures? Do you wish there was a simple way to clean them up and remove unwanted objects—or even the background itself—from your photos?  

If so, AI-powered (artificial intelligence) tools are the answer you've been looking for.

In Part 1 of our "How to clean up pictures" series, we showed you how to make your pictures clearer and sharper (upscaling and sharpening).

In this article (Part 2), we'll show you:

  • Our favorite AI photo editing tools.
  • How to remove objects, people, text, blemishes, scratches, or other unnecessary elements—i.e. by "inpainting" or "retouching". Gone are the days of hard, manual labor in Photoshop. Now, you just "paint over" the parts you want to remove, and AI will fill in the gaps (by understanding the picture).
  • How to remove backgrounds—even complex ones—to isolate the subject. For example, to place against a plain background, drop into another scene (recompose), or share to social media or a Google Photos album. It's like having a green screen on demand!

Best for ease & small projects: PicWish

For smaller projects, we highly recommend PicWish. It's a fantastic web-based picture editing toolkit powered by AI. Here's why we love it:

  • It's 100% free for the web version. The main limitation is that you can only retouch one picture at a time—but otherwise, it's pretty generous (unlike others, which severely limit resolution or number of uses, e.g. ClipDrop). If you like the results, but want to edit 30+ images at a time, you can upgrade to the paid version (native app).
  • Your pictures are kept private & secure. The Privacy Policy says (and we confirmed) that any pictures you upload (and results) are deleted from their servers within 1 hr of use (unlike others, which keep your images for years, sell to/share with third-parties, etc.).
  • It's easy, fast, and delivers great results. We'll show you!

Example 1: Object Removal

Here we've got a heartwarming, candid picture of a family hugging and smiling in their kitchen.

A family in a kitchen, hugging and smiling, gathering for a meal.

Unfortunately, there's a bunch of clutter on the counter—a bit distracting. Let's use AI to clean it up, so we can focus on the family!

Step 1. We'll use a tool from PicWish called Photo Retouch. Go to object from a PC, tablet, or phone browser.

PicWish Photo Retouch landing page.

Step 2. Click on the button in the Upload section, then pick the file you want to clean up (or, drag & drop the file into the upload container). Once you upload it, you'll see your image appear in the app window.

PicWish interface, with image uploaded and Brush tool selected.

Step 3. Now, use the Brush to start "painting in" the areas of your picture that you want to remove from it. If the brush is too big or small, you can drag the Brush Size slider left (smaller) or right (bigger).

  • Note: you can also use the Rectangle Tool or the Lasso Tool if that'd be easier to make the selection.
PicWish - with a bowl 'painted in' (from the family photo) using the Brush tool.

Step 4. Once you've selected all the areas you want to remove, click the Erase button at the top of the screen. This will start the AI-powered erasing!

PicWish - image processing for object removal (after clicking Erase button).

Step 5. Voila! All of the objects we selected were removed, without affecting the rest of the picture.

  • You'll notice it's not perfect (e.g. part of what was behind the pitcher and glasses got a bit blended together), but good enough!

Step 6. Click the Download button near the top of the screen. You'll then see a loading bar while the full image is being prepared. Once it's done, a file location picker will appear: choose where to save the edited image.

PicWish - image downloading (after clicking Download button).

Final result:

Final result of object removal. The photo of the family hugging and smiling in the kitchen, but with a clear countertop.

Example 2: Face Retouching

In this example, we have a side shot of a woman with a few minor blemishes—she'd love to have it retouched a bit before putting it up on socials.

A young woman looking to the right, with blemishes on her face.

Step 1. We can treat blemishes the same as object removal (as in Ex. 1). Go to object, and upload the photo.

Step 2. Use the Erase tool to highlight the skin blemishes we want to retouch.

PicWish - photo of the woman with her blemishes "painted in" using the Brush tool.

Step 3. Click the Erase button. The loading spinner will appear while the image is being processed (by AI!).

PicWish - image processing upon retouching (after clicking Erase button).

Step 4. When it's done, you'll see a final preview of the edited photo. Click Download, choose a location, and save it!

PicWish - retouched image preview.

Final result:

Final retouched image of the woman. She has clear skin, without blemishes.

Example 3: Background removal

Let's move on to removing a background from a picture. Here, I've got this adorable photo of a German Shepherd dog carrying a stick in his mouth, alongside his younger sidekick pup!

A puppy running alongside a German Shepherd dog with a stick in its mouth.

I want to put these dogs on a holiday card (i.e. a completely different background), which means I'll need to "cut them out", then place them on top of the card.

Step 1. We'll go with PicWish again, but this time using the Background Remove tool:

PicWish - Background Remove landing page.

Step 2. Click the Upload Image button, and choose the picture. Now, it'll immediately start to remove the background automatically, and you'll see a loading spinner. Right away, we get a pretty great preview:

PicWish - the dog and puppy, against a clear background (following image processing).

Step 3. Click the Download image button in the lower corner. You'll see a loading bar, and then a file location picker will appear. Choose where to save the edited image.

PicWish - download screen with loading bar, after clicking Download button.

Background removal result:

Final edited image of the puppy and dog, cut out of the scene, now against a transparent background.

Perfect. We now have an "isolated" image of the dogs, without the background. Since it's saved as a transparent PNG, we can reuse it anywhere: place it on top of another image, or leave it with a plain backdrop.

But...there's one more step! It's time to put these guys on the holiday card.

A holiday card with the writing "Happy Holidays" and the cut out dogs superimposed on top.

There we go! Wow! It looks like they're jumping through the card. Time to send these out!


You now know how to remove objects, retouch, and remove backgrounds from any picture, with pro results. So why not give AI-powered tools a try and see the difference they can make for your pictures? Just remember, with great power comes great don't go removing all the people from your group photos just because you can (unless they're your ex, of course—that's probably fair game).

In case you're interested in exploring related tools we didn't cover, here are a few:

  • ClipDrop / (Web). Free object removal and retouching—but image resolution is limited to 720 px. ClipDrop Pro is much better but costs $9/month or $60/year. It includes unlimited upscaling, retouching & object removal, background removal & replacement, relighting, text to image, apps for iOS and Android, and plugins for Figma and Photoshop.
  • YouCam Perfect (iOS and Android). Free & popular "photo editor & beauty camera" focused on enhancing selfies.
  • Retouch - Remove Objects (Android). Popular & highly-rated retouching and object removal app. Free with limits (freemium).
  • TouchRetouch (iOS). Popular & highly-rated retouching and object removal app. $4 on the App Store.
Snapseed (Google) and Photoshop Fix (Adobe) are also popular apps, but we don't recommend them, since they haven't been updated in 2+ years & use outdated tech.

Voilà! I hope this guide helped you with your picture cleanup, and learn a bit about AI-powered tools. As always, please drop questions, feedback, and more tips in the comments—or DM me. Thanks!

Happy picture cleanup.

- Josta Tech