Google’s clever Magic Eraser tool debuted on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. It is an editing tool designed to remove people or objects that you do not want in the background of your photos. Given that it’s dead simple to use, the results are good, but it certainly won’t put Adobe out of business anytime soon. But with the Pixel 6A — and coming soon for the 6 and 6 Pro — Google has added a new Magic Eraser feature that I like a lot more than the default erasing tool: Camouflage. It is 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 and then use information from the surrounding image to remove the unwanted subject and fill in the area. With certain subjects, especially if they are isolated from other objects in your image, it works quite well. Since most photos are viewed on (relatively) small screens these days, the results look decent. But if the object you want to remove overlaps with other elements of 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 space left behind, and it can create some odd-looking artifacts that are an even bigger distraction.
That’s where Camouflage is a great option. Instead of trying to completely remove the unwanted object, the tool just saturates it to make it less distracting. It’s perfect for, say, a bright purple stroller behind your subject. Using Magic Eraser will mess it up by 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 that Magic Eraser exists: to draw attention to my subject and to emphasize things in the background less. But especially when shooting in portrait mode, I don’t necessarily want to completely remove anything that’s in the background, as it’s already blurry to partially reduce distraction. Plus, it can be something that adds context to my photo. By saturating a brightly colored object behind my subject, I keep the focus where I want it, without losing that context or introducing other distracting artifacts.
Google spokesperson 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.