Google’s clever Magic Eraser tool debuted on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. It’s an editing feature designed to remove people or objects that you don’t want in the background of your photos. Considering it’s dead easy to use, the results are okay, but it’s definitely not going to put Adobe out of business any time soon. But with the Pixel 6A – and soon the 6 and 6 Pro – Google added a new Magic Eraser feature that I like a lot more than the standard erasing tool: camouflage. It’s just as easy to use and the results are much more consistent.
Magic Eraser works a bit like Photoshop’s Content-Aware Fill. You make a selection, then information from the surrounding image is used to remove the unwanted subject and fill in the area. It works pretty well for certain subjects, especially if they are isolated from other objects in your image. Given that most photos are displayed on (relatively) tiny screens these days, the results look passable. However, if the object you’re trying to remove overlaps other elements in the image, the final image won’t look as good. It’s harder for the system to make a good guess as to how to fill in the remaining space, and it can create some weird-looking artifacts that are an even bigger distraction.
This is where camouflage is a great option. Instead of trying to completely remove the unwanted object, the tool just desaturates it to make it less distracting. For example, it’s perfect for a light purple baby carriage behind your subject. Using Magic Eraser will make a mess of trying to clone it from existence, but camouflage will do just enough to make it less distracting.
I often shoot in portrait mode for the same reason Magic Eraser exists: to draw attention to my subject and make things in the background less prominent. But especially with a portrait shot, I don’t necessarily want to completely remove something in the background as it’s already blurred to partially reduce distraction. Also, it could be something that adds context to my photo. Desaturating a colorful object behind my subject helps keep the attention where I want it without losing context or introducing other distracting artifacts.
Google spokesman Matt Flegal says the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro will get the camouflage tool on July 28, the same day the Pixel 6A goes on sale.